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Driving Transformation of Workers from Operators to Creators

April 15, 2024

Driving Transformation of Workers from Operators to Creators

Factories can also embody "happiness" through seamless harmony between people and machines, creating an environment conducive to their success, productivity, and creativity. The happiness in question arises from achieving a perfect balance with the external environment, leading to a highly productive and supportive interaction between human workers and machines, fostering creativity and enabling them to find greater fulfilment and success in their endeavours.

The journey began with the Industrial Revolution several decades ago, where the primary goal was to improve the human condition by eliminating poverty, increasing prosperity and generating abundance by mechanization. This led to the emergence of the industrial engineering field, which placed a greater emphasis on measuring the productivity and efficiency of both humans and machines while paying less attention to human-centred innovation due to the prioritization of mass production. As a result, the presence of machinery on the factory floor increased, but the advancement of human skills could not keep pace, leading to a growing sense of discord. A common consequence of this discord in the workplace is the occurrence of injuries, primarily stemming from physical fatigue and stress.

As technology and advanced industrial automation, such as Industry 4.0 and 5.0 based on IoT, have been introduced over the years, the industry is undergoing a shift from mass production to mass customization and personalized manufacturing. This transformation is driven by the establishment of harmonious relationships between people and machines. As this evolution takes place, the discord between people and machines is decreasing while upskilling is on the rise. Automation is contributing to the reduction of fatigue and stress through various means. For instance, robots are lessening physically demanding tasks, and AI is introducing predictability, which greatly reduces unforeseen breakdowns.

At OMRON, we exemplify this concept through Forpheus, the 7th generation of the Guinness Record-holding ping pong tutor robot. Forpheus demonstrates our vision of achieving harmony between people and machines. Instead of competing with other players, it strives to bring out the best in them.

It evaluates the team members' empathy and interaction levels by analyzing the players' movements and interpreting their emotions, ultimately enhancing teamwork performance. We implement the same principle in our factories. By utilizing adaptive AI vision and autonomous recognition of gestures and facial expressions, we can discern variations in productivity between an experienced professional and a novice, thereby fostering a harmonious workplace through autonomous coaching that is tailored to individual learning curves.

 In a 5G-enabled factory environment, AI gathers data from the manufacturing site, including workers' movements, and then utilizes it to automatically pinpoint areas with efficiency disparities. This is complemented by providing real-time constructive feedback (without penalties) to both novice and experienced workers, enabling analysis of potential skill adjustments.

This type and depth of knowledge sharing in the workplace enhances the enjoyment, engagement, and creativity of tasks. It also empowers workers to anticipate and rectify errors in advance, either independently or with the assistance of downstream robots. This diminishes frustration and fosters a heightened sense of achievement and motivation among workers, exemplifying the true essence of "collaboration" between humans and machines.

With the advent of Society 5.0 on the horizon, this concept holds considerable significance within industrial automation and manufacturing circles. At the core of Society 5.0 is the aim to empower individuals to generate value anytime and anywhere. When viewed through a manufacturing lens, this becomes even more crucial as the industry strives to cultivate a sustainable workforce.

All of this culminates in the transformation of workers from "operators" to "creators" by facilitating their progression through the "Internet of Abilities," rather than solely the "Internet of Things."

About The Author


Corporate Communications Department - Asia Pacific


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