Driverless transport vehicles, robot swarms, artificial intelligence … the range of highly automated and digitized technical solutions for logistics is continuously increasing. Under the heading Industry 4.0 or Logistics 4.0, the sometimes seductive but at times threatening vision of deserted factories and warehouses is being created. But purely technical developments are only one aspect of the question dealing with future design in logistics. Their productivity and usefulness will primarily be determined by how ergonomically the interaction between man and machine is designed, for example, between the employee in the warehouse and digitized picking aids or a logistics manager and the IT systems for resource planning.
Human Machine Interaction Research: The Innovationlab Hybrid Services
The innovationlab Hybride Services, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with a total of 10 million euros, is working precisely on this aspect of the interface between man and machine in logistics. Project partners are the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML and the Technical University of Dortmund with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the Research Field Industrial and Labor Research.
How do you best combine your own human skills such as intelligence, creativity or motor skills with the capabilities of technical assistance systems? This central scientific question is the focus of the research in the innovationlab. In two state-of-the-art halls, a research and application center, high-tech technologies are helping scientists redefine the interaction between humans and technology. Its features include the largest motion capture system in Europe and a laser projection system that allows work processes to be recorded, analyzed and simulated in real time. There are also autonomous transport robots and transport drones.
The declared goal is to contribute to the debate on the responsible digitalization of human work and to lay the scientific foundations for a new generation of human-machine interface. At the same time, the requirements of small and medium-sized enterprises are kept in mind.
Most recently, the Innovationlab Hybride Services attracted public attention at the opening ceremony of the Research and Application Center by the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek:
Ergonomics, responsibility, networking
The research covers a wide spectrum from very practical questions of the ergonomics of technical systems to interdisciplinary socio-technical aspects. Here are two examples:
Ergonomics of assistance systems
In the “Storage and Picking” module of the Application Center, the meaningful use of supporting work aids in work tasks that have a physical and mental burden on people is also being researched, also with regard to demographic change. These include robot arms, automated guided vehicles or picking robots, as well as wearables that provide real-time guidance on improved execution of activities. In order to guarantee maximum practicality and accelerate the transfer of research results into the economy, the resources of the Application Center are also made available to companies or used in joint projects.
Particular attention is always paid to acceptance and familiarization with these techniques for warehouse staff. Gregor Kobrich, Warehouse Manager at the DB Schenker location in Eching, confirms just how important a systematic scientific analysis of precisely these aspects is for practice: “This year we have had a very positive impact with the introduction of a scanning glove as a picking aid. The clever design of the glove means that noticeably easier work is achieved very quickly. Most colleagues did not want to take off the glove after only half a day getting used to it. “
A question of machine responsibility
To the extent that technology is becoming more intelligent and mastering increasingly complex tasks, the question of responsibility in the interplay between man and technology must be reassessed. At the latest, with the advent of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence, this relationship is shifting away from coexistence to the cooperation of humans and technology. Even today, logistics employees are interacting with technical systems ranging from robots to deep learning applications. It is no longer just the one-way sending and receiving of messages, but real interaction. Man and technology are finally in a context of mutual influence.
“@FraunhoferIML and @TU_Dortmund are laying the scientific foundations for a new generation of the human machine interface in #Logistics“Tweet WhatsApp
The research work at the Innovation Laboratory Hybrid Services is carried out comprehensively under the guiding principle of the “Social Networked Industry”. This describes Prof. Dr. med. Dr. H. c. Michael ten Hompel, Chair of Materials Handling and Warehousing at the University of Dortmund and Managing Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML, in a grass-roots statement: “Industry 4.0 needs and serves humans. In order for the vision of collaborative work of humans and machines to become reality, the industry must embrace the new way of working, people must be willing to learn for life, and machinery must be equipped with a “machine sense of responsibility.” The relationship of humans to intelligent machines will then be able to develop in a direction in which we will also speak of a kind of “trusting cooperation” in human-machine communication. “