TNO: Do cobots and augmented reality lead to more and better work?

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We have been hearing for years about how robots will take over from humans and how they are increasingly set to replace employees. But people with a physical, cognitive, or other type of impairment in particular benefit from assistance from people-oriented technology.

Inclusive technology makes difficult tasks easy and can help solve both problems. It means that employees with few educational qualifications can learn skills and perform to the best-possible effect. TNO has been carrying out research into the use of inclusive technology for helping people who otherwise have difficulty finding work to get meaningful employment, and for ensuring that current employees can remain sustainably deployable.

In order to examine the practical opportunities for people in a vulnerable position on the labor market, TNO is working in partnership with SBCM, knowledge center and employment and development fund and with Cedris, association for employment for those with limited labor market opportunities, in the Kennisalliantie Inclusie & Technologie (inclusion and technology knowledge alliance).

We executed a project at Amfors, a company where 1,150 people with little chance of joining the regular labor market work. The experiment involved employees who assemble the fittings for LED street lighting. Nowadays for employees learning the required skills is usually a matter of weeks. During the pilot scheme at Amfors, TNO used an Operator Support System (OSS) that projects step-by-step work instructions on a work surface or on the product. Employees are able to see what they should do at that particular time, which means that people without any experience can start work straight away.

Highly promising results

The results from the experiments are very promising. The workers are more comfortable with the projected instructions than having things explained verbally, and they are better able to remain focused on their work. Also, most say they can do more difficult work than was previously the case. Measurements show that the time cycle is reduced by 30 percent after three products have been assembled, thereby equaling the productivity levels of experienced employees. According to a supervisor of the group, the self-esteem of the employees improved visibly within one to two hours of time spent working. Working quickly and accurately gives people self-confidence and helps them enjoy their work.

Harry de Boer

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PEROSH comprises 14 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) institutes

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