Man & machine: hand in hand in tomorrow's workplace

Man & machine: hand in hand in tomorrow's workplace

Employees are sometimes reluctant to accept increasing automation in the workplace. Yet it offers numerous advantages: by combining the strengths of man and machine, we are arming the Flemish industry for the future. Research centre Flanders Make helps companies to fully embrace Industry 4.0 and the associated digitisation of their organisation, with an eye for the human aspect. Investing in high quality, workable work is a win-win for both employers and employees. For employees, new technologies make their tasks more exciting and easier to perform. In turn, organisations can count on motivated, competent and productive employees.

Below, we answer three frequently asked questions about workable work and innovation.

1. Will robots steal our jobs?

Machines have some important advantages: they operate day and night and achieve a high level of accuracy. They are thus ideally suited to perform repetitive work. Humans, on the other hand, are much more flexible in dealing with change and have a higher adaptability. Humans also provide innovation and creativity. So the industry of the future will not replace people. It is important, however, that we embrace new technologies and take employees on a lifelong learning path. In this way, we perfectly complement the machines with human knowledge and competences. A good example is the computer: there was no such thing forty years ago, while in the meantime this technology has become a simple and necessary tool.

2. How does new technology helps us?

The factory of the future generates a continuous flow of data. This provides us with new insights that help to increase the efficiency of our work. It ensures, among other things, faster and error-free production, but also less wastage of raw materials, energy and water. With data, we can even predict maintenance periods, so that unnecessary machine downtimes belong to the past. This offers great opportunities for production and productivity in Flanders. Labour costs will weigh less heavily, so that production processes that have moved to other countries because of wage costs can return here. In this way, we can maintain our competitiveness and prosperity.

"Only through far-reaching interaction between man, machine, product and production can we increase the strength of Flemish companies."

Flanders Make

3. How do new technologies support employees in their work?

Employees receive digital workinstructions on their work surface, projected from above by a beamer. In this way, they get clear instructions on which parts they need and how they should assemble them. In addition, a message is immediately displayed in case of incorrect handling. As a result, operators are able to quickly assemble different products and people with physical and mental disabilities, for example in sheltered workshops, can also perform more complex tasks.

Augmented reality glasses can simplify training and support for workers. For example, a technician on location can receive instructions from a remote expert. This expert can communicate with the technician and make notes in the field of view of the glasses. In this way, he helps the technician from a distance in a hands-free way.

Collaborative robots or cobots are designed to work safely with people in the same work environment. A cobot is the ideal assistant: it can take over difficult, heavy and/or repetitive tasks and even provide a third hand during production. The addition of artificial intelligence (AI) to these robotic systems wil revolutionise the way humans and robots work together. For example, an employee can demonstrate an action, allowing the cobot to learn the task and take over.

In addition, it is increasingly difficult to find workers in agriculture and fruit growing, such as strawberry pickers. A strawberry-picking robot that sees which strawberries are ripe and is also able to pick the fruit without crushing it, can do this job perfectly. Drones, on the other hand, can countthe number of strawberries from the air thanks to artificial intelligence (AI). In this way, they help farmers to predict the harvest more accurately.

Flanders Make

We combine expertise, vision and knowhow in partnerships to provide innovative answers to the biggest technological challenges of tomorrow and the future. We provide unique support to large companies and SMEs through industrialy relevant research and customised innovation. We bring the latest innovations faster to businesses and help them in their digital transformation.

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