Human Integrated Manufacturing

In recent years, numerous processes in industry have become increasingly automated. Tasks and production processes previously carried out by humans can now often be partially or even entirely replaced by computer-controlled systems or robots. However, complete automation in production will still not be possible in 2021 without the help of humans.

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What role do people play in Human Integrated Manufacturing process?

It may sound paradoxical, but people still play the most crucial role in networked production - because digital solutions can only support people, but by no means replace them entirely.

Human Integrated Manufacturing describes the integration of humans into computer-controlled processes. It was not many years ago that this automation - which is taken for granted today, especially in sectors such as the automotive industry - was mainly a manual activity of an employee. At that time, the plan was to monitor the entire production with only one production control computer, but this could not be implemented in practice. This is because a machine never works on its own but always based on algorithms or the instructions of a human being.

The fault tolerance of a human employee is therefore indispensable to ensure that unexpected cases are handled correctly and problems are solved.

Initially, small elements in production began to be replaced by automatic systems, such as the production of tablets or cigarettes. These processes are relatively easy to automate, but even a modern computer can still reach its limits in the 21st century if a tool breaks or there are suddenly no raw materials left. In such cases, only a human being can intervene immediately and correctly so that production can continue without errors and there is no threat of a prolonged stoppage. This shows that even in times of Human Integrated Manufacturing, it is not possible to do without humans completely.

But there are other scenarios in industry where it is still not possible to do without humans: If smaller quantities of a product are manufactured, but they differ from each other in terms of their structure, automation also reaches its limits Many customers order individual products at different times - sometimes more frequently, sometimes less often. A fully automated system would make production significantly more expensive here, as a small quantity would have to be produced for each variant of a product

If a human being is still part of the production, individual production is not a problem.

At first glance, this seems illogical since automation is supposed to reduce production costs in the long term and replace humans as far as possible. Nevertheless, the human factor, on the other hand, is still essential for successful production today - and with an increasing tendency

It is still evident that human assistance is indispensable for the production of individual items. For example, some large sportswear manufacturers now allow custom-made shoes or garments that customers can design online according to their wishes. Here, too, it becomes clear that Human Integrated Manufacturing is absolutely dependent on the support of humans.

This is how important human intelligence is

Particularly in large corporations, such as in the automotive or pharmaceutical industries, robots are now used as standard. They carry out repetitive, identical work processes that do not differ in quality from those of a human being

This is where the strengths of computers and machines become apparent. Another example is partially or fully digitized units, also known as cyber-physical production systems - CPPS for short. They enable machines to communicate with each other. If a malfunction occurs, for example, another machine can be informed and thus stopped.

Human intelligence is particularly important in production processes when an unforeseen situation arises. This is because employees are the most important interface between the machines and the systems - they need correct data to control them and are trained accordingly. In the future, however, it is expected that the quality of training will have to improve significantly in order for humans as interfaces to keep up with the developments of complex digital systems. An employee must be able to comprehend the entire system and independently assess the consequences of the executed processes. For example, the employee decides in which cases a certain order can be brought forward or whether a work step must be slowed down in order to perform a short maintenance

If an employee does not have the appropriate qualifications, the complexity of digital processes can become problematic. Thus, it is apparent that an employee is increasingly becoming a data manager of sorts. Those who choose a career path as a machine technician or operator must expect to undergo further training in the future in order to qualify for a corresponding job in the industry.

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The preparation of data is not always easy

How successfully humans and machines can cooperate with each other naturally also depends on how comprehensively the data is made available. It doesn't matter whether this data comes from an MES or an ERP system - the employee only needs to have access to it. It may well be the case that in a few years, classic terminals and tablets will no longer be used, but instead VR glasses will be employed

The first prototypes are already in use in a few companies. However, the software plays a far greater role than the hardware, because it is the software that can provide the employee with the necessary information and indicate when material is running low or maintenance is required

The software is always the most important interface through which the employee transmits the information to the production chain so that machines can work without problems.

Interlinking in conjunction with assembly technology

In assembly technology, Human Integrated Manufacturing is an important topic when it comes to increasing efficiency. The use of robotics has become a matter of course in many industries. A good example of assembly technology is the furniture industry: for example, many companies are gradually automating several steps in order to produce a piece of furniture fully automatically. In particular, activities that are especially physically challenging for humans can be performed more easily by a computer or robot

Nevertheless, the employee still plays an important role: for example, he or she can attach the fittings in advance so that the robot can lift material up and place it on top. Nowadays, automatic screwdrivers and other tools can be operated fully automatically. Parts that are difficult to reach no longer have to be fastened by the employee, but can be mounted by means of a robot arm - this can reduce the time and effort required in the long term and thus bring about a significant increase in efficiency.

If the design of the construction changes, a robot can react immediately and adapt its activity. For example, if fittings are replaced, the system can be adjusted accordingly. Human-assisted automation in assembly technology allows assembly with maximum efficiency. Here, too, the same motion sequences can be easily replaced by a machine, for example, to fasten pieces of wood together or to transport workpieces.

Conclusion

Human Integrated Manufacturing shows how important human support in production still is in the 21st century. Although many processes can already be carried out and controlled by computers and robots, the control and intervention of a human employee is still indispensable in many areas. Thus, the advancing digitalization does not have to lead to the loss of a job at all, but can make the activities for an employee significantly easier in the best case. In addition, those who continuously train have the best opportunities to keep up with the developments in digitization and also to always take advantage of new professional opportunities.