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Factory2Fit Spotlight Feature – R&D Manager Esko Petäjä

Factory2Fit Spotlight Feature

Esko Petäjä

Research & Development Manager, Prima Power

This week the Spotlight is on Esko Petäjä, R&D Manager at Prima Power. Prima Power is a leading manufacturer of laser and sheet metal machinery, and one of the three industrial partners of Factory2Fit. Speaking from his office in Kauhava, Finland, Esko describes his role in Factory2Fit and shares his views on the project.

 

Describe your typical working day 

If we include the commute to work, my day starts with a 45-minute (50 km) drive to the office. I leave the house around 8am and reach the office before 9am.

In the morning, I often meet with the product development teams at Prima Power. We gather to share updates and to discuss the status and progress of our ongoing projects. I have one or several of these meetings, which tend to take up a large chunk of the morning. I go for lunch around noon, after which I normally do desk work, read and respond to emails, deal with administrative and internal staff-related issues and etc. I also try to find time to prepare for presentations for upcoming meetings and various other events. My afternoons often involve teleconferences with staff at our factories in Italy, where we have both research and development and production branches. Nowadays I also communicate with most of our Finnish partners online. I manage my inbox and respond to emails again when time allows in the afternoon. Unless there is anything urgent or pressing, I try to wrap up and leave the office around 5pm.

What do you like most about the role?

I enjoy the fact that my organisation is international and large enough to provide freedom to work on various tasks on a broad range of topics. I like being involved in EU projects and managing R&D activities in addition to day-to-day operational tasks and smaller projects. In smaller companies, it is often difficult to find room for flexibility and freedom of creation.  

How do your professional interests match the objectives of Factory2Fit?

My own professional interests are fully in line with the objectives of both Prima Power and Factory2Fit. Prima Power places issues related to usability and adaptability of large machinery, training solutions and human aspects at the heart of all processes, which lie at the core of the priorities of Factory2Fit as well. Prima Power’s business interests, development needs and client preferences are also compatible with the project’s objectives. I am therefore delighted to have Factory2Fit at the centre of Prima Power’s product development and of my own professional interests.

What is unique about Factory2Fit in your opinion?

What makes Factory2Fit unique is the strong focus on the worker, worker wellbeing and participatory design. One of the many strengths of the project is the unique combination of technology and engineering, with an emphasis on human factors. I have been involved in projects on usability in the past, but the earlier projects have not focused on the worker but rather on technical and visual aspects.

What does Factory2Fit have in common with other EU-funded research projects?

Factory2Fit shares the practices, the structure, the framework and the formalities with other EU funded research projects. The administrative aspects are similar across all of them, but the field of research and the actual content and expected results are of course project-specific and vary from one project to another.

Has anything surprised you in the first months of the project?

At the start of the project, it was hard to say how things will go. Before having met the Factory2Fit partners, I was unsure about the level of cooperation we would reach in the consortium. The first meeting was a virtual kick-off meeting, so we didn’t get a chance to get to meet and get to know each other properly until a bit later. At the proposal stage, I worked mostly with Eija (VTT), the coordinator. Now, almost a year into the project, it is clear that the collaboration between partners has been great. Good progress has been made and processes have been smooth, for which we can mainly thank Eija. There is always a risk of things getting messy, but we have reached objectives and got things done. This has been a pleasant surprise, because running a big project like Factory2Fit with many different kinds of cases isn’t easy.  

What do you see as the biggest challenge for Factory2Fit?

From Prima Power’s perspective, the main challenge is the scarcity of time. We manage several product development and client-commissioned projects. In large projects with multiple partners and communication needs, it is challenging to find time to speak to everyone and to reply to all emails. It’s not possible to dedicate oneself to everything 100 percent, which means one needs to prioritise and focus on the most relevant aspects.  

From Factory2Fit’s perspective, I see the main challenge being to ensure that all the research work and results are translated into something concrete. With several pilots and research organisations involved, a classical dilemma is the question of how to get companies and research institutions to collaborate and produce real results that can be utilised in businesses. Researchers sometimes tend to have their heads in the clouds and go beyond what is practical. This is not really the case in Factory2Fit, but we need to make sure that the research efforts are mobilised into the pilots. We can’t be too modest, but all partners need to keep their feet on the ground. The solutions have to work not just in theory but also in practice. The results have to be applicable to the factory floor.  

Can you briefly describe the coordination between Prima Power and the other Factory2Fit partners? Do you build on each other’s expertise? 

Our role as a partner in charge of one of the pilots is quite clear. The framework for coordination is largely set out in the description of work. Our work is divided into work packages that guide the cooperation between us and the other partners. The description of work also outlines the formalities and ways of documentation, including deliverables. Currently, we mainly work with the research organisations on our use cases. As we are based in Finland, we primarily work with VTT.    

And finally, could you choose 3 words that describe the overall impact of Factory2Fit?

  • Human factors and the focus on the human aspects of a system
  • Adaptation to the needs of the factory floor
  • User-friendliness in terms of taking users into account to ensure systems and their functionalities are clear and easy to use, not monsters

Many thanks for taking the time to speak to us Esko. We look forward to more updates.