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Factory2Fit Spotlight Feature – Dr Eija Kaasinen

Factory2Fit Spotlight Feature

Dr Eija Kaasinen

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

 

This week we spoke to the project coordinator, Dr Eija Kaasinen from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, about her role and the impact she sees Factory2Fit making in the manufacturing sector.

 VTT is a state owned non-profit company operating under the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy. The research and technology organisation (RTO) carries out research and innovation activities for the needs of industry and knowledge-based society. As well as coordinating the Factory2Fit project, VTT brings expertise in human factors, user experience, user acceptance, safety, wellbeing and ethics.

Thanks for speaking to us today Eija. Could you start by telling us where you are based?

I’m based in VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in Tampere, Finland, where I’ve worked since 1992. Although I work in human factors, I originally began my career with VTT as a software engineer, and before that I was a software engineer in industry. So hopefully I also understand challenges from a developer’s perspective. 

 

And what does your typical working day in the Factory2Fit project involve?

Because Factory2Fit is in its first phase, my job as project coordinator requires gathering information from different sources. This involves a lot of discussions and meetings with people – both my colleagues in VTT, and the other eight Factory2Fit partner organisations. I also visit the different industrial sites, which I really enjoy.

 

What do you like most about the role?

There are many aspects of the role that I enjoy. I like multi-disciplinary collaboration – discussing issues with people from different backgrounds and seeing the world through their eyes. It’s very interesting to get people to collaborate towards common goals even if their viewpoints are different.

But I’m always happiest as a researcher when I get to meet, and discuss with, the actual users in their workplace – the workers in the factories.

 

How do your professional interests match the objectives of Factory2Fit?

I’ve worked in human factors research for a long time. Throughout this time my ambition has been to increase the impact of human factors work. I think the impact can be increased by future-orientation of the research. We should not just evaluate what has been done in the past, but create something new for the future, taking user experience as the driving force of new innovations. I’m interested in studying how novel technologies can be utilised for new ways of working.

 

What is unique about Factory2Fit in your opinion?

I’ve been involved in European research projects since the 1990s, but Factory2Fit is the first European project I’ve worked on where human factors are in the driving seat. This is a very good opportunity to show how you can create something new when you put user experience at the centre of the project.

We’re using a participatory approach, which means that factory workers are not just research subjects. They will be involved in the design of their future work. This is an exciting opportunity, although it brings some challenges of course.

 

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

I see Factory2Fit as one part of the puzzle in realising the Factories of the Future Roadmap. There are many challenges faced by factories today, as increased customization and new ways of working are required. Digitalization on the other hand, brings many new opportunities.

Different projects are working to solve the same challenges, but in different ways. In Factory2Fit we will be working with some of these other projects and it will be interesting to see what we have in common. We’re just starting collaboration with these projects, and are looking forward to building strong partnerships.

 

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

As the coordinator of the Factory2Fit project, I gathered these nine organisations together at the early proposal stage.

Now that we have started the collaboration, it’s rewarding to see how cooperative people are. In particular, the technical partners have been very open to new ideas. Because we are very human-oriented (rather than technology-focused) in this project, we tried from the beginning to get everyone to step into the worker’s shoes and see the world through the worker’s eyes. I’m delighted that partners have accepted this approach.

 

What do you see as the biggest challenge for Factory2Fit?

There are many challenges in the project, of course. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a H2020 Research & Innovation action! One of the main challenges, which we were aware of before the project began, is user acceptance and using a quantified worker approach. We will be monitoring users through devices, which will give valuable feedback for the workers themselves. But, as with all new approaches, this can be challenging for both workers and employers.

We also want to use a participatory approach – to involve the workers and help them to make design decisions that will be accepted in the workplace. As part of this, we will be using the ‘Ethics By Design’ approach, which supports the development of ethically sound solutions from the very beginning. There are very few projects where this has been used successfully, so how we adopt this approach is new territory for the project.

 

Could you describe the coordination between the partners? Do you build on each other’s expertise?

As coordinator I am collaborating with all partners in the project, and I find it easy to describe our Factory2Fit consortium because we have very clear roles and responsibilities.

The three industrial partners – Continental, Prima Power, and UTRC-I – are our connection points to the factory floor, so they are extremely important in that sense. They provide the viewpoint of the factories and what is happening there. Towards the end of the project they will pilot the developments on-site.

Each of the three SMEs also has an important role to play. Visual Components is responsible for providing and developing the virtual factory platform for training, knowledge sharing and participatory design solutions. Amorph Systems is our Industry 4.0 expert and they have expertise in the relevant software and standards. They have been integrating our work in Factory2Fit with the main developments of Industry 4.0. And Carr Communications’ role is communicating the project’s messages to the world and supporting the Factory2Fit objectives by delivering communications activities.

Then we come to the three research partners, who obviously have a central role. CERTH is very experienced in European projects and they have great expertise in adaptation solutions. They have a core role to play in developing the adaptation concept solutions for the project. And then there are TUC and VTT – we are the human factors research partners. We bring expertise in user experience driven development of the Factory2Fit concepts and solutions and we also both work on the user model – how we can monitor users and develop this model, which is crucial for the adaptation solutions.

Each of the nine partners has a very clear role in the project, and these roles complement each other. I think nine is a good number of partners to have in a project.

 

Are there three key words that describe the overall impact of the Factory2Fit project?

There are a wide range of impacts for the individual workers. In selecting three key words, I would choose two words from the full title of the project (‘Empowering and Participatory Adaptation of Factory Automation to Fit for Workers’).

  • ‘Empowerment’ – in the sense that our aim is to empower the workers to better understand their competence and to give them more power to influence their workplace
  • ‘Participatory’ – Factory2Fit has a participatory design approach. So factory workers in our case are not just research subjects, but active participants. They can influence the kinds of adaptation solutions that are designed
  • ‘Fluent work’ – people in factories can concentrate on their work and can work fluently. So they can trust themselves that they know what to do, even in challenging situations, and they can trust that they will get the necessary support and feedback from the manufacturing systems

 

Thanks for giving us an insight into your work Eija. We look forward to more updates as the project progresses.