Design of human-centered collaborative assembly workstations for the improvement of operators' physical ergonomics and production efficiency: A case study
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SubjectIndustry 4.0; Collaborative robotics; Physical ergonomics; Human-Robot Collaboration; Human-Centered Design; Assembly; Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
Industrial collaborative robotics is one of the main enabling technologies of Industry 4.0. Collaborative robots are innovative cyber-physical systems, which allow safe and efficient physical interactions with operators by combining typical machine strengths with inimitable human skills. One of the main uses of collaborative robots will be the support of humans in the most physically stressful activities through a reduction of work-related biomechanical overload, especially in manual assembly activities. The improvement of operators' occupational work conditions and the development of human-centered and ergonomic production systems is one of the key points of the ongoing fourth industrial revolution. The factory of the future should focus on the implementation of adaptable, reconfigurable, and sustainable production systems, which consider the human as their core and valuable part. Strengthening actual assembly workstations by integrating smart automation solutions for the enhancement of operators' occupational health and safety will be one of the main goals of the near future. In this paper, the transformation of a manual workstation for wire harness assembly into a collaborative and human-centered one is presented. The purpose of the work is to present a case study research for the design of a collaborative workstation to improve the operators' physical ergonomics while keeping or increasing the level of productivity. Results demonstrate that the achieved solution provides valuable benefits for the operators' working conditions as well as for the production performance of the companies. In particular, the biomechanical overload of the worker has been reduced by 12.0% for the right part and by 28% for the left part in terms of manual handling, and by 50% for the left part and by 57% for the right part in terms of working postures. In addition, a reduction of the cycle time of 12.3% has been achieved.
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