Cluster of Excellence – Internet of ProductionCopyright: © Dr. Martin Riedel
The Future of Digitalization in Production "Made in Aachen"
- 01.01.2019 to 31.12.2025
- Research Area:
- Sociotechnical Systems and Human-Machine Interfaces
As part of the third round of the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments to promote cutting-edge research at German universities and research institutes, funding has been approved for the follow-up application of the "Internet of Production (IoP)" Cluster of Excellence at RWTH Aachen University. This follows the first two funding periods (2006 to 2012 and 2013 to 2018), during which IAW – Institut für Arbeitswissenschaft (Institute of Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics) – will conduct research in the Cluster of Excellence for a further seven years. In addition, IAW heads the Integrated Use unit.
The motivation for the Cluster of Excellence lies in digitalization, as we are already experiencing it through the Internet of Things. Smart home applications such as Amazon Alexa or digital support for finding free parking spaces in cities are just a few everyday examples. However, these approaches cannot be transferred directly to the world of production, because on the one hand it is very complex and on the other hand data availability is not always guaranteed. The great challenge therefore consists of providing semantically adequate and context-related data from production, upstream development and use in real time as well as adapted granularity by means of the digital shadow as an application-specific data set.
The main goal of the cluster is to make data and data models available and usable across domains, which are currently mainly available and used on an application-specific or domain-specific basis. This should enable both vertical and horizontal integration, which will increase productivity and agility. To this end, scientists from production engineering, computer science, materials science, economics and other disciplines are conducting research in strongly networked sub-research areas linked by common use cases.
The IAW supports the research work in the research teams Assembly of the Future in the research domain Production Engineering, Long-Term Production Management in the research domain Production Management, the Internal User Perspective in the research domain Integrated Usage, and Market Development in the research domain Agile Product Development. As a research focus, IAW is investigating human-robot collaboration, in short HRC, in the context of assembly of the future. The focus in the design of the work system is on a human-centered design approach as well as safety. In addition to simulation experiments, tests are also planned in the institute's robotics laboratory in order to develop HRC for the working world of the future. A second research focus of the IAW is to transfer the concept of the digital shadow to human actors in production. The aim is to investigate how production employees can be supported by the systematic collection and provision of data. A third research focus of the IAW is to identify user requirements and needs at an early stage of product development using explorative methods and to integrate them into agile development processes.
In the research domain of Production Engineering, IAW is involved in the implementation of line-less assembly by means of mobile robots as an approach to the assembly of the future. A joint demonstrator was created for such a use case. In the research domain of Production Management, IAW is working with the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering to develop a software tool for optimizing production processes in global production networks. The focus of IAW is on the integration of key figures of the stress factors on workers into the optimization system of the tool. As a focus of IAW's work in the research domain of Integrated Usage, human-robot collaboration, or HRC for short, was investigated. The result was an HRC framework for the production of the future. A survey study was conducted with managers in Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain as a requirements analysis for the implementation of a sensor-based assessment of the strain on workers. The results show that improvements in working conditions and increased occupational safety are seen as major opportunities for such technologies, while privacy concerns are their major obstacle. Another focus in the Integrated Use research domain was to investigate the expected impact of extensive use of data in the production context on the production ecosystem. To this end, a Delphi study was conducted with the participation of twelve institutes from the cluster network with an international collective of experts, in which 24 projections for the future of production were analyzed. The results of the study are presented in a joint book publication.
The project is funded by the DFG – Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) in the context of the Excellence Initiative – EXC-2023 Internet of Production (Project number: 390621612).