Work 4.0

In a turbulent market environment, companies must secure their competitive advantage through innovative solutions. Thus, new technologies and labor organization forms that affect the work of the employees are integrated into the companies. Work tasks are fundamentally characterized by non-value added and value added task components. The higher the value creating share within the tasks is, the higher employee's burden is. Due to the design principle of avoiding waste, these demanding, value creating shares of the work increase, which can trigger a high burden on the employees. Sustainable solutions must be found to meet this challenge. New tools or organization forms are being used for this that should support and relieve the employees. The aim of the "Work 4.0" lab at the Center of Excellence for Lean Enterprise 4.0 is to research these methods and tools and develop scientifically sound and application-oriented solutions.

The significance of Work 4.0

Work 4.0 includes all areas of Lean Enterprise because there is a wide variety of different work systems within each of the pillars of the Lean Enterprise. One work system consists of the components: Work task, work object, work means and work person. Due to already existing mega trends such as globalization and demographic changes as well as newly upcoming drivers like the digitization and the cultural as well as social change, these work systems will significantly change. Future work systems will include new work tasks, as for example, the monitoring of robot clusters with the aid of new work means. Among others, this includes smart watches or augmented reality glasses. Through this, new burdens are created that will also require an entirely different competency profile of the employee. Therefore, abilities such as overview knowledge, readiness to learn, networked thinking and the capacity for teamwork will gain in meaning in the future. Work 4.0 will become more independent and diversified overall, but it will also increase in complexity. The employees are to be supported by collaborating robots that will work in the same work area as the work person and take over repetitive or high-burden tasks in cooperation with the work person. Due to the risk of injury for an employee, current work systems only permit that robots and employees work while separated by a safety fence. The new sensor technology and computer engineering of the robot will now allow it to detect touches and collisions with the employee, which will no longer make a safety fence necessary. In this manner, human and machine will represent a common work system within the closest space.

Development toward Work 4.0

The term Work 4.0 describes the change process released through digitization and goes back to the discussion regarding the fourth industrial revolution. The focus of the discussion lies on work systems and organizations. As a result of this change process, a multitude of design possibilities have arisen to counteract physical and psychological stress. Because the work tasks have become more complicated within the scope of Industry 4.0, the qualification and continuing education of the employee are to be prioritized. It is only in this way that it can be ensured that they remain fit for employment and work together, for example, with the “colleague” robot efficiently or find the correct data sets in the Cloud. In this context, the conditions for healthy work must be secured. New technological developments are also continually offering new support possibilities for employees. Smart wearables, as for example, smart watches, can be used to receive notifications immediately. The employee can, for example, be informed of a malfunction in a production machine and repair the error immediately. Head-mounted displays such as augmented or virtual reality glasses can support the employee visually in the orientation of the workstation. Likewise, larger forms of support such as the exoskeleton, for example, can serve to assist the employee with active sitting or lifting large loads. In addition to the undertaking of the work task, the employees are also supported in their autonomy. Through digitization, employees can do their jobs at self-selected locations and even at their own chosen times. Furthermore, topics such as employee privacy or co-determination and participation will come to the forefront.

The benefits of Work 4.0

Work 4.0 brings huge advantages into the practice and is therefore extremely relevant. In particular, new technologies influence the area of employee support positively. Thus, the exoskeleton supports the employee in production while lifting and carrying heavy loads and improving the ergonomics. The exoskeleton also serves the employee as a seating aid and supports them as such during the work routine. Consequently, this allows for load changes and reduces load handling. Furthermore, smart wearables allow the employee to receive or send information quickly and simply. The employee can receive important information such as malfunction messages on their smart device that can analyze the cause of the error and repair the disturbance with lasting effect. The sending of malfunction messages to where the origin is also visible reduces time expenditures for error identification and enables a trouble-free flow of production. Furthermore, stress situations are decreased since the disturbances can be identified more quickly.