Modern work environments, and especially production environments, are characterized by increasing automation and digitalization. Systems become distributed and interconnected, going along with invisible, complex processes. Consequently, humans working in such environments are confronted with new challenges they have to deal with daily. With our research, we explore how humans experience such technological developments — we contribute a human-centered view on automation. In particular, we focus on smart factories and what changing work routines mean for workers’ experience.

Our main research interests are the change of workers’ tasks and routines induced by increasing automation, and how this change influences their experience. We explore how digitisation impacts humans’ work; we also critically discuss where and how the human is (still) necessary.

So far, we studied changes of workers’ role and experience with regard to increasing digitisation and automation in different industrial contexts (e.g., automotive, electronics, and logistics sector). We observed and interviewed maintainers and operators directly affected by this development. Based on that, we identified several tensions characterizing operators’ and maintainers’ experiences at increasingly automated and digitalized workplaces, such as increased mobility but permanent availability, monotony versus complexity, adaption versus control, etc.

At the Leobener Logistik-Sommer 2016, Daniela Wurhofer and Thomas Meneweger talked about the Assist 4.0 project, a cooperation between several Austrian industry and research partners. Therein, we contributed a human-centered view in researching assistance systems for industry.

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