The objective of the StahlAssist research project was to design technical work assistance systems that would promote learning and employee health in the steel industry. Although the increasing interconnection of work systems is enhancing the competitiveness of steel-making companies, it can at the same time increase the mental strain on employees. For instance, employees in maintenance find themselves contending with complex work situations in which they have to evaluate large amounts of real-time process data from the installations they look after.
The aim of this project was therefore to formulate safe, human-centred approaches to the design of complex work situations in the steel industry. This meant analysing the new requirements being placed on work systems, the ways these requirements are changing employees’ tasks, and the risks posed by interaction between humans and technology. For this purpose, concepts for collaborative cooperation on maintenance activities were developed and trialled at the companies that participated in the project.
One central aspect was action to involve workers in the organisational change process by exploiting expert and experiential interdisciplinary knowledge, in particular the knowledge possessed by older employees. This acquired knowledge was applied to the design and use of mobile work assistance systems. Different display and projection technologies (data glasses, head-mounted displays, tablets, and smartphones) were selected as work assistance systems in the various application scenarios, with the conditions of the specific workplace and work environment being taken into consideration in each case.
The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) was tasked with identifying and assessing the opportunities offered by the utilisation of mobile smart devices and the risks associated with it. These issues were monitored and evaluated from a human factors science perspective. This was accompanied by efforts to draw up or adapt suitable procedures with which to analyse and assess the practicality of (mobile) technical assistance systems and the extent to which they promote learning. Finally, the project also explored the characteristics of practical design approaches that promote learning when technical assistance systems are deployed, as well as the potential of various technologies.
This research and development project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) as part of the "Future of Work" programme (Funding Code FKZ 02L15A143), and managed by the project delivery agency Projektträger Karlsruhe (PTKA).
Unit 2.3 "Human Factors, Ergonomics"