Because today’s products are customised, there are many variants and many different associated components, which must be handled by operators. This puts heavy demands on the operator, who must stay focused to avoid making errors. Also, operator work is often associated with disturbances such as lack of components or changes in production, making assembly work complex. In turn, complex assembly is linked to bad ergonomics and poor assembly performance. In Sweden and Europe, work-related stress is on the increase and it is expected that future assembly work will be even more complex. It is therefore important to investigate how operators can be supported.
This thesis describes how operator wellbeing can be assessed and what factors are important in complex assembly. The results were based on theory, interviews, workshops and experiments.
Two actions were suggested to increase wellbeing and performance. The first one involves supporting operators by improving work instructions. Operators need instructions that are adapted to how they think while they work. However, current instructions are often text-based. Text-based instructions take a long time to read and may therefore not be used at all. The second action supports operators by assessing physiological data. Examples of physiological data include heart rate and step calculations. These are currently used in commercial wristbands. This was suggested because wellbeing is difficult to measure and because smart wristbands are cheap and robust. It was therefore interesting to test whether they could be used in an industrial environment. A prototype was developed and results revealed opportunities as well as risks associated with wristbands.
If operators are involved in these actions, if work tasks are clearly described and appropriate training given, then complexity in assembly could be reduced. A more attractive workplace can be created if complexity is reduced as described.