Human and Technology

Digitalization in logistics has a strong impact on the work of employees and the way they interact with their digitalized working environment. The collaboration between people and technology is one of the greatest challenges of the digitization process. It influences the quality of work as well as the general acceptance of digital solutions in the industrial environment. Digital assistance systems are a key to the complete and barrier-free integration of employees into digitized process flows. The use of assistance systems can enable individualized and ergonomic work support.

What are assistance systems?

The BMWi provides the following definition: »Digital assistance systems support people at work by providing punctual information, ranging from simple labels to instructions for action. Companies benefit from assistance systems because they improve the work of their employees, reduce errors and make it possible to deploy personnel flexibly. This makes it easier to rotate staff, and new employees or temporary workers can be trained more quickly.«

Selection and design of assistance systems

One of the biggest challenges in selecting and designing assistance systems is finding exactly the level of sophistication that fits the particular process and the employees involved. First and foremost, it is important to find out what information the employees need in the process and how this information can be provided. The basic rules of cognitive ergonomics, which ensure that a system can be operated intuitively and helps to improve the work of the employees, must be taken into account here.

© Fraunhofer IML
Figure 1: Basic technical components of digital assistance systems

Acceptance as a key factor

If a system is not accepted by employees, this will lead to its failure in most cases. The subjective perception of employees is particularly important for the acceptance of digital systems in industrial reality. If they have the feeling that a system is not useful, or if its usability is rated poorly, acceptance toward this system decreases. Fears of digital solutions can also play a major role in this context and must be taken into account when introducing assistance systems in the process. The associated change process also has a major influence on the acceptance of introduced digital assistance systems. Here, it is particularly important that employees are involved in the process from the very beginning.

Examples from our research

In the course of our research, we have developed a number of different assistance systems that were designed specifically for certain intralogistics processes and address the needs of employees in the respective application. First and foremost are our two assistance systems for the packaging process, which support employees in packing shipments by providing intuitive information (ARpack and passt). In addition, we have developed two assistance systems for manual picking on the shelf. While mika is a permanently installed shuttle system that guides employees directly to the picking point, LaserPick provides support through a projection system mounted on the picking cart.

In addition to simply providing information, assistance systems can support employees throughout the workday and also promote their health. With the Dynamic Break development, we have developed a system that can use fitness wristbands to suggest load-sensitive breaks, ensuring that employees can take a break exactly when they need it.

Scientific publications on this topic

  • Mättig, B. (2022). Assistenzsystem für den Wissenstransfer in operativen Prozessen am Beispiel der Logistik. Logistik für die Praxis, Verlag Praxiswissen, Dortmund
  • Mättig, B., Kretschmer, V. (2020). Einsatz digitaler Assistenzsysteme in der Logistik 4.0. In: ten Hompel, M., Bauernhansl, T., Vogel-Heuser, B. (eds) Handbuch Industrie 4.0. Springer Vieweg, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  • Mättig, B., Kretschmer, V. (2021). Digitale Assistenzsysteme in der Logistik (Whitepaper). Schriftenreihe „Future Challenges in Logistics and Supply Chain Management“, Fraunhofer-Institut für Materialfluss und Logistik IML, Dortmund.
  • Mättig, B. (2021). Design of an Extended Technology Acceptance Model for Warehouse Logistics. In: 4th International Conference on Human Interaction & Emerging Technologies: Future Applications.
  • Mättig, B., Kretschmer, V. (2019). Smart Packaging in Intralogistics: An Evaluation Study of Human-Technology Interaction. In: Applying New Collaboration Technologies. In: 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS).

Our offer to you

We support you in finding the right assistance systems for your processes, taking into account the holistic view of all factors. In addition to the processes, this concerns in particular the affected employees as well as the associated change process. If no assistance systems currently exist that meet your requirements, we will work with you to develop new solutions for your use cases.