Automated & Assistive Technologies
The objective of this theme is to develop automated and assistive technologies that can enable Australian industrial workers to increase productivity and extend their participation in the workforce. Facing increasing operational costs, skills shortages and comparatively low productivity growth, combined with external factors such as increasing competition from low-wage countries, manufacturers are in need of a broader range of affordable solutions that give them the flexibility and agility to respond to a volatile market demand whilst also boosting their firm’s productivity.
Currently available industrial automation lacks flexibility, is designed for high volume, low variation processes and is economically unviable for most SMEs. Consultation with Australian firms has revealed the need for cost-efficient and agile manufacturing processes that are highly flexible and reconfigurable, but also meet standardisation, regulation and compliance aspects to allow participation in global supply chains.
The development of assistive and automated technology to improve workers’ performance requires innovations that span a number of research domains including social science, human factors, informatics, communications, sensing, robotics and engineering.
To coordinate this research, the program comprises four sub-themes:
1. Assistive sub-theme
This sub-theme will implement high performance workplaces through the development of lightweight assistive robotics that provide real-time, reconfigurable, physical support to the workforce, with a focus on Navigation, Manipulation and Cooperation including optimisation of manufacturing/construction time (through off-site assistive technologies).
2. Awareness sub-theme
The focus of the Awareness sub-theme is to implement high performance workplaces through the development of enhanced situational awareness technologies that enable close cooperation between assistive technologies and the workforce, across the manufacturing process, with a focus on Monitoring, Modelling and Information Management.
3. Augmentation sub-theme
The Augmentation sub-theme will implement high performance workplaces through the development of distributed heterogeneous collaboration technologies that provide enhanced OHS, skill augmentation and continuous quality control and assessment, with a focus on Collaboration and User Interfaces.
4. Governance sub-theme
This sub-theme aims to implement high performance workplaces through the development of information assisted methods and proxies for the development of processes, associated standards and codes of practices for new manufacturing processes, (including scaling and quality control) and methods of testing and compliance of manufacturing components and systems (using agile manufacturing/personalised production).