Virtual reality for ergonomically designed workplaces
The Laboratory for Production and Operations Management (LANPS) of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering engages practically in all fields of production management.
Its research orientation covers the field of product development, planning technological procedures, work and time studies, ergonomics, optimising the layout of workplaces, project management, execution scheduling, management of stock and discrete simulations.
Through virtual reality …
Therefore, the LANPS Laboratory studies the impact of collaborative workplaces on the efficiency of production systems since collaborative workplaces are becoming a trend in modern industry. The Laboratory particularly engages in planning, modelling and introducing such workplaces to existing or newly suggested production systems. They study in more detail how collaborative workplaces affect the capacities and the efficiency of production systems, how they contribute to the system, if it exists, of course, and how direct cooperation between a robot and a human being is affecting our health and well-being.
For an optimally designed workplace, we also need to consider ergonomics which focuses on people and takes into account their capabilities and limitations to enable them to perform their work as well as possible and without potentially adverse health effects. In the ergonomic design of a workplace, we consider the influencing factors from the environment (temperature, humidity, air velocity, noise and illumination) as well as movements of the worker at work. In workplaces where the movements of the worker are being repeated all day (e.g., in large-scale production), it is useful to thoroughly study these movements with the help of ergonomic analyses. We can analyse the movements of the worker manually, with the help of computer simulations or by using state-of-the-art research equipment, the Xsens sensor suit which is used in the Laboratory for Production and Operations Management.
the performed ergonomic analyses …
bring optimally designed workplaces …
By using the sensor suit, the movements of the worker are directly transferred to the computer model of a person and the computer programme (e.g., Process Simulate) calculates and displays the results of ergonomic analyses simultaneously with the movements of the worker. With this modern research equipment, which we are the first to use at higher education institutions in Slovenia, the method of execution changes considerably and the time for drawing up analyses is significantly reduced.
Within the Laboratory, the largest Slovene and European manufacturing survey is being implemented. They are particularly interested in the transformation of European manufacturing companies as a consequence of Industry 4.0 or the processes of digitalization, use of advanced technologies and organizational concepts, new business models, servitization and last but not least the consequences of the pandemic, difficulty in accessing resources or disruptions of entire supply chains. Special emphasis is also put on the effective use of energy and materials as well as an environmentally friendly production. Upon scientific publications, research results are communicated to the wider interested public. Data obtained through the manufacturing survey are useful for drawing up various statistical and mathematical models which can be used for describing the characteristics of companies and mutual comparison with companies from Europe. They specifically focus on readiness models and maturity models for the implementation of Industry 4.0 elements by means of which they establish the following:
- Are Slovene companies ready for Industry 4.0?
- How successful are Slovene companies in the implementation of Industry 4.0?
They also develop a decision model that will link and upgrade both models as well as considerably simplify making strategic investment decisions for the digital transformation of companies.
that increase the efficiency of production systems.
Regarding research, development and expert work, they associate with domestic and foreign institutions (University Medical Centre Ljubljana, Fraunhofer ISI, Austrian Institute of Technology, etc.). They cooperate with partners inside the university and other Slovene universities (UM, Faculty of Arts; UM, Faculty of Medicine; UM, Faculty of Logistics and UL, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering), strengthen international involvement and the visibility of their research works. As a laboratory, they are aware of the interdisciplinarity of the research field and the importance of connecting parts into a whole. They are proud of the close cooperation with domestic companies (Plastika Skaza d.o.o., Lek d.d., Marovt d.o.o., GKN Driveline d.o.o., Scara-Tec d.o.o., etc.) with the help of which they transfer the newest methods and approaches to actual manufacturing and service processes.
The new obtained equipment will bring significant progress especially in the fields of planning collaborative workplaces, ergonomic studies and time standardisation. prof. dr. Borut Buchmeister, Head of the Laboratory for Production and Operations Management
Members of the Laboratory for Production and Operations Management
Since 2014, prof. dr. Borut Buchmeister is the Full Professor at the Chair of Production Engineering of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at UM. He is the Head of two Laboratories: for Production and Operations Management and for Discrete System Simulation. He acts in the field of production management: computer-aided planning of technological processes, production scheduling, planning and allocating resources, stock management, techniques of discrete optimization and simulation of discrete events. He is the author of eight books and numerous articles, terminological dictionary of production engineering, expert and scientific projects as well as conference contributions. He is the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Simulation Modelling.
In 2004, izr. prof. dr. Nataša Vujica Herzog obtained her doctorate at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Maribor. Her research work focuses mainly on production management, operational excellence, study of time and ergonomics, which is particularly interesting as a field putting people at the forefront. Due to greater awareness of the importance of ergonomically designed workplaces, she participated with her scientific and research work in various projects on the possibilities for improving working conditions by using new technologies, computer simulations and virtual reality.
She improved her knowledge and experience at two foreign institutions, TU Graz, Austria and Universita degli studi di Udine, Italy. As Erasmus+ coordinator, she participates in promoting the international activity of students and employees. In 2016, she received the “Award of the University of Maribor for scientific research, artistic and educational work”.
Prof. dr. Iztok Palčič is engaged in interdisciplinary research in the field of production management as well as technology and innovation management. He leads the Slovene part of the largest European Manufacturing Survey. The survey represents the foundation of his research work, where he studies various aspects of manufacturing companies’ characteristics within Industry 4.0. He is a member of the European Academy for Industrial Management (AIM) and the European Operations Management Association (EurOMA).
Aljaž Javernik is a technical associate at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Maribor. His research field pertains particularly to planning, implementation and evaluation of collaborative workplaces. Beside the collaborative workplaces, he is actively engaged in planning, designing and simulating production systems with the help of specially designed computer environments as well as advanced technologies (virtual reality).
Klemen Kovič is an early-stage researcher in the Laboratory for Production and Operations Management at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Maribor. His primary field of research pertains to the study of Industry 4.0 elements, the level of implementation, their impact on the performance of Slovenian companies and to the construction of decision-making models for implementation assistance. He takes part in the European Manufacturing Survey, various research on collaborative robots, digital twins for simulation and optimization purposes as well as in planning and implementing projects pertaining to the digital transformation of manufacturing companies.
Dr. Robert Ojsteršek is an assistant and researcher in the field of production technologies and systems in the Laboratory for Production and Operations Management as well as the Laboratory for Discrete System Simulation at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Maribor. He obtained his doctoral degree in 2020. His bibliography comprises more than 120 published works, 12 scientific articles, 10 chapters in scientific monographs, several scientific conferences, etc. Dr. Ojsteršek is the member of editorial boards of two scientific journals. His research interests include planning and scheduling of production, evolutionary computation, multicriteria optimization, simulation modelling and visual computing.