Excellent assistance systems for more opportunities

Lemgo /

The Inclusion Prize of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia is awarded every two years and in 2020 was endowed with a total of 30,000 euros. A total of three prizes were awarded for the main topic "Participation through Digitalization". The assistance system from Fraunhofer IOSB-INA in Lemgo, which was developed together with wertkreis Gütersloh gGmbH, was able to prevail among the 144 applicant projects. The multifunctional, interactive workstation to support manual assembly processes was able to secure third place and once again prove that technological innovations in the context of the digital transformation can lead to numerous new added values and business models, but also perspectives and opportunities.

Inclusion is a topic that has long been located not only in kindergartens, schools, clubs and initiatives. The ideas of inclusion and enabling participation are based on the core values of a social market economy - they also lead to the centre of our society in the area of professional activities and skills. Against this background, the researchers from Fraunhofer in Lemgo also got involved and contributed 10 years of scientific expertise in the areas of human-machine interaction, the Internet of Things (IoT) and intelligent automation in the production environment.

Meanwhile, the labour market is becoming ever more complex, adaptable and technology-oriented. The associated consequences require new ways to better support people with disabilities, for example in the area of manual assembly activities, in the face of increasing complexity. In a joint project, Fraunhofer IOSB-INA and wertkreis Gütersloh gGmbH dedicated themselves to assistance-supported manual assembly and the integration of intelligent systems into the vocational training that takes place in Gütersloh for people with disabilities. Ulrich Rötgers, Head of Vocational Training at wertkreis Gütersloh, is pleased about the good result: "We are very pleased that our joint project - "DIAZ"-  has received this great honour from the state of NRW. It shows that a joint approach to the topic of inclusion by a research and technical institution and a social service company is purposeful for society and the profession.

The result is eight assembly workstations in different variations, whose work tables designed and built by wertkreis can be individually adapted, for example for wheelchair users. The special feature: The system is suitable both for support in the company environment and in training and further education and thus serves as a valuable bridge for integration into the labour market. In addition, the assembly system is characterised by short training and changeover times, which is particularly useful for orders with a high number of variants and smaller production volumes. It is able to support many people with different impairments, as the content and assistance functions can be individually adapted to needs and abilities. While users can be quickly and easily introduced to the work content and ideally be qualified to enter the labour market, the configuration of the system and the content does not require any external competences or programming effort.

This versatility of the system was honoured by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with the Inclusion Award in December 2020. At the award ceremony, Social Minister Karl-Josef Laumann praised the submissions: "With their great diversity, the projects show how inclusion is already being lived in North Rhine-Westphalia. With their creativity, they contribute to people with disabilities being able to lead an equal and self-determined life. The jury of experts and representatives of the self-help organisations for people with disabilities really did not have an easy time making a selection here."

Due to the circumstances caused by the pandemic, the award ceremony took place as an online event with over 7,000 viewers. The head of the Assistance Systems research group at Fraunhofer IOSB-INA, Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Carsten Röcker, was also pleased with the joint success: "On the science side, it is always nice to see how innovations make a difference in institutions and companies and open up new opportunities for people. Thanks to the cooperation with wertkreis Gütersloh, we have been able to gain valuable insights into a new area of application for our assistance systems."

Photo © wertkreis Gütersloh gGmbH
Individual support: The employee interacts intuitively with the intelligent workstation, for example assembly instructions are projected directly next to the workpiece on the table.