Safran nurtures the ergonomics for the factory of the future
Safran is implementing a bold approach to introduce ergonomics into industrial design projects in connection with the factory of the future. We caught up with Jean-François Thibault, Head of the Ergonomics Program in the Group's Sustainable Development Department.
What role does ergonomics play in projects?
Jean-François Thibault: Ergonomics is a strategic focus of the "Factory of the Future" project, led by Safran's industrial management as part of the Group's digital transformation. Many problems related to handling, posture, workload and more remain in the Group's factories. Based on this observation, three years ago, we launched a policy to develop collaborative robotics. The development of these machines, which do not replace human workers but work with them, requires us to think about the ergonomics of the interaction between the cobot and the user from the design stage, and to assess the risks related to the work situation as a whole.
And what implications does that have?
J.-F. T: Safran teams are currently taking part in the "Factory Lab" of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, a research and development consortium1 with which we are working on future generations of cobots capable of solving such handling and posture-related problems. Long-term projects are therefore being carried out there. In addition, a collaborative robotics design platform was created internally to quickly develop specific solutions for all the Group's factories.
Do operators take part in the development of solutions?
J.-F. T.: Operators take part at several levels. From the design phases, virtual reality tools are used to simulate business scenarios.
To take this further, we are working in collaboration with the CEA to develop demonstrators capable of testing the new workstations at full scale and in the secure environment of a laboratory. The operator working with the cobot can thus gain a concrete understanding of the work situation and ask the most pertinent questions in relation to their needs. The training continues during the industrialization phase, on the site where the demonstrator is set up. This involvement is essential to take into account the complexity of situations and support change management.
- The factory of the future, a strategic challenge
1 This entity includes scientific (CEA, Cetim), academic and industrial (Safran, PSA, Naval Group, Technip, Vinci, etc.) organizations.