Sonja Hermann, Principle investigator and research fellow at the Centre of Bioengineering, is pioneering diversity of human factors for more efficient design with engineering students. Sonja spoke at Simulation Solutions 2017 Jack user group about how operational efficiency improvements can be achieved using Jack software to incorporate human diversity across workforces in different international factory locations .
Planning for variations in human size across global populations
When we look at designing processes with a human workforce element there need to be some assumptions made about the average size of workers to best operate machinery. With variations in size and shape between localised workforce populations, operational assumptions between a factory and another on the opposite side of the world can vary significantly. On top of this, there are diversity trends such as the increase of obesity, as well as the disability act to take into account for process design.
Trinity College in Dublin is the top ranked university in Ireland, and where Simulation Solutions partner Sonja Hermann is Principle investigator and research fellow at the Centre of Bioengineering. Having designed and lectured course content for engineering and computer science courses with a focus on human centred design over the last 10 years, key themes from Sonja’s specialism include:
- Design thinking,
- Engineering design innovation,
- User experience,
- Ergonomics and human factors.
Of her teachings Sonja found ‘very few engineering students [she] encounter[s] have much prior experience of human factors,’ as to promote process designs which are fit for workforce purpose and efficiency, she introduced a 3 month module on human factors. In adding to an already full course schedule she was challenged of engaging students on this new area.
As with industrial engineering, building life size models and prototypes to test designs can often be too time consuming and costly a task; the traditional alternative of using static tables for calculations and assumptions don’t allow much flexibility for testing and their difficulty to grasp, implement and use can cause problems further down the line when machinery isn’t performing to plan. Sonja has worked with Simulation Solutions since 2015 to share the benefits of Jack, a Siemens human simulation tool designed to assess the human factor and analyse ergonomics within design, to simulate process design.
Making processes accessible, understood and used to the greatest extent possible
With her extensive background in human centred design, Sonja is an advocate for diversity in design, mindful of the 2005 disability act which states ‘environments [need to be] accessible, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size or disability’.
Sonja’s aspiration is for every university course to teach a human factors module “Using the human digital model Jack has provided an excellent opportunity for students to be able to test early stages of their engineering design at a point where prototype testing is not available yet. This ensures compliance with a user centred design approach, as well as delivering more process efficiency forecasts with more reliable accuracy.”
Incorporating universal design data into Jack to accurately test workforce usability
Sonja explained “The main draw of the software was the ability to import Universal Design data into Jack. This meant that students could easily import models they had built during the semester and immediately see how different humans would interact with their designs”.
Sonja has seen students explore a truly extensive scale of human modelling using Jack, key diversity themes in human factors include:
- Generating more accurate mannequin size options to fit with population trends in different locations
- Future proofing designs by planning for obesity
- Using task simulation builder to experiment with variations in animated scenes which are simple, clear and easy to communicate
Equipping engineers of the future to think global and impact the bottom line
Using Jack has enabled students to apply and share a user-centred design approach, an area students traditionally find challenging. Through using Siemens Jack simulation software, young engineers of the future are better prepared for careers in industry where the human factor must be considered for the most efficient designs across a range of locations. Outputs are process designs which meet and allow flexibility for accessibility requirements as well as more efficient usage forecasts to impact the bottom line.
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