Personifying DigiTOP

On Friday, 12th October 2018, representatives from University of Nottingham, Cranfield University, and the Bristol Robotics Lab visited our DigiTOP colleagues from the Intelligent Automation Centre at Loughborough University.  Throughout the half-day meeting, we held a number of productive discussions to define specific types of work scenarios that DigiTOP research and digital innovations could be used to support.

DigiTOP is framed around a set of industrial use cases, which describe challenges surrounding integrating digital technology into the manufacturing environment.  Using the use cases as guides, DigiTOP will focus on understanding and making the best use of the potential benefits of digital technology such as sensor systems, augmented/virtual reality applications (including the digital twin concept), and industrial and collaborative robotics.

To help stimulate discussion on work scenarios and tasks, the morning started with each attendee developing a persona that described a type of person whose work could be supported with digital manufacturing technology.  Personas, commonly used in user-centred design, consist of a short description of an individual who represents a typical user of a system, complete with the person’s goals and characteristics that are relevant to the system or product being developed.  After brainstorming ideas for personas, each attendee presented their ideas to the group, resulting in a diverse set of work scenarios, human-centred design criteria, and potential directions for digital innovations to support manufacturing operations.  After filling up an entire whiteboard with thoughts, we divided into break-out discussion groups where we mapped the proposed digital innovations back to the project use cases, while also defining where in the manufacturing and decision making process the technologies could support.

After reporting back to the full group the outcomes from the breakout discussions, the group toured the Intelligent Automation Centre laboratory and learned about Loughborough’s ground-breaking projects related to robotics and digital manufacturing. As the meeting drew to a close, we gathered all the notes–personas, whiteboard diagrams, and breakout session posters–and made plans to synthesise them into a set of standalone personas to represent different end users that could be affected by each use case.

From a project perspective, meeting as a full group to discuss scenarios and work tasks was a great step forward. Discussions provided insight into challenges facing manufacturing operations across a range of work areas (e.g. assembly systems, repair and maintenance), which will be instrumental in shaping the direction of DigiTOP research activities. With the diverse blend of scenarios and use cases included in DigiTOP, a strong set of personas will support the communication of project goals to stakeholders, while also serving as a foundation for planning user-centred research studies.

Dr Elizabeth Argyle
University of Nottingham

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