Intelligent Cognitive Assistance for Manufacturing

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The Coala Project

An introduction to the Coala Project, that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovative programme under grant agreement nr. 957296

The COALA project aims to support new workers in knowledge-intensive manufacturing processes, where the production plans are short-timed and workers must quickly realise them while maintaining the product quality. It also aims to enable machine operators and production line managers to become effective faster, which will speed up changes in manufacturing.

COALA Partner, TU Delft, leads the development of the Cognitive Advisor Service, which aims to support operators in troubleshooting, facilitate on-the-job training for novices, and provide production analytics to production managers. This service allows easy access to relevant training material, knowledge, and insights through the mobile app’s text, voice, and graphical user interface.

The Cognitive Advisor consists of 5 sub-components

  1. Knowledge representation, a key to knowledge transfer. It provides means to validate the knowledge captured from operators.
  2. Recommendation engine provides recommendations on best practices and training material.
  3. User profile encompasses the assessment and tracking of operators’ knowledge and experience.
  4. Knowledge acquisition facilitates the upkeep of the knowledge base and acquire new expert knowledge.
  5. Context awareness helps retrieving relevant information, for example to recommend location-specific advice.

The Cognitive Advisor can acquire knowledge from expert users to facilitate the update of the training material. These cognitive capabilities are made possible by the Cognitive Advisor’s context awareness in combination with its mapping of human-understandable concepts in its knowledge representation.

The COALA Digital Intelligent Assistant functions

The COALA Digital Intelligent Assistant functions connect with the cognitive advisor service that accesses shop-floor data (e.g., machinery location, production rates, production issues) and adapts the learning progress to the user. For example, a novice worker can interact with the COALA cognitive assistant in natural language and request solutions to problems based on knowledge collected from the experienced workers. This will enable machine operators and production-line managers to become effective faster, which will speed up changes in manufacturing (e.g., agile manufacturing). 

Education and training concept

Complementary to the technology, we are also developing an education and training concept that focuses on building blue-collar worker competencies in human-AI collaboration. Ultimately, the COALA solution will transform how workers perform their jobs while enabling companies to maintain, or even increase, the quality of their production processes and their products.

Evangelos Niforatos Assistant Professor of AI-Powered Human Augmentation TU Delft

This article has been extracted and freely adapted from The Coala website – June 2022