Human factors are critical to manufacturing performance. Although production systems are advancing to involve greater levels of automation and digitisation, workforce behaviours and attitudes directly affect the adoption and operational effectiveness of new processes and technologies. The key challenge that manufacturing organisations currently face is understanding how best to design and integrate new systems, processes and technologies they need to optimise efficiency and well-being.

The Industrial Psychology and Human Factors Group provides strong experience and expertise in applying scientific research to understand and address human-centred issues in manufacturing organisations.

We are a designated team that has built up significant experience working in the manufacturing industry, particularly within the aerospace sector, to deliver high quality research and effective solutions in human-centred contexts. This experience gives us a high level of understanding and skill for working directly with clients to establish their specific individual needs, and for designing and conducting the most appropriate research or intervention they need within constraints and sensitivities. We are accomplished in a wide range of approaches and techniques that we can combine or apply individually depending on requirements, and in working directly with personnel to promote their engagement and acceptance in projects.

Our areas of research include:

  • Human-robot interaction – we identify and examine specific psychological and behavioural factors that influence collaborative and close-proximity working conditions and performance.
  • Human-systems integration – we evaluate the effectiveness of mixing people and technology by measuring how system elements increase or decrease operator performance and welfare, for example via mental workload, awareness, satisfaction, etc.
  • Tacit skills capture – we extract precise and in-depth cognitive detail of the procedures and decisions that people use to perform tasks, deconstructing far beyond what can be observed.
  • Usability and User experience – we evaluate key aspects of user-centredness to identify how to optimise efficiency and well-being in the design or redesign of systems.
  • Cognitive analysis –  we examine how people receive and respond to external stimuli and demands using a variety of traditional and innovative techniques to combine subjective and objective measures for stronger reliability and validity.
  • Physical analysis – we assess ergonomic suitability and impacts of workspace and workplace environments using traditional postural analysis methods and digital human modelling analysis, and also use non-optical motion capture in situations where the body is occluded.

Our research and resources

We are a designated team that has been set up to carry out human-centred research and consultancy primarily within the manufacturing industry. Most of our research to date has been conducted within the high value aerospace manufacturing sector as part of the School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing’s Aero-Structure Assembly and Systems Installation Research Group, making a direct contribution to work and process improvements. 

Additionally, we conduct the various human factors research work necessary for the national Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Intelligent Automation which is also principally supported by aerospace industry partners. This mainly encompasses two key strands: ‘human-robot collaboration’ and ‘human skills capture’.

However, our work is not restricted to any particular industrial sector as we are well-equipped to apply a range of state of the art data collection and analysis capabilities in controlled laboratory or industrial settings including:

  • Computer aided design with human modelling and ergonomic assessment;

  • Eye tracking for analysis of visual behaviour, monitoring and response;

  • Industrial laboratory with jigs and tooling for experimental studies of human behaviour with products and processes in realistic shop floor work environments;

  • Non-optical motion capture for measurement of dynamic body activity and static posture analysis in open and occluded environments;

  • Interactive physics simulation to impose real physical activities and motion capture directly into computer aided design modelling;

  • Robot systems of varying type and size for simulation of collaborative industrial work within automated systems and analysis of human-robot interactions.

Current research opportunities

The Group is equipped to deliver educational courses, seminars and organisational training and to supervise PhD/MPhil research programmes. Appropriately qualified individuals or sponsoring organisations should contact Dr Sarah Fletcher to enquire about opportunities or to propose a project outline.