As robotisation and digital technology are changing the future of our work, Amfors Inclusive Fieldlab chooses to see technology as an opportunity rather than a threat. The Inclusive Fieldlab is the innovation programme of Amfors, the sheltered employment organisation in the Amersfoort region in the Netherlands. Inclusive Fieldlab works on inclusive innovation together with more than 1000 employees with a distance to the labour market. Since 2018, Inclusive Fieldlab has been developing the Inclusive Fieldlab approach: an approach of innovating with people with disabilities that is focused on promoting independence, personal satisfaction, and knowledge and skills of its employees. Promoting these factors helps to create a more sustainable fit between the employees, their jobs, and the labour market, resulting in enhanced participation in society.
Inclusive Innovation approach
Inclusive Fieldlab works with tools and methods used in other sectors but not yet applied in theirs. The Fieldlab introduces these new solutions to the employees of third companies in order for them to develop new methods to expand their learning potential. By doing this, the programme promotes the resilience of employees. Curiosity, autonomy, and flexibility are encouraged, thus making work accessible for all employees.
Two examples that illustrate the application of technology as a work-support are the Smart Beamer and Smart Glasses projects. In these projects, Augmented Reality (AR) technology is used to aid workers with disabilities, enabling them to perform more complex tasks, more independently, with less supervision. The Smart Beamer is an operator support system (OSS) that uses projection technology to guide a worker through assembly processes in variable levels of complexity. Workers who are unable to perform these tasks because of various reasons (i.e., impaired short-term memory or concentration deficits) can perform more complex tasks when supported by such an OSS. The system projects instructions for the worker to follow, who can determine the pace of the work themselves. Experiences of workers using this technology have thus far been positive; they feel they are able to perform even more (complex) tasks than they already could.
A similar technology is used in the Smart Glasses projects. To further explore the possibilities of AR as a support for workers with a disability, Amfors has been testing smart glasses in its warehouse. The worker wearing the smart glasses sees instructions in their line of sight, helping them with activities such as order picking (e.g., scanning items from racks before moving them). With these glasses, focus and accuracy are improved, as task information is easily accessible to the worker. Workers also feel more independent as they require less supervision and make less errors.
Inclusive Fieldlab shares the experience and knowledge gained throughout its projects with other companies, organisations, and researchers to help others and to increase social impact. For more information about Amfors and our Field Lab, please visit www.amfors.nl and www.inclusivefieldlab.nl.
Amfors is the sheltered employment organisation in the region of Amersfoort. Amfors offers work to roughly 1000 employees with a (large) distance to the labour market. Amfors also stimulates and supports the development of its employees so that they can enter the regular labour market, or work at one of the different business units in the organisation (green, cleaning, wrapping, metalwork, or assembly) to the best of their abilities. Each of Amfors’ employees has their own story. Providing customisation is therefore essential for its people.