End-Users Experiences with the European Factory Platform
About a year ago, the EFPF platform was developed to the point where the use cases of the three EFPF pilots, Aerospace, Furniture and Circular Economy, could be comprehensively implemented. A particular challenge was the lack of accessibility of the companies. Due to the Corona pandemic, many companies were closed to external parties – including the EFPF project partners. By extending the duration of the corresponding work package, it was possible to make up for most of the delays and still implement almost all user stories. However, these implementation works on-site in the companies now had to be done by the participating companies in the pilots themselves without the presence of the software developers. Fortunately, extensive experience with virtual video conferencing had already been gained during the pandemic! So direct communication between developers and users was guaranteed. But it is different when acute problems can be solved together directly on-site. Because despite pre-configuration by the software developers, not all components behaved as expected on site. However, there was simply a lack of expertise on-site at the companies regarding programming knowledge and integration of technical components. The devil was once again in the detail, and the end-users had to build up basic know-how about hardware and software components in a short time. The developers could only provide virtual support – but it worked! The test operation of all implemented solutions ran stably, and valuable experience was gained by applying various tools. One significant finding is that the user interfaces (frontend) had to be better tailored to the needs of the end-users in some cases. The developers had tried to pack as much information as possible into the frontend, which is a good idea. However, this tended to lead to confusion and information overflow in some applications. Slight corrections were therefore made to some tools. Unfortunately, this, too, was only ever done in remote sessions. But after some time, a specific routine developed, and the feedback from the end-users was consistently positive. The cooperative and professional working style between the project partners was highly praised.
Since autumn 2021, the implementation work for the Open Call experiments has been underway. Fortunately, experienced developers are on board here and not so much essential support is needed anymore. Only specific problems of the Open Call partners that require detailed knowledge of the EFPF components now have to be dealt with by the EFPF team. So far, the results of the experiments look promising and it is expected that all experiments will be able to present their solutions as planned in autumn 2022. Then it will be exciting for the end-users once again. Many new tools are waiting to be discovered. Complementing the innovative solutions already implemented in the three EFPF pilots, the new tools should generate added value for the companies even after the project ends. The continuous operation of the EFPF platform by the European Factory Foundation (EFF) is already ensured today. We are thus making a significant contribution to the digitalisation of SMEs in Europe, in particular, to use the associated competitive advantages in the globalised supply chains. You can see the first results of the innovative solutions in the three EFPF pilots here:
Aerospace pilot: D9.1 - Implementation and Validation through Pilot-1
Furniture pilot: D9.2 - Implementation and Validation through Pilot-2
Circular Economy pilot: D9.3 - Implementation and Validation through Pilot-3