How to cultivate future skills for advanced and sustainable manufacturing?

 

IoT, 3D printing, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and collaborative robots (cobots) are today present in many production sites and are quickly transforming the manufacturing industry. Despite this, working in a factory remains intrinsically a matter of people, whose skills should evolve at the same pace as the technological innovation.

 

Sergio Terzi, Professor of Industrial Technologies, School of Management Politecnico di Milano

 

The manufacturing industry – the classic factory – is a rapidly changing environment. Markets are increasingly more competitive and complex, demanding tighter turnarounds, more variety, more innovation. Many consumers have also – finally – become mindful of the new consumption styles, more sustainable and less impactful on the environment and society. Factories have to find a way to meet these demands.  Or rather, factory managers (fortunately machines alone do nothing yet) must implement changes, creating agile, efficient, modern, clean, sustainable and safe work spaces and environments.

Moreover, the continuous pressure of technological innovation, especially digital, presses at the factory doors – as it does everywhere. Computers, tablets and smartphones are, today, everyday objects, even in production departments, for which we must find a way to use them intelligently and efficiently as well as safely and reliably.

Therefore, factories must change. Or rather, factories are already changing. It is no coincidence that for more than a decade there has been much talk – not only by professionals, but also in the media and in politics – of a new industrial revolution (3,4,5…), of a manufacturing renaissance, of boosting industrial investments, etc. And the revolution is actually happening, one step at a time, one project at a time, one company at a time.

Even close to us, in productive Lombardy, many factories are undergoing transformation. A series of public incentives (the Industria 4.0, Impresa 4.0 and Transizione 4.0 National Plans and the most recent, the NRRP) as well as a large availability of technological solutions have certainly generated a big push towards modernisation.  IoT, 3D printing, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, cobots (who work side by side with humans, not instead of them) are today present in many production sites close to us, into which our graduates enter profitably.  And the same thing is also happening further away, in all national and international territories which have an industrial vocation.  The factory is really changing, and fast too!

However, a factory is not only made of machines, robots and parts to be produced, but also, and above all, of people. Workers, technicians, engineers, department, line and plant managers etc. A factory is such precisely because of its “industrial” organisation, in which different skills come together effectively to produce goods and services to bring to market. The manufacturing industry – from ‘manu facere’, made by hand – is intrinsically a matter of people, of their skills and of their intelligence.  Not everyone is born with all of the necessary skills to navigate complex environments. In fact, the majority of us have to gain experience and knowledge to be able to engage with sophisticated organisations. Even ‘digital’ natives are not born with chips, but learn digital technology from their own daily experiences.  Therefore, skills are to be acquired. The modern factory requires skills not traditionally considered relevant to industrial engineers and technicians’ normal training (from negotiating skills to computer technology). These skills must therefore be provided to both new and ‘old’ generations.  The modern technical university – such as ours – is not exempt from this requirement and must inevitably become a more ‘multidisciplinary’ environment than that which we have been accustomed to in the past.

The current situation calls for ‘fresh’ technical skills which must be constantly maintained (computer science, to name one, evolves quickly). Moreover, it often calls for handling multivariate contexts, in which one should have a good ability to see connections between different aspects (e.g., technology, processes, business, needs, etc.) as well as a certain predisposition to continuous adjustment. It also requires a certain pragmatism as well as an aptitude for ‘getting your hands dirty’ (experimenting, modelling, simulating, prototyping, programming, etc.).  To provide these skills the methods and means of education themselves must change.

For some time now our School has been rising to the challenge of providing new skills for a new world. There are many examples in our courses and programmes, but here we think it is interesting to delineate the experience of our  Teaching Factory Industry 4.0, which has been present in our School since 2017. It is a physical space, in front of our Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, where we have installed a small digital and connected factory.  There is a semi-automated assembly line, two cobots, two independent workstations, an AGV, different devices for monitoring production and a complete 3D simulator (digital twin).

The Teaching Factory was designed to bring training and application together in the same space, as well as to test new operating models (plant simulation). It is an environment populated by students and researchers and is also used for key courses on production systems in the first year of the degree programme. In 2018, we dedicated the Teaching Factory to our late mentor, prof. Marco Garetti, who was one of the founders of our department’s industrial engineering group and a passionate teacher.

Thanks to the Teaching Factory Industry 4.0 we are able to help our students with pragmatic technology learning, in an environment which closely simulates the reality of modern industrial companies.

The experience gained from the Teaching Factory Industry 4.0 was also very useful when our university implemented the larger project Made – Competence Center Industria 4.0, which is located on the Bovisa Campus in Milan, not far from our School.

As a department, we have strongly contributed to this broader project, which is proving to be a useful method for disseminating the skills required by the new industrial evolution, not just amongst our students, but also in companies.

NEXT GENERATION UPP: a project to improve the justice system in Northwest Italy

NEXT GENERATION UPP seeks to provide a more efficient method for managing judicial affairs and thus help reduce the backlog and the average length of judicial proceedings.

 

NEXT GENERATION UPP is coordinated by the University of Turin in partnership with eleven universities in Northwest Italy – including the Politecnico di Milano with the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering and the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies. The project is promoted by the Ministry of Justice within the framework of the NOP on Governance and Institutional Capacity 2014-2020 and carried out in synergy with the interventions envisaged by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) in support of justice reform.

Next Generation UPP aims to improve the justice system in Northwest Italy through the strengthening of Trial Offices (UPP), technological innovation, and trialling new collaborative schemes between universities and judicial offices. It is aimed at courts in the Macro Area 01, which includes the Appeal Courts of Brescia, Genoa, Milan and Turin, the Courts and the Juvenile Courts of the corresponding districts.

In particular the working group from the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, led by Prof. Giancarlo Vecchi, is mapping the organisation of the Trial Office at the Appeal Court and the Court of Milan.
The analysis seeks to show in detail the organisational solutions put in place, the strengths and weaknesses and the impact in terms of reduction of backlog and disposition time, i.e., the time taken to reach final determination in judicial proceedings. In addition, it will design and trial innovative organisational solutions to consolidate, strengthen and transfer the obtained results.

The project, launched on 1 April 2022, will be concluded on 30 September 2023.


For more information:
Prof. Giancarlo Vecchi: giancarlo.vecchi@polimi.it

Food Policy. The fifth district hub against food waste opens

A new collection and storage centre for surplus food from various large-scale distribution chains to expand the network of district hubs that are taking action against food waste, set up by the City of Milan in collaboration with local partners and associations.

 

The new Centre Hub, which officially opened today, is located on the premises of Associazione IBVA, on Via Santa Croce 15, next to Solidando, the social market that has been committed to fighting food poverty for years.

Alongside the Gallarate, Isola and Lambrate Hubs, as well as the Foody Hub in the Milan agri-food market, the opening of the Centre Hub signifies a new point of contact in the City of Milan’s network that is fighting against food waste and supporting food aid initiatives in the city – a network which has already been awarded the Earthshot Prize in 2021 and is setting an international standard.

The opening of the Centre Hub was possible thanks to a tried and tested public-private partnership model. In particular, the initiative has been promoted by the City of Milan’s Food Policy department, IBVA, Municipality 1, Fondazione Cariplo, Assolombarda and the Politecnico di Milano through their Food Sustainability Observatory. The Hub was created thanks to the generous contributions of the Banca di Credito Cooperativo di Milano. A fair and green product collection and delivery service will be provided thanks to the partnership with So.De, the socially-conscious, supportive and sustainable delivery service.


District Hubs against food waste: statistics

A total of four hubs are already active throughout the Milan area: the Hub in Zone 4 at Foody – Milan’s agri-food market – which represents the evolution of the Fruit and Vegetable Hub, developed during the 2020 lockdown and thanks to which 138 tonnes of fresh produce were distributed over eight weeks; the Isola district Hub (Zone 9); the Lambrate Hub (Zone 3); the Gallarate Hub (Zone 8).

The initiative’s data monitoring is carried out thanks to its collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano’s Food Sustainability Observatory, as well as the support of Assolombarda with the Isola, Lambrate and Gallarate Hubs, and its collaboration with the University of Milan for the Foody Hub.

In 2021, the two hubs that had been set up in the Isola and Lambrate districts collected a total of over 170 tonnes of food, equating to about 340,000 meals. In the first half of 2022, these two hubs were also joined by the Gallarate and Foody hubs, which in the first six months of that year alone collected 130 tonnes, equating to over 260,000 meals.

In total, more than 3,000 households have been helped thanks to the work of the district hubs and the cooperation of a dozen brands involved across almost thirty outlets.

Talents and the challenges for education: published the new issue of SOMe Magazine

The world of education is evolving very quickly: thanks also to the innovations offered by digital tools, we are experiencing new platforms, new dynamics between trainers and students, a whole new experience in classrooms, both online and physical.

We investigate what we can expect for the future of education in the new issue of SOMe: from the evolution of teaching in undergraduate courses but also in open programs, to its effectiveness, to the need for new skills for trainers, the challenges are presented by Marika Arena, Antonella Moretto, Tommaso Buganza, Mara Soncin and Tommaso Agasisti.

In “Stories” we tell about two research projects aimed respectively at improving the living conditions of people with visual impairments and at monitoring the well-being of young people during sport activities. Finally we share an international networking experience between young European researchers.

To read SOMe #9 click here.

To receive it directly in your inbox, sign up here.

Here are the previous issues:

  • #8 “The challenge of pursuing impact in research”
  • #7 “From data science to data culture: the emergence of analytics-powered managers”
  • #6 “Innovation with a human touch”
  • #5 “Inclusion: shaping a better society for all”
  • #4 “Multidisciplinarity: a new discipline”
  • #3 “New connections in the post-covid era”
  • #2 “Being entrepreneurial in a high-tech world”
  • Special Issue Covid-19 – “Global transformation, ubiquitous responses”
  • # 1 “Sustainability – Beyond good deeds, a good deal?”

The students of the “Invest in Foreign Markets” Lab among the best in the international “X-Culture” competition

X Culture, the international business-themed challenge, this year saw the participation of 6,188 students from 171 universities and 53 different countries, divided into 1032 mixed teams. As in every edition, students are asked to collaborate remotely for 8 weeks in the realization of a real internationalization project for one of the four Italian companies selected by Alibaba.com that have subscribed to X-Culture.

The 44 students of the “Invest in foreign markets” Lab of the Master’s programme in Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering participated in the competition and were distributed to international teams by working remotely with colleagues from foreign universities. At the end of the competition, 12 students from the Politecnico di Milano distributed in 3 groups won the “Best Team” award, awarded both for the excellent peer-to-peer evaluations they received and for the quality of the final reports they produced, which represent real business plans to support the internationalization of the companies involved.

In addition to this, the Politecnico di Milano also distinguished itself with the “Best Instructor” award, which was awarded to prof. Stefano Elia, supported by Alessio Di Marco and Ludovico Benetel, for the commitment and professionalism with which the students were coordinated in carrying out their project, allowing them to also obtain prizes for the “Best Team”.

Awarded students:

Gabriele Capobianco
Giuseppe Carrabino
Andrea Cigognini
Federico De Cosmo
Sofia Monica Di Vincenzo
Emma Maria Antonietta Rosa
Francesco Faugno
Alessandro Gastaldo
Simone Gianotti
Martina Mauri
Beatrice Raimondi
Mercedes Maria Ugarte Herrero

For further details:

Awards, for the projects and the winning students

Best educators

Metaverse Marketing Lab launched

A laboratory sponsored by the School of Management to allow businesses to try the many possibilities of virtual worlds.

 

The Metaverse Marketing Lab has been created at the Politecnico di Milano, a School of Management initiative in partnership with UPA and UNA (the associations that represent advertisers and advertising agencies), with the aim of raising awareness of the Metaverse: a system of technologies which enables virtual, augmented and mixed reality experiences, allowing something of an expansion of the physical world into virtual and semi-virtual universes with their own rules for operating and communicating.

The goal is not only to demonstrate the state of the art, but to also chart the evolution of a market which is as dynamic as it is fluid, to promote good practice and analyse consumer behaviour in relation to experiences of immersive, virtual and augmented reality.

According to analysts, the market will be worth 800 billion dollars within two years, with a staggering potential for growth: some estimates speak of 13 trillion dollars by 2030, with 5 billion users.  At the moment, it is estimated that there are 350 million users, an increase of 900% over the last year, with an average age of 27 and split across 43 platforms.

Many large brands have decided to join the Metaverse and create an appealing presence for consumers who, thanks to increasingly sophisticated technologies, enjoy experiences at the edge of reality, trying and purchasing products through their avatars.

The goal is to understand whether and how this ‘Metaverse rush’ represents a trend or a wave.  To achieve this, in addition to studying the brands’ initiatives on a national level and comparing them with global experiences, the Lab will focus on the user perspective, analysing their behaviour and objectively measuring their emotional engagement, commented Lucio Lamberti, Full Professor of Omnichannel Marketing Management and Scientific Coordinator of the Metaverse Marketing Lab.

During the opening event, a demo created in collaboration with the Salotto di Milano and the technology of SimCoVR enabled the attendees to use a virtual reality headset to enjoy the extremely realistic experience of being on the deck of a cruise ship at sea, recreating shopping experiences.

Web 3.0 will bring many new possibilities: from product placement in virtual environments to direct management of spaces by brands, from the offer of immersive experiences to purchases in augmented reality, to a total revolution of supply models (dynamic digital art, digital furniture and decoration, virtual tourism).

The challenge is twofold: on one hand, maintaining a high level of engagement through exciting immersive initiatives; on the other, integrating the multiverse offering in omnichannel strategies until it becomes a genuine marketing and sales channel by reimagining the shopping experience, explained Manuela Balli, Director of the Metaverse Marketing Lab.

 

Young people and research: increasingly international with the European Talent Academy

Interview with Arianna Seghezzi, Assistant Professor

 

Arianna, you have just returned from an international networking experience organized by the European Talent Academy, can you tell us something about the programme and how you got involved?

Of course! The European Talent Academy is an initiative created from a partnership between Imperial College and TUM (Technical University of Munich), which, starting from the 2021-2022 academic year, also involved the Politecnico di Milano. The main objective is to educate and create networking opportunities for young researchers from the three universities, united by a strong technological vocation and proximity to the world of industry, to stimulate collaboration between the parties. My involvement happened at the invitation of “Talent Development”, a Politecnico di Milano programme dedicated to supporting the career of some researchers at our university, which I joined with pleasure last year.

 

An event was organized in Brussels, with the theme “Artificial Intelligence as a key enabling technology to empower society: A European approach on excellence and trust to boost research”. Can you tell us how it went?

The Brussels event took the form of a two-day workshop, during which I had the opportunity, together with my colleagues, to participate in speeches and seminars of various kinds. In particular, I would recognise two main types of events, which accompanied the many opportunities for networking with researchers from other universities: meetings with representatives of the European Commission and seminars held on various topics by researchers and experts.

On the one hand, we had the opportunity to meet and discuss with two representatives of the European Commission: MEP Patrizia Toia, Vice-President of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), and with Evangelia Markidou, Officer of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Innovation and Excellence unit of the European Commission. With them we discussed our work themes and the role that the European Commission has in promoting and supporting research in these areas.

Afterwards, we participated in educational and information seminars, held by experts operating in different domains, all in some way related to the theme of international research projects in the Artificial Intelligence sector. Some seminars were more “vertical” (aimed at investigating aspects related to artificial intelligence and digital innovation), others more “horizontal” (focused on the correct setting of requests for participation in calls for European projects, regardless of specific themes)

 

What was the spirit of this networking initiative for “promising young researchers”?

I would say that the keywords with which I would describe the spirit of this initiative are two.

First is internationalization. We had the opportunity to meet and interact with colleagues who work in two non-Italian universities, creating fertile ground for potential future collaborations with international researchers.

Second is multidisciplinarity. Despite the common thread of Artificial Intelligence, the research areas of the participants were very different from each other, relating to the potential areas of application. From biomedical researchers to experts in legal and privacy issues, the basic idea was to try to pool different backgrounds, experiences and settings.

I believe that working together by breaking down geographical and thematic barriers is fundamental in many contexts and that it is particularly so in the world of research. This opportunity allowed me to experience these elements first hand, to meet researchers from Imperial College and TUM, who belong to different research fields, interested in topics similar to those on which I work, and I hope that this will lay the foundations for a profitable, effective (and “promising”!) path towards the creation of an increasingly international and multidisciplinary research network.

A project on circular transition funded by T.I.M.E. Association

Two research projects of the Politecnico di Milano have won a grant of 10,000 euros each as T.I.M.E. projects, one of which is coordinated by the Department of Management Economic and Industrial Engineering of the School of Management with Dr. Alessandra Neri as principal investigator.

“The role of digitalization in supporting the industrial circular transition” is the project that aims at investigating the relationship between the adoption of digital technologies and the implementation of circular economy practices within the industrial sector. The goal is to understand the supporting role offered by the digital technologies, passing from the enhancement and generation of dynamic capabilities. This would be done by conducting an international survey, providing empirical-based insights.

KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden) and Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain) are partners of the project and members of the T.I.M.E. Association. The University of the West of England (UK) and Aston University (UK) take part in the project as external members.

The T.I.M.E. Association (Top International Managers in Engineering), founded in 1989, is a network of leading technical universities and engineering schools in Europe and all over the world, with a strong international dimension in teaching, research and industrial relations. The association currently consists of 57 members in 25 countries, and the Politecnico di Milano is a member of the Advisory Committee.

Besides double degree activities, T.I.M.E. promotes a series of other initiatives, including the T.I.M.E. projects, through which the association co-finances new or existing initiatives between member universities, in which T.I.M.E. can represent an added value.

For more information:
https://www.polimi.it/en/articles/two-polimi-projects-funded-by-time-association/

 

 

The Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering in a new guise

After 9 months of renovations, the building in via Lambruschini in Milan is now ready to welcome again the community of the School of Management with completely renovated spaces.
The cutting of the ribbon, together with the Department Director prof. Alessandro Perego, was attended by Prof. Donatella Sciuto, Vice Rector and prof. Emilio Faroldi, Deputy Rector of Politecnico di Milano.

 

The new spaces of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering located in the Bovisa Campus of the Politecnico di Milano were inaugurated a few days ago.

Designed on the basis of innovative usage concepts, the new environments are characterized by better lighting, energy saving systems and a biophilic approach. In particular, they have been designed to stimulate exchange and sharing thanks to a greater availability of common areas with different functions and a highly integrated technological service.

The project aimed at both individual well-being and at favoring the encounter allowing great flexibility of use.

The Department moved to the Bovisa Campus in 2009, when the university made available some new buildings following the renovation of the gasometers area. The historic campus of Piazza Leonardo da Vinci was in fact in need of new spaces due to the increase in the number of students, as well as teaching and administrative staff and the project allowed the relocation of some Departments from Città Studi to the North part of the city.

After more than 10 years in Bovisa, the Department decided to renovate not only due to the increase in the number of researchers, but also to adapt to new working habits that in recent years have become more digital, flexible and collaborative.

The Bovisa area was rebuilt following an international competition launched in 1998 by the Politecnico di Milano in collaboration with local authorities (Municipality of Milan and Regione Lombardia).
And now time has come to complete that project started out of a vision of 30 years ago, with the creation of a university citadel whose construction should start by the end of 2022: forty thousand square meters that will become green, the two gasometers transformed into an innovation center hosting companies and two hundred start-ups, and in a four-storey wellness and sports center open to the whole city.

 

Photo gallery of the inauguration event

Credit: Matteo Bergamini, © Lab Immagine Design POLIMI
Dipartimento di DESIGN, Politecnico di Milano
labimmagine-design@polimi.it

The new spaces

WeAre 4 Children: digital technologies for sport and youth wellbeing

The Politecnico di Milano E⁴SPORT Laboratory has designed a T-shirt fitted with sensors – “smart garment” – to collect data on the wellbeing of children aged 11 to 12 during sport activities.

 

Physical activity during childhood is of the utmost importance because it builds muscle strength, develops bone structure, improves blood circulation, strengthens the immune system and teaches children how to share and socialise with their peers. However, the recent pandemic has led many children to give up doing physical activity to embrace more sedentary lifestyles.

Amateur sport clubs have always been important actors in helping children grow through sport, supporting them in the creation of a mind-body equilibrium.
Today, this task can also be carried out with the use of new tools: thanks to digital technologies, this objective can be achieved using methods that were inconceivable in the past. In particular, technologies related to the Internet of Things (IoT) – such as smart garments, smart watches, smart bracelets, movement and posture sensors, etc. – once only available to the most prestigious sport clubs, could also be adopted by amateur sport clubs to gather relevant data “from the field” related to the quality of training, sporting performance, and the physical and mental wellbeing of children.

In this context, the Politecnico di Milano Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering and Department of Design, in collaboration with the U.S. Bosto Sport Centre in Varese, have developed an innovative project to understand how digital technologies can contribute to the wellbeing of young footballers, and improve their sporting performance.
The “WeAre 4 Children” research project has been approved by Politecnico di Milano Ethics Committee and will involve 20 young footballers from U.S. Bosto who, during their weekly training sessions in Capolago and friendly matches, will wear a sensor-fitted T-shirt capable of collecting data on their sporting performance and physical wellbeing. The monitoring will take place through biometric sensors installed in the T-shirts themselves, including accelerometers, heart-rate monitors and specific motion capture sensors that can detect real-time information on parameters such as cardiac activity, posture, breathing, energy consumption and mood.

Politecnico di Milano and U.S. Bosto have engaged with partners in the Varese area. In particular, TK Soluzioni (an ICT company from Saronno) will provide support in creating the platform that will be used to integrate the data collected, Alfredo Grassi (a textiles company from Lonate Pozzolo) will offer its expertise for the design and production of the T-shirt, and the Centro Polispecialistico Beccaria health centre’s Sports Medicine Unit in Varese will monitor the physical and postural data.

The project is conceived as a feasibility study, aimed at establishing whether the digital solution developed ad hoc is appreciated by young footballers, their families and their trainers, and whether the data collected are reliable and the system works correctly in different scenarios of usability (training, matches, etc.).

The Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering research group, headed by Professor Emanuele Lettieri and Dr Andrea Di Francesco, Engineer, project manager and researcher at Politecnico di Milano “E4Sport” interdepartmental Laboratory, will assess the impact that the project could have on U.S. Bosto’s extended community, as well as its economic-financial sustainability, with contributions from all of the project’s partners.
The ambition is to be able to extend the tested solution to other amateur sport clubs, including other sports in addition to football.

 

 

For further information: https://www.e4sport.polimi.it/weare4children/