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Assistance systems with hand and foot

Into the future with data glasses and exoskeleton ▪ Through the research project Handwerksgeselle 4.0
the ZVSHK has determined how skilled workers can be supported in their jobs by assistance systems. Exoskeletons, data glasses and other digital assistants can make HVAC professions more attractive, as became clear at the final event in Berlin in mid-June.

Over the course of three years, the ZVSHK has been able to compile extensive findings in the Handwerksgeselle 4.0 research project on whether and why modern assistance systems can improve everyday life in the HVAC sector. Take the example of the exoskeleton - when using the strapped-on assistive device on the arm or leg, the test subjects often asked themselves: Why use such aids only after the orthopedist has already diagnosed a painful weak point? Prevention is better. A simple exoskeleton appears to be a smart investment to keep employees fit for heavy or tiring tasks in the long term.

Take the example of data glasses - image and sound transmission to support installers or service technicians has not yet become part of everyday life, but rapid further developments clearly show the potential of this assistance system. Instead of the installer or service technician laboriously handling a smartphone, important information will in future be transmitted via data goggles. The receiver has his hands free, for example, to carry out the assembly of components directly according to instructions. The (re)commissioning of a heating system could also be simplified in a similar way, or when components need to be replaced, the manufacturer could immediately transmit the latest instructions - and do so in different languages that may not otherwise be available in the manufacturer's documentation.

Job profiles are upgraded

For the SHK trade, the professional organization sees great potential in digital developments to make the activities more attractive for many employees. This is also of particular importance for recruiting young talent. This was already evident in workshops held during the project work. There was a clear vote among the participating practitioners from various SHK companies that such digital supports are welcome in everyday life and are understood as an upgrade.

High quality assistance fits the job

ZVSHK President Michael Hilpert made it clear at the closing event of the Handwerksgeselle 4.0 research project on June 14, 2022 in Berlin that young people are making a good choice when they decide on a career in the SHK trade: "We have a dual training system that is the envy of the world! We have a great and future-proof profession! Novel assistance systems like this can help to make it attractive - for young people and career changers."

Leonie Gebers, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Labor, was impressed by the research results and the development opportunities for everyday working life in the SHK trades. She wants to get as many school leavers as possible into vocational training. Commenting on her ministry's campaign, she pointed out, "With the training guarantee, we are sending a clear signal that we want to help the 1.4 million young people in their search. We can't afford to lose young people - we have to do better."

More people coming to the SHK professions

The SHK professional organization has long been committed to spreading important messages in all media relevant to young people with its "Time to start" advertising campaign for young people. It is clear that young people are looking for role models and meaningful tasks in their career-finding phase. That's why the campaign cleverly uses artificial words such as #HeatPumper, #ClimateProtector, #AmLaufenHalter, #ForwardBringer or #ImportantDoor and links them to jobs in the HVAC trade. Assistance systems such as exoskeletons or data glasses also fit into the picture, because they already point to the technologized working world of tomorrow and make it clear how strong the support can be for each individual in the team. The success of "Time to start" can be measured: Contrary to the general downward trend in many apprenticeship occupations, the SHK plant mechanic has seen an increase in recent training years.

From practice for practice

The latest technical refinements meet with divided approval in the specialist companies. This became clear during the research work through surveys. Interest in or even curiosity about assistance systems was basically present among both old apprentices and trainees. But what may seem too complicated for one person is apparently just right for another.

In the final event, a panel discussion addressed the topic: How can obstacles and acceptance problems in the SHK trade be reduced? Kathrin de Blois from the Mönchengladbach-based plumbing, heating and air-conditioning company Haaß attaches great importance to consultation and consensus within the team and used a number of examples involving tablets and QR codes to show how modern communication technology can already be used successfully and profitably in day-to-day operations. She sees a key role in one's own credible actions: "What is decisive is what you exemplify to the workforce at the top of the company."

As a project partner of Handwerksgeselle 4.0, Hans Schramm was able to contribute his expertise as a successful Munich-based SHK entrepreneur. In the panel discussion, he once again pleaded for SHK entrepreneurs to be open to new developments: "If we want to multiply, then we need this new technology. In doing so, we have to ask ourselves the question: How fast can we do it? Not whether we can get it done."

Website informed

The Handwerksgeselle 4.0 research project ran on schedule until October 2021 and developed innovative digital assistance systems specifically for employees in SHK craft businesses. This included a company experimentation room, the so-called HandwerkerLab. There, technical systems designed to make everyday life easier were further developed together with employees from HVAC companies. During the course of the project, the ZVSHK provided information on the website about essential points in this research work. In the meantime, information on the final event on June 14, 2022 can also be found there. (TD)

Federal Ministry of Labor has supported research

The project "Handwerksgeselle 4.0" was integrated into the research initiative "Zukunftsfähige Unternehmen im digitalen Wandel" of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Until the end of the project (October 2021), the ZVSHK led a project consortium to which the following companies contributed their expertise: exoIQ GmbH (physical assistance), Tillerstack GmbH (cognitive assistance) and the crafts company Hans Schramm GmbH & Co. KG.

Source: Assistance systems with hand and foot - SBZ ( (17.10.2022)

Tom Illauer

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