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An investigation of cognitive aspects affecting human performance in manual assembly

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posted on 20.06.2016, 11:14 by Anna Brolin
Modern manufacturing systems seem to be shifting from mass production to mass customisation, which means that systems must be able to manage changes in customer demands and requirements, new technology as well as environmental demands. This in turn leads to an increase in product variants that need to be assembled. To handle this issue, well designed and presented information is vital for assembly workers to perform effective and accurate assembly tasks. In this thesis the main focus has been to find factors that affect human performance in manual assembly. A literature review was made on the subject of manufacturing and usability as well as basic cognitive abilities used to utilise information, such as memory. This investigation identified applicable factors for assessing human cognitive performance within the research field of manufacturing. The thesis further investigates how some of these factors are handled in manual assembly, using case studies as well as observational studies. The results show that how material and information are presented to the assembler needs to be considered in order to have a positive effect on the assembly operation. In addition, a full factorial experimental study was conducted to investigate different ways of presenting material and information at the workstation while using mixed assembly mode with product variants. The material presentation factor involved the use of a material rack compared to using an unstructured kit as well as a structured kit and the information presentation factor involved using a text and number instruction compared to a photograph instruction. The results showed that using a kit is favourable compared to the traditional material rack, especially when using a structured kit combined with photographic instruction. Furthermore, the use of unstructured kits can lead to better productivity and reduced perceived workload, compared to a material rack. Although they are perhaps not as good as using a structured kit, they most likely bring a lower cost, such as man-hour consumption and space requirements. However, the number of components in an unstructured kit needs to be considered in order to keep it on a manageable level. As a conclusion, several scenarios were developed in order to understand how different assembly settings can be used in order to improve human performance at the assembly workstation.


University of Skövde, Sweden



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Brolin, Anna

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.