New facilities and laboratories at the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering will promote teaching, research and industry collaboration
Professor Partha Pratim Chakrabarti, Director, IIT Kharagpur inaugurated a number of teaching and research laboratories and other infrastructure facilities on October 27, 2018 in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department of IIT Kharagpur. These include the Virtual Reality and Safety Analytics Laboratory, the Operations Research & Data Science Laboratory, the e-Business Laboratory, the Conference-cum-Video Conference Room and the new room of the Head of the Department. Prof. Jhareswar Maiti, Head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, says, “These laboratories will give a fillip to teaching, research and industry collaboration for the department, especially, in pursuit of Industry 4.0”.
The Virtual Reality (VR) Laboratory is dedicated to the purpose of accident modelling, simulation and analysis for improved hazard identification, safety training & education, safety inspection and instruction, and will ultimately help in a big way hazardous industries like iron & steel, oil & gas, coal and power, etc. in implementing the upcoming concept of ‘prevention through design (PtD). IIT Kharagpur has already started providing consultancy to industries such as integrated steel industry on VR based hazard identification, training and PtD for their ongoing operations and upcoming expansion.
Accidents are a cause of serious concern for industries the world over and companies run several safety programmes to prevent accident and injuries at work. The present methods have reached their limit of effectiveness and there is a need for new methods, technology and interventions. Since accidents cannot be created on the shop floor, experiments need to be conducted virtually. At the VR Laboratory, accident scenarios are generated and modelled on the computer, and all hazards and accident paths are identified. Users experience various hazardous scenarios as seen on a realistic plane through the use of sensors. The laboratory also deals with other subjects, such as work system design, ergonomics, and product development.
The newly-opened Safety Analytics Laboratory is part of the VR Laboratory. It seeks to analyse both structured and unstructured data, including texts and videos, which come up through industry’s Occupational Health & Safety management Systems (OHSMS), and to identify and predict incident patterns in order to introduce necessary interventions. The Safety Analytics Laboratory will also help industries to collect rich data using lagging and leading safety performance indicators.
Prof. Maiti says, “The department is executing a UAY (Ucchatar Avishkar Yojana) project titled ‘Safety Analytics: Save People at Work from Accidents and Injuries’. One major part of this project is how virtual reality can be used to train people to recognize and avoid hazards, and then, prevent hazard at the design stage. For training purpose, operators require sensors like head mounted display (HMD), data gloves, head tracker, hand tracker, eye tracker, etc. We have these here. We have developed an electric overhead travelling (EOT) crane simulator and employees from Tata Steel are coming in batches to be trained and to learn.”
Another unique equipment of the VR Laboratory is the 3D laser scanner, which is a powerful high speed three dimensional (3D) scanner delivering realistic and true-to-details scans in 3D point cloud format. Its software creates 3D models of facilities that ultimately helps in creating 3D virtual environment (VE). The laser scanner has a wide variety of applications. Other common applications include Industrial design, orthotics and prosthetics, reverse engineering and rapid prototyping, and documentation of cultural artefacts.
The Industrial and Systems Engineering Department already has a Product Development laboratory with a 3D printer. The Product Development students can not only test their ideas and create virtual prototypes, they can also use the 3D printer to create real products. Prof. Maiti says, “We are thankful to the IIT Kharagpur Director, Prof. Partha Pratim Chakrabarti. It was his initiative and encouragement that helped us develop the laboratories.”
The other important addition to the Department is the Operations Research and Data Science laboratory. The laboratory is a 70 seater facility, both well-equipped and well decorated. “We not only provide students requisite hardware and software, but also make them comfortable,” says Prof. Maiti.
He adds, “The Industrial and Systems Engineering Department is uniquely endowed to pursue data analytics. It has in its curriculum subjects related to programming, statistics and mathematical modeling. We focus on multidisciplinary investigation, models and methods of data, and computing with data. At the same time, it has great industry connect that helps in grooming students in functional application areas”. Prof. Maiti says, “We want our students to be groomed in all kinds of available commercial as well as open source software.” The Department has SAS, CPLEX, simulation, and other software.
The grand opening ceremony at the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department also saw the opening of the refurbished e-Business Centre. It will deal with all e-business, IT based development, online transaction related work, algorithm development, requirement analysis, and B2B, B2C and other transactions, including RFID and IoT related interfaces. The Department also inaugurated a Video Conference room where meetings, video conferences with people and organizations across the globe can happen, and a new room for the Head of Department.
Prof. Maiti has a lot of plans for the future. He says, “We will look more into the application side of data analytics, virtual reality, IoT and AI. One of the issues we want to focus on is safety in human-robot interface. We are already working on UAY (safety analytics), IMPRINT (Improved design of Shells for Field Guns), DHI (digital manufacturing & IIoT), food supply chain, and e-Business projects. We want to further enhance our research activities around these newly opened facilities catering to industry requirements. Thanks to the advice and guidance of Prof. Chakrabarti, we are looking forward to greater academic-industry collaboration from research, consulting and teaching point of view.”