Let the games begin!


Using motion detection, projection and gamification, a learner is both supported and motivated through the KoBeLU system.

Not only children enjoy playfully competing with others, but most adults enjoy it too. Then why not take advantage of the play instinct to make monotonous work in production exciting and consequently reduce the error rate? Gamification could soon find its way into factories.

Do you remember Farmville? In 2009, the big hype started around the game that 80 million people worldwide played via Facebook at its peak. They cultivated virtual fields, fed chickens and cows, and bought virtual land—partly with real money. Whoever had success as a farmer was rewarded with experience points. When you obtained a certain number of these points, you moved up one level. On top of that, there were pretty colorful items as goodies such as hot air balloons in the colors of the rainbow.

You would think that Farmville is far removed from German factories. The experts at the Saarbrücken-based company Centigrade, which sees itself as a service provider of user experience, is of a different opinion. Simple and repetitive interactions can be found in many places, according to them. Therefore, elements of Farmville were an inspiration for a concept, with which Centigrade “gamified” production processes in a new light bulb factory in the USA.

“In gamification, work is enriched with methods and elements from the computer game industry,” Dr. Oliver Korn explained, Professor of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences. He considers repetitive work where employees are again and again required to do the same thing ideal for gamification: “Production managers should just ask themselves how exciting is daily work in production. Employees who need to service 300 alternators one after another are usually bored at some point and unchallenged in their work. Then their thoughts start to wander, they are already mentally in the evening or their next vacation, and this increases the error rate.”

The worker is in the flow when playing

Psychologists then say that employees are no longer in the flow. This means that the work is no longer a matter of course or almost automatic. “Therefore, gamification helps to increase motivation for repetitive work, keep attention at a high level, and ultimately reduce the error rate in operations,” Professor Korn is convinced.

For the US lamp manufacturer, Centigrade implemented the gamification ideas as follows: Employees receive points for each hand movement from unpacking a lamp component to quality testing. These points are added together to produce a team score, but there is deliberately no summary of the points scored individually. Mutual help produces bonus points. Sensors record each work step. The more lights assembled correctly, the faster the score shoots up, which is displayed on a screen on the production line. For comparison, the score of the team from the previous day is displayed. In addition, the teams from different production facilities compete against each other on a regular basis.

“Points, high scores, levels, progress bars, promotion opportunities, leaderboards and awards are typical elements of gamification, which can also find use in industrial production,” Professor Korn stated. Based on his research, he recommends coupling playful elements with rewards in the real world. “These could be educational vouchers or things that workers enjoy, for example, coupons for a restaurant.”

Gamification should not be mandatory

Approx. 80 percent of people react positively to gamification, according to Professor Korn. On the other hand, that means that 20 percent are not motivated with a reward of colorful hot-air balloons or a visit to a restaurant with their wives. "As a result, gamification should only be available as an option. If playing becomes an obligation, it is counterproductive,” Joerg Niesenhaus stated, Head of Gamification at Centigrade.

Playful elements are already used in software development as well as in sales to increase code quality or the number of leads, for example. "In production, however, we are still at the beginning," according to Professor Korn. "There are still no long-term studies from production that demonstrate the quantifiable added value in the form of speed advantages or quality improvements over weeks."

He hopes that a German company will soon have the courage to become the gamification pioneer.

Such a decision came too early for the research project motionEAP completed at the end of 2016, in which Audi, Bessey and non-profit workshops were involved as users, among others: "We were ahead of our time," the professor stated. Consequently, Offenburg University of Applied Sciences is testing playful elements in production-oriented training and continuing education in the follow-up project KoBeLu. Two manufacturing companies with Audi and Mahle are also involved here. "I am confident that the learning environment, in which we incorporate gamification methods, will be used in actual practice at the project end in 2019, and then the step toward mass production is not far."

Source: Korion GmbH