DISSERTATION – Mental Workload Monitoring in the Manufacturing Industry: Conceptualisation, Operationalisation and Implementation

(01-12-2020) On November 23, Bram successfully defended his dissertation from home!

PhD Bram Van Acker
: Prof. dr. ing. Jelle Saldien and Prof. dr. Peter Vlerick (FPPW, Ugent)

Key words: Industry 4.0, mental workload measurement, pupillometry, behavioral video coding, acceptability

The industrial workplace is currently transforming into a knowledge driven and highly digitalized work environment yielding small batches of highly complex products. Coined 'Industry 4.0', this workplace is expected to put higher demands on the operator’s mental processing. In order to support the optimization of operator mental workload on the future shop floor, Bram Van Acker’s interdisciplinary doctorate builds on seminal research in psychology and industrial design to help provide practitioners with a robust mental workload measure.


In his conceptualization stage, Bram presents a clear-cut conceptual definition of mental workload and a generic and implementable explanatory framework. During the operationalization stage, first, the external validity of mobile pupillometry is explored in an assembly experiment. Secondly, a novel mental workload measure is designed and validated, based on observable assembly behavior such as 'freezing' of the hands and the amount of assembly part rotations made. The implementation stage, finally, gauges the wearability and applicability of these measures, to conclude with two studies on the employee acceptability of mental workload monitoring. Envisioning the technology’s future development he suggests that ‘research should invest in long-term within-subjects triangulated field measurement, rooted in common theoretical and methodological grounds and supported by dynamic machine learning’.

More information? Contact dr. Bram Van Acker