Future of the Industrial Workspace

Research Assistant

Jan 2020 - April 2020

Four months

Design brief


This project was a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research on the topic –"Future of Industrial workspace." The principal investigator for this project was Prof. Kristian Klockl of Northeastern University. This project is a speculative design research project where we broadly looked at the history and landscape of the seafood industry, human conditions, and experiences in the industry. We then looked into the current state of affairs in the seafood industry through secondary research and site visits to two mid-sized, seafood manufacturers, in New England. We also researched the technological advancements in the process. We visited Northeastern's Ocean Genomic Legacy centre at Nahant, MA and taked to Prof. Daniel L. Distel. Their lab works in creating DNA probes that crowd-source marine life data from across the world. We also visited Prof. Taskin Padir from the Robotics lab to look at the work in emerging technologies in assistive robots in fish processing.

There were several themes that emerged from this inquiry. Some of them included the use of semi and fully automatic robotics which help humans to optimize the process,  food traceability through data, how to improve the work experience for employees for their overall well being. The use of ubiquitous machines will constantly be generating data that would not only useful insights not on the businesses to optimize the supply chain but also to inform the end-users about their food. The use of tracking food sources can lead to a more transparent consumer experience.

The team for this project comprised of Patrick Dawson, Bianca Rabbi, Abby Fuller from the Architecture school and me. My responsibilities included assisting in the research and visualizing future scenarios in the speculative design process.

Here are some snapshots from our field visits to Seafood processing plants in New England area – 

(L) Filleting and storing fishes (R) Prepping semi-cooked meals for packaging

(L) Snapshot of the cleaning, sorting and freezing assembly for squids. (R) Safety and hygiene prepping area for staff and visitors before entering the facility.

Factory of the future

Here's a block diagram of how we imagine the future of a "Seafood industry of the future. While some repetitive and hazardous processes (like lifting, cutting, sorting, cleaning) can be fully automated, certain processes like innovative food recipes or tasks that require common sense and quality control will still have human intervention. We also propose that the entire process will be driven by real-time data that optimize the supply chain and creates a feedback loop with the end consumer. Factories can be smart such that they adapt to changing needs due to customer preferences, seasons and festivals. This provides a birds-eye view of system design.

Factory of the future visualization. Illustration credit: Abby Fuller, Patrick Dawson 


In addition to the factory space and the supply chain, we zoomed into different "possible futures" for the future Industrial workspaces. Below you can see a detailed snapshot of each of these scenarios. The illustrations for this exercise, were created by me.

Real-time operations monitoring

Robotics to assist in repetitive tasks that cause fatigue and injury to workers.

Digital systems that can track the food source.

Humans helping create innovate recipes based on user insights.

Exoskeletons help workers in processes that cause muscle and bone fatigue

Mixed reality interfaces that allow supervisors to see real-time information of the batch processing/packaging 


Design responsibilities:

Design research, Visual representations

Tools/methods used:

Field visits, In-person Interviews, Adobe illustrator

singh.aru@husky.neu.edu​ | arushisingh5545@gmail.com

© 2020 Arushi Singh