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Why ergonomics needs to be made a priority of plant management

Investing in better work ergonomics is worth it, because it results in improved productivity and quality. In addition, it reduces employees’ absences due to illness and promotes job satisfaction. Despite the importance of good ergonomics, engineering does not consider it enough. Engineering work is still heavily steered by problem solving or the achievement of technical requirements set for machines or production lines. Digitalization allows ergonomics to be included at an early stage of the engineering process for a production line or machine.

According to the dictionary definition of ergonomics, it means the development of working methods to suit humans physically.

But what does ergonomics mean in practice? It largely depends on the working environment. Common denominators can be found, however, when we start thinking about what bad ergonomics means. It means, not only inefficient production and quality defects in products, but also absences due to illness. Health problems affect job satisfaction and the employee’s motivation.

These are problems that all plant managers and production managers want to do away with.

Even today, industrial work involves many types of final assembly, which is manual in nature. Often, this means repetitive, possibly uncomfortable and demanding working positions, which are stressful for the human body.

Bad ergonomics can also mean static positions: the employee possibly just moves their hands while keeping the rest of their body still, or they sit for long stretches of time without the opportunity to change their position or adjust it to suit themselves.

Undeniable benefits of good ergonomics

 

The stress caused by bad ergonomics could, perhaps, be acceptable if it were just a case of a few days. But when we start talking about weeks, months or even years, there are bound to be problems ahead – and not just for the employee, but also the employer.

As has already been stated, the negative impacts are reflected in production at least in terms of efficiency and quality and through the health of the personnel. But turn this situation around and when ergonomics are ideal and the conditions are right for the employees to perform their work, their productivity is elevated and the quality of their work improves. In addition, they fall ill less frequently.

This is what makes good ergonomics so important. The benefits of good ergonomics are undeniable and it is a worthwhile investment, even though the benefits may be difficult to measure in terms of money.

Still, ergonomics is not always a focal area when designing production machinery and processes. Particularly the engineering of older machines and equipment has typically been carried out functionality first, making it necessary for the machine’s user to adapt to an uncomfortable working position.

Ergonomics improved through technology

 

The manufacturing industry is, of course, aware of the importance of ergonomics, after all, plant managers and production managers have to ensure high-quality and productive production. The price tag on fluctuations in production and employee absences does not go unnoticed by a single manager.

Thankfully, methods for improving ergonomics have diversified in recent years, especially due to the brisk development of technology. At the same time, demand for good ergonomics is growing. These days, when production is modernized, improving ergonomics often stands out as one of the top criteria.

New digital tools and modelling methods make it possible to engineer production machinery and processes in a way that takes ergonomics into account from the very first. Ergonomics can also be included in the modernization of existing production processes.

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Iiro Aalto
Iiro Aalto
BU Director
Engineering Solutions