Ergonomics is the study and implementation of practices that help humans interact with processes—including industrial processes—more safely and healthfully.
But there’s a healthy-bottom-line aspect to ergonomics too, as people at Plant 4 of Nexeteer Automotive in Saginaw, Michigan discovered when they used basic ergonomics to create a new tool and saved $24,000 a year on a $150 investment.
As David Brandt tells the story in Industrial Engineer1, Nexeteer is a producer of automotive components that’s long been invested in ergonomic innovation. So when Plant 4 ergonomics technician James Jesselaitis became aware of workers’ complaints—and medical visits—caused by a particular repair process, he swung into ergo action.
Hurt by Hammering
At issue was the teardown of half-shafts, a portion of the drive train that extends from the differential to one of the wheels. Repair can involve removing a metal slinger ring from around a CV (constant-velocity) joint. Workers were doing that by placing the business end of a screwdriver on the ring and then banging the screwdriver handle with a hammer—three or four times in four different places around the ring.
The results of this rough-and-ready process were bad, as Jesselaitis discovered as he did a formal ergonomic review. “The employees were hitting their hands with the screwdriver and hammer,” he tells Brandt. “They had shoulder and elbow injuries.”
In consultation with workers, Jesselaitis designed the Slinger Teardown Tool, a framework placed over the ring that’s then struck twice (instead of 12 or 13 times) with a hammer. The tool keeps the worker’s hand away from the strike point and pushes the slinger off of the CV joint evenly.
The ROI of a Simple Tool
The result wasn’t just an easier and safer process—it was a faster one too. The $24,000 that Plant 4 saved with the $150 tool (fashioned from scrap metal) was mostly thanks to cycle-time speedups. “That gave us a return on investment of $156 for every dollar spent,” says Jesselaitis.
For more on how ergonomics can contribute to efficiency as well as worker health, check out our e-book “Lean Manufacturing and Ergonomics: Why They Belong Together.” (link once eBook is posted) We can help you understand and implement ergonomics from multiple perspectives, including Lean Six Sigma.
Don't forget to register for the free webinar, Advanced Ergonomic Applications: How to Embed Ergonomic Programming Within High-Level Continuous Improvement Initiatives, coming up TODAY Tuesday, March 13th 1:00-2:00PM CST.
1. “Case Study—Solutions in Practice: Ergo Loop,” Industrial Engineer, June 201 http://www.iise.org/IndustrialEngineer/details.aspx?id=39291