Occupational ergonomists spend a substantial amount of time fixing or working around problems caused by uninformed design decisions. Thanks to advances in computerized human simulation, help for designers is on the way.
It’s well documented that the cost to change a product or process rises quickly as the design cycle progresses. If problems are caught while the design is still “on paper,” the cost is minimal. If the problem isn’t fixed before manufacturing begins, the costs soar. If the problem still exists when the product reaches the market, the costs are usually so prohibitive that it may never be corrected. Therefore, it is always best that problems, including poor ergonomics, be recognized and dealt with as early as possible in the design process. Concurrent design methods, computer aided engineering (CAE), and digital mock-up (DMU) techniques are the latest approaches to streamline and improve the concept-to-market process.
Engineers typically receive little or no exposure to ergonomics during their education. Curiously, one of the most unpredictable, vulnerable, and error prone components in a system