Editor’s Note: The following article was originally published in a modified form in The Ergonomics ReportTM in November, 2003.
Not sure if you should go with a custom tool or a retro-fit? Thomas Honsa of Honsa Ergonomic Technologies, a company specializing in custom-tools and retrofitting, answers questions to help guide a decision.
ER: Why would a business want a custom-designed tool?
TH: A business would want to customize a tool to improve productivity, decrease injuries, improve workers’ safety.
ER: How do you approach the development of a custom tool?
TH: The development of the custom tool could be done in the following way: Bring operators together in a forum that would foster easy communication (not a formal setting). Allow them to speak freely about how to improve the tool and/or the task. They can provide, provided they are encouraged, a wealth of information about the task and how to improve the tool or job. Also, allow an ergonomic consultant group that has experience in creating new tools for applications [to contribute].
ER: How does retrofitting a tool help a business?
TH: A retrofit of an existing tool can save the company significant financial resources. A retrofit can provide helpful ergonomic improvements without having to design a completely new product or tool.
ER: Is it more practical to retrofit a tool or to custom design a tool?
TH: You have to look at how many tools would be created to establish a financial, productive and ergonomic balance. The larger the number of tools, the easier it is justify, but if the injury level is so great with the specific job, it may be beneficial to do a custom tool for just one job.
ER: What are some of the benefits to a business of having a tool that accurately fits the worker, the task and the workplace?
TH: The benefits of accurately fitting the worker to the job and the task are paramount. I see applications every week that need improvement. But because of company mind set or the seeming appearance of financial limitations the changes do not occur. However, almost in all instances if the improvement is created and installed, the cost savings of injury reduction, employee turnover and reduced productivity more than offset the cost of the retrofit or the customized tool or product.
ER: How does the worker benefit by having a task- and worker-appropriate tool?
TH: The workers benefit from improved task and appropriate tools every night when they get home and every day when they go to work. [They experience] less fatigue on the job, less injury and loss of pay or permanent injury. They may sleep better at night and [have] an overall well being for themselves. Happier workers and more productivity with less injury compensation claims
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2005-02-15.