In today’s business world, companies are focused on producing more with less while increasing profit margins. Ask any operations manager what they are accountable for and you will hear terms like “on time delivery,” “no defects,” “cycle time reductions,” “reduced scrap,” and “improved profit margins.” Ergonomics is not even in their vocabulary.
To some managers, safety and injuries are simply a cost of doing business over which they have no control. So, what happens when there are no injuries? How many times have you heard a manager say “we do not need ergonomics because we do not have a lot of injuries”? With the continued focus on increasing profits and reducing costs, the value of ergonomics needs to be demonstrated in language that management understands. That language is MONEY. So we need to ask ourselves, what is the value of our ergonomic efforts and can we demonstrate and communicate that value to the executives?
The best way to demonstrate the value of ergonomics is to integrate it with high level company initiatives. Some recent initiatives to improve efficiency and business performance in recent years are Five S, Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. The value of these initiatives is recognized by upper level management and is given the high level attention, commitment, resources and budgets to succeed. Approaching the leaders of these initiatives and demonstrating how ergonomics can help them achieve their goals creates a win-win situation for us and for them.
An example of the successful integration of ergonomics and lean manufacturing is in the ship building and repair industry. The results show substantial gains in efficiency and a reduction in injuries.
Examples of high impact ergonomic solutions that resulted in improved business performance are:
1. Attaching extension handles to handheld grinders eliminated kneeling, back flexion, and overhead work while improving productivity by as much as 5000%.
2. The implementation of the following four key ergonomic solutions in one of the assembly buildings resulted in significant reductions in ergonomic risk factors, improved quality and over a $1 million cost savings (in man hours alone) on the first vessel built.
The four key solutions included:
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2004-03-01.