From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ohio State Opens New Automotive Production Line Research Center

Ohio State University opens its Center for Occupational Health in Automotive Manufacturing (COHAM) on May 14, a milestone that reflects in part the skyrocketing cost of workplace injuries in the industry. COHAM is the only university-based full scale manufacturing operation in the world where automobile manufacturers as well as suppliers can test the effects of manufacturing systems and ergonomics on the health of workers.

According to a news release from the university, the center is equipped with a “real world” manufacturing environment, new production technologies and cutting edge analysis methods. The approach will provide quantitative cost-benefit information to manufacturers so they can make production decisions based upon scientific evidence.

William Marras, a professor with the university’s colleges of engineering and medicine, will run the center. An article about the center in The Columbus Dispatch  pointed out that getting automakers to think long term about preventing injuries 25 years ago when Dr. Marras started his career was a tough sell, but things have changed after years of skyrocketing health-care costs.

During a tour of the facility Dr. Marras described it as “the automotive-manufacturing facility of the future.” The lab will be able to “simulate building cars right on the line here.”

Referring to the body of a Honda CR-V, which was hanging in an overhead carrier that allows it to be moved up and down and rotated, Dr. Marras said widespread use of such technology could prevent worker injuries from constant bending and reaching.  He noted that the carrier is the only one in the country that can rotate a vehicle body, though others with that capability are built and used in Germany.

Researchers can monitor by computer methods that create the fewest physical problems and pass along results to automakers who can use the data to cut down on worker injuries. The research has particular value in preventing injuries to shoulders, wrists and backs, according to Dr. Marras, and reducing medical costs down the line. 

Other innovations at the new facility include new tool concepts and adjustable height skillet systems developed to orient the vehicle relative to the worker