When Honda set out to improve a motorcycle fender finishing workstation, they turned to the science and application of ergonomics and achieved some very compelling results. Comparing the new workstation to the old: the new requires 28 percent less initial investment; achieves an 83 percent reduction in scrap; increases productivity by 50 percent; increases quality; reduces part damage; and reduces awkward postures of the trunk, back, arm, shoulder, and wrist. To date, no injuries have been reported with the new station. Honda calculates the new station will save them $500,000 per year.
Their achievements were recognized at the Institute of Industrial Engineers’ Annual Applied Ergonomics Conference, where the team was awarded the ERGO Cup.
The goal of the ERGO Cup is to recognize and encourage the development of ergonomics solutions and education in the workplace. Winners are selected by votes from conference attendees.
The winning team, calling themselves the “Ergonomics = No Fender Benders” team, is from the Marysville Motorcycle Plant (MMP) of Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc. The idea took hold when associates from the Weld Department wanted to improve their existing finishing area for fenders for a new model. In the previous design, the 12-pound fender was manually handled 24 times. The finishing station consisted of a workbench enclosed within a three-sided booth. The part was placed on a flat, permanent-height table, and the associate moved around the fender to perform finishing operations. Because it was not secured to the worktable, the part often came into contact with the associate.
In the new station, the part is manually handled only when loading and unloading. The new station incorporates a mount for the part that has reduced quality problems and damage to the part. The mount also allows for the part to be rotated and oriented, eliminating contact with the associate.
In addition to identifying aspects of this operation that might be risk factors for the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), the team identified areas where implementing good ergonomics would also improve production and product quality. As part of their problem-solving process, the team stipulated that the workstation should:
Be adjustable in height to accommodate more associates
Be simple to set up
Allow the part to be easily reoriented
Be simple enough to reduce total process time
Ergoweb (EW) spoke with Jose Carlos Banaag, CPE, CIE (JB) about the project at Honda.
EW: Why was this particular station chosen for the ergonomics project?
JB: In the short time I’ve been with Honda of America Manufacturing, I’ve seen so many good ergonomics improvements that have been implemented, most of ideas from associates. This idea was clearly one of the best that I’ve seen. The concept is very simple and very adaptable to many different areas. We [Honda] had our own internal competition among the four manufacturing facilities to select which team the Corporate Safety Department would sponsor for this year’s Ergo Cup competition. We had several good entries to choose from, but this project from the MMP team was judged to be the “best of the best” as far as we were concerned. We encouraged the other plants to sponsor their own Ergo Cup entries as well, and the Manufacturing Safety Department of the Marysville Automobile Plant (MAP) did that for its team.
EW: Who was included in the team of people who worked on this project?
JB: The associates who work in the Fender Line of the MMP Weld Department developed the idea for this project. They received support from the MMP Safety Department in establishing the ergonomics criteria for their project. And when it came time to compete for the Ergo Cup, the Corporate Safety Department also helped the MMP team present their idea during the actual competition. Hence, we made sure that all these groups were represented in the team that went to Baltimore. In essence, it put into practice Honda’s slogan of “one team building our future.”
EW: Does Honda currently have an ergonomics or MSD management program in place?
JB: Yes, we have an ergonomics program in place at Honda of America Manufacturing. It emphasizes, among other things, the development and implementation of an ergonomics culture. By this we mean that we want associates at all levels (production associates, support staff, management team) to be jointly responsible for ergonomics. The ergonomics and safety experts can set the direction for and evaluate the program. Associates with design, process, and equipment engineering responsibilities can lay out how the job tasks will be performed and how the work environment is set. The production teams can establish how the job tasks will actually be performed, since they are the true experts of the manufacturing operations. Hence, it takes teamwork from all these groups to make ergonomics effective. This also ensures that the program will have a positive impact not only for health and safety, but also for Honda’s other business goals of quality, cost, delivery, and morale. Management leadership is, of course, essential so that resources are properly allocated and utilized.
EW: What were some of the expectations Honda had for this project? Were you surprised by any of the results?
JB: Honda believes in giving associates the tools and opportunities for personal growth. We provide extensive training in safety, quality tools, and presentation skills so associates can effectively communicate their ideas to others. We also have what we call the “Challenging Spirit.” We love to compete and see how our work measures up to what others are doing in the field.
The “Ergonomics = No Fender Benders” team from MMP worked hard to research and implement their idea using these tools. The team felt they would be competitive. They wanted to learn about what other companies are doing in this field and bring back ideas to their fellow associates at the Motorcycle Plant. The Ergo Cup competition gave us a lot to think about, plus the fun and excitement of being in Baltimore.
EW: Any ergonomics plans for the future at Honda?
JB: We have set high goals for our ergonomics program at Honda. Our industry is constantly changing – new equipment, new models, new processes. No matter how much we accomplish in making Honda the safest company to work for, we realize that we will always face new challenges. But just like anything else, Honda turns these challenges into opportunities to excel and be the best at it. We will continue to promote associate involvement and participation in our ergonomics program. We’ll be back next year at the Ergo Cup so that we can once again win this award and keep this trophy.
Rachel Michael, MSc., AEP, is an ergonomist with Ergoweb Inc.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2002-05-01.