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Integrate Ergonomics into Production System Design

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posted on 04.10.2022, 15:04 authored by Patrick NeumannPatrick Neumann, S. Kihlberg, P. Medbo, Jorgen Winkel

 A  case  study  is  presented  evaluating  the  productivity  and  ergonomic  consequences  ofstrategies  implemented  in  a  re-design  of  an  electronics  assembly  system.    The  companyapplied  partial  automation  strategies  for  assembly  and  transportation  functions,  movingfrom  a  parallel-batch  to  a  serial  line-based  production  system.  Through  simultaneousconsideration  of  technical  and  ergonomic  indicators  we  aimed  to  identify  linkagesbetween  design  decisions,  productivity,  and  ergonomics.    Data  obtained  from  companyrecords  and  key  company  informants  were  combined  with  detailed  video  analysis,biomechanical  modelling  and  field  observations  of  the  system.    Implementation  of  thestrategy  to  partly  automate  assembly  operations  was  seen  to  reduce  labour  inputs  forcomponent   assembly   work   without   directly   affecting   ergonomic   conditions.   The automation  of  transportation  strategy  reduced  both  labour  inputs  and  work  in  progress.This strategy also resulted in considerable reductions in work-task variability, and henceincreases  in  repetitiveness  for  operators  at  manual  assembly  workstations.  The  manualassembly  station  examined  had  some  increase  in  shoulder  load  amplitudes  and  a  largerincrease  in  the  time-density  of  work  (reduced  porosity).    Work  activities  were  focusedalmost  exclusively  on  stereotyped  ‘get  and  put’  actions  which  increased  in  averagefrequency from one every 8.3 seconds to one every 7.4 seconds. Workstation design wasconstrained  by  initial  decisions  to  adopt  automation  technologies  and  also  affected  bylater  problems  in  the  automation  of  assembly.    Ergonomic  conditions  varied  acrossindividuals  and  stations  in  the  system.    The  adopted  work  organisation  plan  resulted  inuneven  distribution  of  risk  factors  across  operators  in  the  production  system.    It  isconcluded that strategic decisions made early in the design of the production system haveconsiderable impact on ergonomic conditions in the production system.  Optimal designfor sustainable and efficient production require simultaneous and integrated considerationof technological and operator functions in the manufacturing system.