Learn how ergonomics can add value to your organization by improving product quality.
Poor ergonomics leads to frustrated and fatigued workers that don’t do their best work. Think about it — high task repetition, excessive force requirements, and awkward postures make job tasks more difficult for workers. When the job task is too physically taxing on the worker, they may not perform their job like they were trained. For example, an employee might not fasten a screw tight enough due to a high force requirement which could create a product quality issue.
Using ergonomics to improve product quality
Workplace ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace, keeping in mind the capabilities and limitations of the human body. Only by optimizing the intersection of the work environment and the worker can you produce the best quality product in an efficient and scalable way.
If you can measurably reduce ergonomic risk factors, you can build a higher quality product in a consistent and predictable way. Your focus should be finding ergonomic risk factors and reducing them through the use of engineering and administrative controls.
Reducing high repetition
High task repetition, when combined with other risks factors such high force and/or awkward postures, can contribute to the formation of MSD. A job is considered highly repetitive if the cycle time is 30 seconds or less.
Excessive or unnecessary motions should be reduced if at all possible. In situations where this is not possible, it is important to eliminate excessive force requirements and awkward postures.
Reducing awkward postures
Awkward postures move away from the neutral posture toward the extremes in range of motion. This puts more stress on the worker’s musculoskeletal system, is a contributing risk factor for MSDs, and should be avoided. Good ergonomic design helps workplace athletes stay in neutral postures.
Neutral postures are postures where the body is aligned and balanced while either sitting or standing, placing minimal stress on the body and keeping joints aligned. Neutral postures minimize the stress applied to muscles, tendons, nerves and bones and allows for maximum control and force production.
Reducing high force requirements
Eliminating excessive force requirements will reduce worker fatigue and the risk of MSD formation in most workers. Using mechanical assists, counter balance systems, adjustable height lift tables and workstations, powered equipment and ergonomic tools will reduce work effort and muscle exertions.
Studies on using ergonomics to improve product quality
The impact of ergonomics on product quality is not just theory — it’s been shown and verified in several academic studies. More studies need to be done, but the following three studies are a good start if you are interested in detailed analysis and examples of ergonomics improving product quality.
Use of Ergonomics as a Quality Improvement Tool in a Manual Assembly Task
“The commonly reported result of improved quality through reduction in exposure to ergonomic risk factors was supported by this study. As a group, the variability of the Ergonomics Variables in this study were shown to explain 90% of the variability of the tendency to tighten attachments below the required torque specifications and 86% of the variability of the tendency for defects in attachment tightness.”
The influence of assembly ergonomics on product quality and productivity in car manufacturing – a cost-benefit approach
“The conclusion is that there is definitely a strong relation between poor ergonomic assembly solutions and quality errors of the product found in production. This means that the assemblies in this study of high (n =19/18) and medium (n =17/16) load levels selected from the PV system before start of production (launch), were identified as risks already before the launch. Nevertheless they were accepted deviations from the requirement specifications for assembly ergonomics in new car projects despite being agreed requirements with the design engineers. However, in production the physical load level and risk for work related disorders are reduced to a certain extent through work rotation and various work devices and lifting aids. But there is still a huge impact on the product quality causing large numbers of quality errors that need to be taken care of before the cars leave the plant.”
Quality improvement in manufacturing through human performance enhancement
“This paper illustrates, through four case studies, how ergonomic work conditions affect human performance and quality. Presently, quality improvements are primarily sought by improved process techniques and materials. However, a holistic approach toward quality assurance requires that due consideration be given to improving operator efficiency.”
The value of ergonomics
A proactive ergonomics process can add value to your organization in many ways — helping to build your products with the highest quality standard is one of them.
Get more ergonomics and MSD prevention tools and training
Register for a free Prevention Pro Academy account for immediate access to a library of ergonomics and MSD prevention tools and training, the latest Ergonomics Plus content, and discounts on future training courses.