July 2015 | Commentary | Smart Moves

The Human Touch: New Ergonomic Initiatives Sustain Employee Efficiency

Tags: Supply Chain Management, Security, Logistics

Dr. Mario Vaccari is Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University, and Project Manager, FastStart, Louisiana Economic Development, 571-358-3153

Today's global supply chains must support constant market changes while also sustaining productivity. In order to achieve this, supply chain leaders are executing several strategies, including implementing ergonomic initiatives that minimize risks for production employees on the job.

In production environments, ergonomics plays a direct role in employee performance, which translates into production sustainability. Ergonomics involves all factors of a job that could potentially create risks to employees' joints, bones, muscles, hearing, and vision.

Imagine an organization trying to increase production. Management might identify one barrier as employee downtime, because many employees experience the same types of musculoskeletal injuries. A closer look reveals that the impacted employees perform repetitive tasks for 10 or more hours each day. Thus, the management team sees the direct link between those workers' repetitive motions and ergonomic disorders, which ultimately affects the organization's productivity.

Companies worldwide are implementing ergonomic initiatives to minimize this type of employee risk. Many are turning to technology to accomplish this task. As one example, The Würth Group, a manufacturer of industrial fasteners, recently completed a state-of-the-art logistics center with an ergonomic order picking system, which includes 15 ergonomically designed workstations that select and place goods into boxes.

Is Your Equipment Obsolete?

Another method for redesigning work areas with ergonomic considerations in mind occurred at ALMC, a large supplier of lubricants in Australia. The company reconfigured obsolete storage racks to eliminate potential hazards associated with reaching or stretching to pick products. This initiative had a positive impact on productivity and reduced the number of safety issues.

When implementing your own ergonomics initiative, take into account the following three factors:

  1. Everyone in the organization must fully understand that production employees are a vital internal customer group. They will ultimately sustain and exceed production goals.
  2. When it comes to ergonomics, a one-size-fits-all approach is not viable. In the case of global supply chains, companies must consider that production employees could be working in dissimilar settings. Not all facilities are the same, so companies need to study and evaluate each individual environment to identify what kind of ergonomic initiatives fit best.
  3. Don't leap before you look. Many companies automatically jump to the latest technology upgrades. If an organization plans to invest in technology in order to supplement ergonomic initiatives, then it must implement such technology with the future in mind. New technologies must meet the intended purpose at locations across the globe, be ergonomically sound, and have a positive impact on employees' overall well being.

Your organization is only as strong as the force that pushes out its products and services. To keep your employees happy and healthy, take a look at downtime and injury reports across all your facilities to determine if a new ergonomic initiative is right for your company.






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