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OM in the News: And the Winner of This Year’s Ergonomics Prize Is…

November 8, 2013

CocaColaSmallCoca-Cola found a way to improve the posture of workers responsible for off-loading fruit from shipment containers to a collection bin. It didn’t involve a high-tech, expensive fix. Associates simply designed and built a tool using spare pipe from their maintenance department. During the old process (left), a worker had to prop a door open using a shovel in one hand to control the flow of the fruit, while the other hand had to unlatch the door and sweep the fruit out of the container and into the bin. The tool allows for the fruit to be released without the hand support of the worker.

For this innovative, less physically taxing approach to a daily problem, the company took first place (out of 180 entries) in Humantech’s Find It – Fix It Challenge. The contest, described in Material Handling & Logistics (Nov., 2013), recognizes simple and effective workplace solutions that increase productivity, improve worker morale and reduce workplace injuries and illnesses. Honorable mentions went to Goodyear Tire and to Hitchiner Manufacturing.

Prior to the improvement at Goodyear, an operator had to change and move liner rolls while in awkward postures. With shrugged shoulders, poor grip and radial deviation postures in the hands and wrists, the operator had to carry the liner roll to the rack, and then lift and set it into its desired location. After adding an ergonomically automated lifting and lowering device to support the liner rolls, the operator’s new task is to push the device to the desired location, which eliminates the awkward postures.

Initially, at Hitchiner, an operator had to pick up a 50-pound bag of wax beads from a pallet and carry it to a workstation. At least once per shift, the operator had to pick up the bag and dump beads into a barrel to refill it. Now, the operator  just pushes the near empty barrel to the filler to be refilled. This improvement eliminated all heavy lifting and awkward postures.

Classroom discussion questions:
1. Provide other examples of how ergonomics can improve a process with which you are familiar.

2. Who is in the best place to provide process improvements?

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