Boosting the bottom line by improving your material handling ergonomics — Part I
Ergonomics concerns the fit between people, the tasks they perform, and the environments they work in. In dry bulk material handling, ergonomics is about selecting and arranging material handling machines and related equipment so that workers can safely and efficiently interact with it. In this two-part article, an engineer who plans, designs, and manages plant expansions explains how improving material handling ergonomics can be a tool for boosting your plant's bottom line. Better ergonomics can reduce injury risks to workers, cut labor costs, reduce ingredient waste, and improve product quality. This article details these benefits by following one bulk solids manufacturing plant's quest to improve its ingredient handling line ergonomics. Part I covers the plant's original handling line and its problems; Part II [October] describes how the handling line was redesigned.
A plant's material handling lines are prime candidates for ergonomic improvements. As material handling operators move and empty heavy containers, handle and stack filled packages, and interact with a host of different machines, they twist, bend, reach, push, and pull. They assume awkward postures, perform repetitive motions for hours at a time, and experience cold temperatures, vibration effects, and other stresses that can lead to back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders. By redesigning your material handling line's ergonomics so that operators' tasks better match their physical capacities, you can minimize such injury risks.