The main purpose of Ergonomic Intervention on an Assembly Line is to improve the working conditions of team members performing tasks that relate to higher MSD Risk. However, the cultural and morale changes by reducing discomfort on the job are not the only benefits to ergonomic Intervention. There have been many studies over the past 20 years that show similar findings in that Ergonomic Intervention can help improve Health and Safety, can reduce Indirect Costs, and can have a positive impact on the quality of work being performed (Rempel, D., Reid, C. R., McGowan, B., Williamson, C., Alexander, D., Whitehead, C., & Sobhani, A. (2017)).
Improved Health and Safety
Ergonomic Intervention’s main goal is to reduce MSD Risk in Automotive Production. Reducing risk has a positive impact on the health and safety in an Automotive Plant. By having an Injury Prevention and Management Culture, an OEM can reduce its injury costs and related costs like surgery, rehabilitation, and re-training by reducing the chance of injuries caused by repetitive and uncomfortable movement. This can lead to reduced Absenteeism, where Companies need to source and pay for a replacement. In a long-term scenario, companies can reduce turnover rates forced by MSDs, where the newly trained employee, will take time to become as efficient as the replaced worker (Berlin, C & Adams, C (2017)).
Indirect Costs Savings
Direct costs are usually incurred in response to an injury or discomfort, most notably worker’s compensation and additional medical care costs (ROI for Ergonomic Intervention). A more difficult aspect to measure is the indirect cost saving from reducing MSD risk on employees. In 1999, a study at Ford Motor Company found that the hidden costs associated with bad ergonomics were three times worse than the more obvious costs, giving a combined yearly total of $141 Million in Indirect Costs as a result of bad ergonomics (Stephens, A. (1999)). In 2007, a study focused on the perspectives of 231 top financial executives on Ergonomic Intervention. Out of the 231 participants, 200 (87%) believed that investments on improved safety would lead to a positive ROI. Out of those surveyed, it was also found that it was believed that every dollar spent on direct costs spent, $2.12 would also be spent on indirect costs; such as: workplace disruption, lost productivity, turnover, new employee training, and increased insurance premiums (Puleio, J., & Zhao, J. (n.d.)).The indirect costs are harder to quantify and compare across companies, however, there is a strong argument that supports the “Iceberg” method, in which indirect costs are 3-4 times the amount of direct costs.
There is also time and quality savings related to ergonomic interventions. When workers who are in pain, fatigued, or forced to adapt to poor postures, this can lead to lower quality work (Berlin, C & Adams, C (2017)). Proper ergonomic design and intervention results in reduced product defects, and time/resources spent to correct defects later down the line. Neuberta et al. (2012) found that quality problems related to ergonomic deficiencies were 3x higher than regular failures. Below is a chart with different examples of poor ergonomic work that lead to poor quality on an assembly line.
|Connecting the climate cables||Overhead work||Leakage|
|Pushing/punching in the tailgate wiring||Overhead work||Loose clips|
|Wiring engine compartment||Highly flexed posture||Sometimes passed falsely and scrubbing of the cables|
|Assembly center console||Mainly flexed||Neglecting screws, incorrect clearance|
|Fitting roof railing/antenna||Shoulder work||Crooked placing|
Neuberta et al. (2012)
Again, Ergonomic Intervention is designed to improve the health of line workers by reducing MSDs that can negatively impact an individual’s personal and work life. However, there are many added benefits to implementing Preventative Ergonomic Interventions. This can be seen through an improved and reduced Health and Safety costs related to MSDs, the Indirect Costs attributed to poor ergonomics, and an increased production quality. Pow Specialty Equipment looks to improve a worker’s day-to-day life, and aims to present long-term costs saving by making the appropriate changes to make MSDs less prevalent in automotive manufacturing.