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Team-driven workplace solutions

2011 winner Spirit AeroSystems
Hot Wings

The Problem
Sealing is a precision task often performed in awkward postures. The wing box sealing was performed in confined spaces for entire work shifts. Five workers performed precision sealing operations 8-10 hours daily, 6-7 days weekly inside of a 30x30x144” workspace. While in this confined space, they crawled, twisted and/or lay prone to accomplish this work. Contact stress, awkward postures, and static postures all contributed to pain and injuries in their neck, knees, shoulders, and backs. Quality issues resulted that were attributed to these poor work postures.

The Solution
The team explored re-sequencing this task so the panels could be sealed independently prior to joining them into the wing box assembly. Upon engineering approval, the team developed a height-adjustable tool to optimize panel position resulting in primary reach access for all workers. The workers can choose to sit or stand to accomplish their work tasks. The result is a 10-fold reduction of time spent in a confined work space.

The Outcome
A 60 percent improvement in quality was realized with the new process. Cycle time was reduced by 16 hours or 40 percent. Work in confined spaces was reduced from 40 hours to 4 hours, a 90 percent improvement. There was an ergonomic risk reduction of 85 percent. This totaled an annual cost savings exceeding $1.5 million. The workers related this process change was life changing, allowing them to continue working pain-free. Difficult-to-access sealing tasks are being identified for application of similar solutions.

Boeing 777
777 Wings Lower Trailing Edge Drill Ergo Improvement Assembly (2011 entry)

The Problem
The employee drilling the inboard trailing edge of a 777 wing prior to improvements was using a lot of repetitive motion, climbing and standing on ladders, reaching and straining lower back when standing on a ladder.

The Solution
The team created new drilling tool to drill the part of the wing in an ergonomic position. The team removed the need for the ladders. The team reduced the need for all the hand clamping that was required prior to the improvements

The Outcome

  • Removed any fall protection requirements
  • Removed the repetitive motion required for the task
  • Removed the need for climbing up and down and reaching from a ladder

Quality: Zero quality discrepancies this year since implementation.

Delivery: New process improves the production flow time along with quality.

Cost: Job prior to improvement would take one employee approximately four hours per airplane to complete. After implementation employee uses approximately forty minutes per airplane.

The Boeing Co.
Berry masking tool (2009 entry)

The Problem
Through observation, the team noticed that production associates were not always working in an ergonomically efficient manner. Some have developed poor habits through the years, exposing them to a higher potential for ergonomic-related injuries. Production associates in the department are exposed to various ergonomic risks, such as bending, twisting and lifting to complete their tasks. During their orientation, they are trained about the various aspects of their job process, but without any specifics on proper ergonomic work techniques. This project aims to increase the associates' knowledge and awareness in ergonomics through proper work methods training. Additionally, this enhanced training prepares the associates for their new assignment by focusing on past safety, quality and delivery/production problems in the area.

The Solution
The project team put several training ideas into one package. The team created posters and hung them in the various work areas to remind associates of proper work methods. The team also created "Process Informational Books" to explain how to perform each job step, as well as explaining why the process steps needs to be completed in such a manner, with proper ergonomic methods as well as good quality practices in mind. These instructions include historical safety information, key quality points, and other past problems in the work area. The Process Informational Books are located right at the process area, and are used as Continuous Enhancement Tools by allowing to associates to add new items to prevent problems from reoccurring. The coordinators of the production associates were also provided with follow-up assessment sheets that they can use. Ergonomics awareness questions are asked when using these assessment sheets.

The Outcome
This solution eliminated the cause of shoulder, knee and back injuries while masking the upper wing. 

The Boeing Co., 767 Program
767 Program-rigid barrier move tool (2009 entry)

The Problem
The original method for the installation of the longitudinal rigid barrier panel in the 767 freighter begins with four to six mechanics unloading the shipping box, then handlifting the 200-pound panel using suction cups and carrying it across the shop floor to the elevator that is too low to receive it in an upright position. It continues down a steep ramp through the airplane cargo door and to the installation point. This process poses several ergonomics risks (hand grip force exceeds 50 pounds, push or pull force more than 60 pounds, and lift or carry more than 50 pounds). The ergonomics high risk score is 40.

The Solution
A team driven multi-purpose portable lifting tool was built in the 767 moonshine shop to eliminate the ergonomics risks. The new tool can safely handle all phases of unloading to installation by eliminating all of the ergonomic risks.

The Outcome

The measurable outcomes are:

  • Reduced ergonomics high risk score to zero.
  • Eliminated the three identified ergonomics risks.
  • Reduced manpower by 50 percent.
  • Reduced cost by 50 percent.
  • Reduced cycle time by 50 percent.
  • Increase employee morale.
  • Cost avoidance:
    • Part replacement cost is $88,210 per plane.
    • Back injury is $54,314.08 per case.

The Boeing Co.
767 PCO MHI door lift (2009 entry)

The Problem
A 20-year-old lifting process was used to unload main entry and bulk cargo doors off the MHI tools. Each door weighed approximately 150 lbs and there are three doors per airplane with approximately 3½-inch clearance between a cross beam and the door frame. The build tool and doors attachment points require two employees to lift and twist while in a bent position and an additional employee who spots and directs the lift. There have been multiple attempts to correct the situation. Rework to the MHI tool would cost Boeing approximately $300,000 to $500,000 and up to two years to complete.

The Solution
A new tool was created to correct this issue. It hooks onto either door with minimal adjustment and is lifted by a stacker/forklift onto the transportation cart. The new tool enables the employees to complete this process without the lifting and twisting and also reduced the labor by 33 percent. It weighs 21 pounds and cost approximately $300.

The Outcome

  • No lifting or twisting is required to complete this job.
  • Risk of back injury due to lifting was eliminated (average back injury cost is $50,000).
  • EJA score went from 36 to 0.
  • Reduced the labor by 33 percent.
  • Reduced the risk of damaging the door. Each door would cost $48,000 to replace and three to six months to turn around.

The Boeing Co.: Everett - 767 Final Assembly

767 flap transmission installation tool (2007 entry)

The Problem
The flap transmissions on an airplane run a gear that turns the drive shafts, allowing up and down movement of the flaps. The flap transmission installation process originally required three mechanics to carry two 138-pound flap transmissions upstairs, then manually lift the parts into place and bolt them onto the aircraft. Crews installing the transmissions have experienced ergo-related MSDs, primarily shoulder and back injuries, totaling 55 percent of the organization's LWDC rate. Lifting the 138-pound transmission resulted in damage to aircraft parts with repair costs of $42,000 over the course of six years. This problem received an ergonomics job Analyzer (EJA) high risk score of 48 for lifting and carrying.

The Solution
A team of mechanics and ergonomists evaluated the process and brainstormed potential solutions. The team designed and developed a set of tools to resolve lifting, carrying and holding the transmission for installation. The new installation tools have eliminated the high lifting and carrying requirement and reduced injuries.

The Outcome
Lifting and carrying hazards were eliminated, reducing the EJA high risk score of 48 to zero. There have been no injuries since implementation of the lifting tools. Incidents of repair were eliminated since implementing process improvements. Improved customer satisfaction resulted from elimination of aircraft damage during installation. The number of employees required for installation was reduced from three to two. Crew discomfort surveys increased from an average score of four to nine resulting in a 120 percent increase in mechanic morale. The new process has also significantly reduced the potential for damage to aircraft parts, reduced the manpower required for installation, improved employee morale, and resulted in cost reductions related to the installation process.

The Boeing Co.
767 Monument Move Tool (2011 entry)

The Problem
Mechanics for a 767 did not have a user friendly tool to move large awkward monuments for lavatories, galleys and closets without risking airplane parts damage and personal injuries.

The Solution
With the team's input and support, they invented, designed and built prototypes of mechanical pneumatic lifting and transporting tool units that lift and mobilize the monuments to easily move and locate them at the installation point. 

The Outcome

  • Morale: Improved by 100 percent (employee interview)
  • Labor Cost: 50 percent reduction in labor hours
  • Ergo EJA: 100 percent improvement
  • Lavatory EJA: 432 to 0
  • Galley EJA: 72 to 0

The Boeing Co.: Everett Commercial Airplane Group/IRC

Stowbin tilt-a-table (2007 entry)

The Problem
The panels in question do not exceed 25 pounds but are awkward to handle at 56 inches by 90 inches. Loading onto a stationary table required an overhead lift with a twist. The Boeing Enterprise Ergonomics System (BEES) determined there was a high risk of injury as a result of this lift. Approximately 48 panels are worked on each day.

The Solution
The 3P workshop utilized training modules to encourage back-to-nature thinking for ergonomic solutions. The solution was to design a height adjustable table that also tilted. It also had a pop-up edge to hold the panels in place when they were in the perpendicular position. With the new table in the perpendicular position the cart holding the panel is positioned next to the table. The employee then pops up the edge to make sure the panel does not fall. The employee pulls the panels onto the table. The table is then tilted back to the horizontal position, the pop-up edge is retracted and the employee is now able to work on the panel at the correct height.

The Outcome
According to the BEES follow-up ergonomic evaluation, the lifting hazard in this area has been completely eliminated. The pull force to position the panels does not present a risk, as it is less then two pounds. Based on the average cost of injuries, per the Boeing-developed Cost of Injuries Model (BCOI) in this area in the previous four years, the cost of injuries in 2006 was reduced by 95 percent.

The Boeing Co.: Frederickson Composite Materials Center

Spreader bar removal tool (2007 entry)

The Problem
The spreader bar sits in two pin holes and if either pin sticks removing it requires a forcible upward pull or yank, which was difficult for the mostly female population of operators to perform. Furthermore, the bar’s sudden release catapulted the part upward toward the operator's face causing injuries. Because there are seven bars removed six times a day, the risk was substantial.

The Solution
The team of operators and the manager brainstormed tool ideas with the company’s toolmaker, emphasizing the need for a simple and efficient way of removing the spreader bar without slowing down the process. The toolmaker and tool welder made a simple, 1.8-pound leverage tool that the operators tested. After the receipt of the operator feedback, the tool was further modified and now serves as the preferred method of removing the spreader bar.

The Outcome
The tool substantially reduced the amount and direction of force from up to 27 pounds of upward-pull force to only 2 pounds of downward force on the tool’s handle to successfully remove the bar. Arm strain has been reduced proportionately. Where there had been a history of facial injuries performing this task, the risk of facial impact has been eliminated. The time it takes to perform one cycle of seven bar removals with the tool is consistently equal to or less than doing the task manually. Employee pride and sense of accomplishment is readily evident at having taken on this problem and solving it quickly.

The Boeing Co.: Portland

Automated lapping process (2007 entry)

The Problem
The lapping process is required to finish a part with a flat surface for machining and assembly. The manual lapping process required the worker to apply downward pressure while moving the part in a figure eight pattern on the lapping table. This process required repetitive back, shoulder, and elbow motions for up to 20 minutes per lapping process. The lapping process occurs once every hour over a two shift period of time.

The Solution
An automated lapping system was developed to hold the part and move it around the table. The current design utilizes two air cylinders attached to specific part holders to engage the part and move it in a programmed synchronous motion. Another air cylinder combined with a broken arm apparatus is used to apply downward pressure to the part as it moves on the table. This solution involved the use of programmable air cylinder-driven mechanisms to apply pressure and move various machined parts on a lapping table.

The Outcome
This solution reduced the repetitive back, shoulder, and elbow motions by up to 75 percent for certain parts and decreased the potential for repetitive stress injury. The average yearly cost of repetitive stress injuries for this department over ten years was $78,000. Injured workers who could no longer perform the manual lapping process can now utilize the automated system. The automated screening process also improves productivity by allowing the worker to conduct other setup tasks while the part is being lapped with the automated system. The quality of the part is improved as the workers conduct a final lapping of the part without fatigued muscles from performing the repetitive motions. The entire cost of the automated system is estimated at $2,500. Other similar off-the-shelf automated systems cost in the range of $100,000 to $150,000, however, these systems did not meet our specifications. The worker‘s attitude toward the lapping work task has also improved as the automated process lessens their fatigue.

Simply The Best! (2011 entry)

The Problem
The previous method of conducting bladder inflation tests had a high risk for injuries, hidden dangers and was time consuming.

The Solution
The process for testing bladders was changed from using a 25-pound plate attachment to a device modification of two air couplings weighing less than a pound. The new method also eliminated the manual maneuvering of carts which required twisting motions and excessive force at times.

The Outcome
The new bladder inflating test method essentially eliminated all ergonomic risks. The new method does not require bladder drums to be loaded and unloaded. This has created a reduction in production time. The new method also reduced the weight lifted during the process from 25 pounds to less than a pound. The overall bladder test time has been reduced from 15 minutes to less than a minute. The process was imitated by production teammates and has been well-received.

The new air couplers were made from existing parts at no cost.

The pan handler (2009 entry)

This presentation details the ergonomic improvements to the process of emptying full cement trays, which could weigh up to 100 pounds, from the cement houses in the extrusion department. The project not only resolved ergonomic concerns, but safety and environmental concerns as well. This presentation illustrates the old manual method of emptying steel cement trays versus the new improved mechanical method of handling aluminum cement trays with a lift cart.

The Problem
Extrusion tuber operators were manually lifting and balancing heavy steel cement trays which weigh approximately 100 pounds. At times during this process, teammates were also placing their bodies in awkward positions, which created the potential for strains, sprains, and other injuries.

The Solution
The extrusion ergonomic committee members worked with the engineering department to design a lift cart to aid in the removal, lifting and emptying of the cement trays. A new lightweight aluminum cement tray was developed to be used with the new lift cart.

The Outcome
The extrusion tuber operators utilized the lift carts daily, and since its implementation the process of emptying full cement trays has yielded no injuries. The new lift cart has greatly reduced the potential for environmental spills and it has increased the efficiency of recycling clean cement for future use.

Don't stack 'em, rack 'em (2009 entry)

This presentation illustrates an ergonomic improvement in our Tire Room department for the process of handling abnormal beads. An ergonomic assessment of the tasks involving handling abnormal beads was conducted by the ergonomics committee. The assessment identified an ergonomic issue with the height placement for abnormal beads, which weigh roughly 13 pounds, on bead carts. It also identified a safety issue involving beads sticking together. A bead rack system was implemented in order resolve these issues. The bead rack system was cost effective, and allowed abnormal beads to be staged at an ergonomically safe position. It also helped reduce quality issues.

The Problem
Abnormal beads were staged on the top corners of bead carts in the Tire Room. This required both operators and truckers to manually lift the beads overhead increasing the potential for injuries.

The Solution
Trials were initiated to eliminate both overhead lifting and beads sticking together. The final solution was the development and installation of a bead rack system. This system separated the beads and positioned them for quick and easy access by the operators and truckers.

The Outcome
This solution greatly reduced the potential for injury while ensuring better quality of re-workable material. This project was cost effective and greatly reduced the potential for injuries as well as worker's compensation costs.

Bridgestone/USW 1155

Aim high... simplify (2007 entry)

The Problem
In our final rework area, a lift table is used to position tires for appearance enhancements. The operating tech has to grab the bead area of the tire so it doesn't slip off as the table is raising. We had a problem with the tire sliding off of the lift table in the final rework area. The operating tech had to pull the bead area of tire while the table was being raised, causing increased risk of shoulder injury.

The Solution
A four peg system was placed in the center of the lift table, which made this a virtually hands-free operation. At first we applied nonslip strips to the table that did little to help the situation. A one page system was also not effective. A four peg system was installed, alleviating the problem.

The Outcome
Since the installation of this four peg system eight months ago no injuries have occurred in this area. There was a cost of $75 to install the system which has saved our company thousands of dollars on work-related injuries. Furthermore, it has virtually eliminated the ergonomic risk factors of this job.

Winning entry 2009 Clow Valve Co.

Horizontal hydrant assembly station

The Problem
A fire hydrant consisting of the nozzle-section, pipe and shoe was assembled in a vertical attitude causing employees to perform heavy tasks in awkward positions. In a four-year period this department experienced 32 total injuries, 14 of which were serious, resulting in 624 restricted duty days. A job analysis of vertical hydrant assembly revealed employees were performing job functions causing back stressors 36 percent of the time and upper extremity stressors 26 percent of the time. These stressor levels were resulting in a high number of injuries making this department a priority area for ergonomic improvement and injury reduction.

The Solution
A wage/management team was formed in 2006 to investigate alternative methods. The objectives of the team were to reduce lifting and manual movement of heavy components, improve posture position for assembly processes and eliminate difficult-to-control material handling tasks. The team met on numerous occasions to identify regulatory standards, to list strengths and weaknesses of the existing process and to develop criteria to be incorporated into a new design. The team visited three other hydrant manufacturers to observe their processes. The decision was made to design a cart which would enable all work to be performed in a horizontal attitude and not require employees to work at different elevations. The cart would also be adjustable in height and have two axis of rotation to allow the assembler to perform their job functions in a body neutral position.

The Outcome
The new process has been received favorably by the affected employees. This project reduced upper extremity stressors from 26 percent to less than 10 percent and back stressors from 36 percent to 5 percent. Implementation of the new design recognized savings in injury and workers' compensation and improved production efficiencies. No injuries have occurred on the new equipment and a substantial reduction in annual injury and workers' compensation costs is anticipated. An annual reduction of workman's compensation claims in excess of $40,000 is anticipated. Production efficiency has improved from 0.533 to 0.494 man hours per unit causing an annual savings of $92,000. These monetary benefits along with the ergonomic improvements have made this a valuable project for Clow Valve and its employees.

Delta Faucet

MultiChoice monitor trim line (2007 entry)

The Problem

The line was designed iwthout proper consideration of either lean or ergonomic principles. The impact on the worker was not considered in design. Workers were experiencing pain and discomfort after only a short time on the line. The reason the monitor lines were redesigned was due to the amount of CT injuries, intervention hours, physical therapy, and worker's compensation dollars that were accumulating. The following numbers were pulled from only a 20-month period: 16 CT recordable injuries in assembly areas with 38 percent related to the monitor area, 563 hours of intervention (physical therapy) with 55 percent relating to the monitor area, and $256,216 in worker's compensation costs with 54 percent related to the monitor area.

The Solution
A team with a wide range of skills in lean and ergonomics was assembled to study, design, and develop a line that would satisfy the needs of both internal and external customer. Valuable input and feedback from the associates on the line was gathered to ensure all needs and concerns were met.

The Outcome

The line was designed using both lean and ergonomic principles making the line extremely productive as well as ergonomically safe for the worker. The line was equipped with user-friendly qualities such as a foot rail to rest your legs, some height adjustable stations, poke yokes with special ergonomically-designed features, easy access to parts, and easy disposal of dunnage. As a result of the new line design we were able to show significant improvements. The solution reduced CT recordable injuries by 83 percent; it reduced worker compensation cost on new claims with CT injuries by $100,000; and it also reduced intervention hours from 309 to 8 and eliminated 100 percent of all high risk work stations. In addition to hard numbers, the new line design has helped to raise employee morale.

DOE Joint Genome Institute 
It's SO Easy Being Green (2011 entry)

The Problem
The Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) is a facility that supports bioenergy, carbon cycling, and bioremediation efforts by sequencing DNA samples for partners worldwide. Despite efforts to proactively address ergonomics risks, tasks that are moderate and low risk are still present throughout the laboratory environment. We recognize that completing these repetitive tasks on a daily basis increases our vulnerability to ergonomic injury. In a difficult economy, budget constraints require creative solutions to overcome ergonomic challenges.

The Solution
JGI has a well-established ergonomics program that continues to look for ways to maintain a strong safety culture. All of the high ergonomic risks have been eliminated by redesign and/or automation. However, moderate and low risks are still present. We have addressed these risks with creative and cost effective employee driven solutions that emphasize employee safety in a fast paced and highly repetitive work environment. These solutions involve utilizing existing items for new purposes or purchasing items that cost less than $100.

The Outcome
This “green” initiative has assisted in the overall ergonomics program effectiveness, resulting in zero injuries in the production line in 2010. The expense of eight low cost solutions totaled $144.15, yielding an average cost of $18 per solution. Return on Investment (ROI) is less than a three hour payback period for these eight low cost solutions. Nineteen other recycled or repurposed tools added no cost to the production process and resulted in an infinite ROI. Both the low cost and the repurposed tools had no effect on the quality of production and reduced the moderate ergonomic risks to completely safe tasks.

2011 Excellence Award for Presentation Ethicon Endo-Surgery, S.A. de C.V.
Ergonomic Risk Reduction leads to LEAN Manufacturing Successes

The Problem
The Pacman assembly lines were originally designed for an output of about 2000 pieces per line per shift. With the increase in demand the outputs were required to increase to almost 4000 pieces per line per shift. Due to the increase in demand, the original design of this manufacturing process was not capable of delivering the volumes required without posing serious ergonomic risks to the line associates. This presented ergonomic risks as follows: shoulder abduction, lower back twisting, sitting posture issues, and wrist twisting motions.

The current manufacturing process was originally designed for sitting operations only. The team needed to determine which working posture, sitting or standing, best allowed for the reduction of ergonomic risk factors. Considerations included tasks performed, frequency of tasks, and general associate populations for the region as well as travel distances.

Keeping in consideration the ergonomic risk factors, an elimination of wastes was needed in order to increase production. The team needed to baseline the current process and identify where waste could be eliminated. Changes in the process/workstation design had to consider potential ergonomic risk factors, and produce no interruptions in the supply of this critical medical device to the customer.

The original manufacturing process design had a total of nine ergonomic medical incidents reported: two recordable cases and seven first aids. These were reported in a period stemming from 2008-2009. This was an extremely high number of occurrences prompting immediate action.

The Solution
The key objective of this project was to implement practical changes to reduce ergonomic risk factors associated with the operators’ movements, and at the same time eliminate waste from the manufacturing process in order to increase our production numbers.

The team drove a rigorous analysis of the original process to evaluate and determine improvements in areas associated with the high ergonomic risk factors of reaching across the body, shoulder abduction, lower back twisting. Additionally, areas such as material presentation, material flow, and workstation/equipment design were evaluated for improvements. The associates followed the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze Improve, and Control) process and evaluated data collected through the J&J Ergonomic tool: Ergo Job Analyzer. A final line design was proposed, which was based on practical solutions provided by the team for the reduction of ergonomic risks in the manufacturing process and the elimination of unnecessary movements. Implementation was conducted line by line (five different Pacman lines) to ensure the no customer service interruptions were experienced. In addition to the implementation of changes to each station to reduce high ergonomic risk operations, a rotational plan for associates on each line was added in order to reduce numbers of repetition per operation exposures.

The Outcome

  1. Safety: Ten ergo high risk task operations reduced 100 percent to medium and low risk.
  2. Quality: Inventory reduction 130 pieces of WIP to 25 pieces. 80 percent.
  3. Compliance: N/A
  4. Delivery: Increased output from 3000 to 3500/line. 17 percent.
  5. Cost: Manufacturing productivity rate change of 15 percent from 1.9 to 1.6.

Due to changes performed on each station to eliminate high risk ergonomic operations, as an indirect result it directly impacted the cycle time and excessive movements of associates to load and unload parts to equipment. This benefit helped us to implement lean on each line. Minimum total annual of cost savings of $90,000 was achieved through the above improvements. This can be realized through the collective participation of the team with an estimated investment of $11,500 in two months for a minimum ROI (return of investment) and for the first year NET savings was $78,500.

The biggest impact was on Ergo medical incidents. In 2008 we had three incidents reported prior to the increase in demand. In 2009 we had a total of eight incidents with two of them requiring long term medical treatment. In 2010 with the implementation of the above mentioned solutions, we have had only one minor ERGO medical incident reported. This is a decrease of 87.5 percent from the previous year. All this was accomplished while increasing our outputs and meeting customer demand without compromising our quality.

Ethicon Endo-Surgery, S.A. de C.V. 
Ergonomic Risks Reduction Leads to Space Improvements in Skin MD (2011 entry)

The Problem
The Skin Stapler production line was designed with multiple operations that required 28 associates for an output of 865 per hour. The manufacturing line occupied an area of 1300 square feet in a controlled manufacturing environment. The challenge for the project was twofold. The first was to reduce ergonomic risks due to high output requirements. The second challenge was to reduce space requirements for new product transfers and launches in 2010. The key objective of this project was to implement innovative solutions to reduce ergonomic risk factors and open space in the controlled environment production floor for incoming lines in 2010.

Original manufacturing workstations were designed for sitting operations only. This working posture limited flexibility in optimally reducing ergonomic risk factors. Workstation factors to consider included assembly method, frequency of movements and general associate populations for the region. Travel distances within the line layout were also taken into consideration.

The original manufacturing process design had a total of seven ergonomic medical incidents reported between January 2008 and October 2010. There was one recordable case and seven first aids.

The Solution
The team drove a rigorous analysis of the original process to evaluate and determine improvements in areas associated with high and moderate ergonomic risk factors which included finger press, shoulder abduction, shoulder flexion and repetition. Additionally, the team improved areas such as line configuration, component specification, material flow and workstation/equipment design. The team members processed and evaluated data collected through various Lean and Ergonomic tools such as: Analysis of the Product, Activity of the Operator, Fish Diagram, Spaghetti Diagrams, and Ergonomic Job Analyzer. At the end the final line design (MD Automated line) was proposed, which was based on practical solutions and automating several workstations provided by the team for the reduction of ergonomic risks in the manufacturing process and the reduction of space. The innovative solution to the issues tied to the original line design was a proposal of an automated three-cell machine. The new design offered improvements as follows:

  1. New automated line layout occupied a total of 1000 square feet. This is a space reduction of 300 square feet.
  2. New line configuration included three automated cells and seven manual operations. This is a reduction in manual operations of 12.
  3. New design is categorized with seven low ergonomic risk work stations. This is a reduction of one high and two medium risks.

The Outcome

  1. Safety: Ergo high risk task operations reduced from one to zero. 100 percent improvement.
  2. Quality Issues (FGQA) from August to October 2010: 94 percent
    a. MD Manual Line: 6 Class 1, 12 Class II
    b. MD Automated Line (New Process): 1 Class III
  3. Delivery: Increased output from 7280 to 8300 daily. Fourteen percent reduction of space from 1300 ft² to 1000 ft²
  4. Cost: Improved labor manufacturing cost 33 percent

The total annual savings for the project was estimated at $220,000. Investment for this line configuration and upgrade was a total of $942,000 for improvements made to the line. The return on the investment for this project was calculated in 4.4 years. Successful project management and completion maintained high customer service while achieving increased outputs and product quality with a significant reduction in ergonomics risks and considerable space savings for new products launches.

Elliott Co.
Impeller shot blasting (2009 entry)

The Problem
The process of manual shot blasting an impeller weldment involves loading the part on a flat cart and pushing into an enclosed chamber. During the process, operators perform kneeling, reaching, dragging and bending motions as they manipulate the blast nozzle and hose assembly. Since the part is placed on a flat cart, the operator moves around the part to complete the blasting process. Halfway through the process, the operator stops blasting, opens the chamber doors, pushes the cart out and flips the impeller over to expose the opposite side. The process, with all the same motions noted above, is repeated. In all, the process involves 10 steps, with only one that adds true value. All the other process steps are non-value added steps that must be performed in order to get to a point where the value added can be done, which is blasting the impeller. However all of the steps, including the value added step, in the process expose the operator to opportunities for injury.

The Solution
The solution to this project focused on two areas: reducing the non-value added activity and reducing the opportunity for injury such as back & knee strain. The central focus was on redesigning the cart for positioning the impeller in the shot blast cabinet. The new cart changed the impeller position by 90°. The impeller can be rotated on a bearing shaft which will eliminate the bending and kneeling motion. The height of the impeller is positioned such that the operator can comfortably manipulate the blast hose and nozzle. In addition both sides of the impeller can be accessed which eliminates the need for flipping of the part. The new process can now be done more safely and efficiently with improved quality. The new process contains only 5 process steps. While there is only one value added step, the non-value added has been significantly reduced.

The Outcome
Since the solution has been implemented, knee and backache complaints have been eliminated. There have also been productivity improvements related to this project. With the old process, there were WIP bottlenecks which caused flow restrictions in the impeller manufacturing production line. The impeller blasting process is a shared resource with other impeller manufacturing process work areas which caused other areas to build up WIP. With the improved process, supervision has better flexibility of the workers and can level load resources as needed. Another side benefit of this project has been increased worker satisfaction and engagement in other process improvements. The idea from this project originated in the minds of the shop floor workers. Through team effort, a problem was identified and a working solution was implemented. This is providing the foundation and support for other improvements that are needed in the work area and company.

Ethicon Endo-Surgery Inc.
Implementing ergonomics with lean processing for customer returns processing (2009 entry)

The Problem
The purpose of this project was to effectively determine the human fit for tasks associated with a change in the process flow, as part of a Lean Manufacturing implementation within the receiving/returns area of a medical instrument packaging and sterilization facility. The objective was to determine the most efficient, cost effective changes that would improve ergonomic risk factors associated with the job tasks performed. Risk factors included: shoulder, low back, and manual handling concerns.

  1. Determine which working posture, sitting or standing, would best "fit" the greatest number of workers performing the receiving task for current and future worker populations.
  2. Determine whether the specific workstations integrated into the current lean process layout and footprint should be sitting or standing, considering tasks performed, postures assumed, and loads handled during task performance.
  3. Based on projected improvements in productivity as the result of flow performance, what were the calculated risks associated with the tasks being performed in final chosen position?
  4. What recommendations should be considered during the implementation of the final determined workstation posture and transition strategy?

The Solution
Team members determined locations, flow processing, and required equipment. They reviewed the problem of task postures and participated directly in data gathering for the lean and ergonomics components of the project. Objective data was collected using worker-chosen postures for the expected job tasks. This was utilized in conjunction with a company ergonomics policy of specified weight handling, in sitting positions, for ergonomic and biomechanical risks. All team members involved in the project were videotaped during actual task performance to ensure appropriate and accurate data was collected and observed. The University of Michigan 3DSSP software version 6.0 was used to determine the ergonomic and biomechanical risk factors associated with the specific tasks performed in both seated and standing postures while associates received and processed returns. A final determination was established as to the best posture based on job task, biomechanical risk factors associated with each posture, ergonomic risk assessment, and ongoing discomfort analysis. As new team members are brought into performing specific tasks, they are trained in the new flow process and postures.

The Outcome

  1. A reduction in human factors risks and improved efficiencies between April 2008 and April 2009 is expected to yield a net savings of $52,000.
  2. A reduction in overtime costs between August 2008 and August 2009 is expected to yield a net savings of $30,000.
  3. This is a combined net savings of $82,000 during the first year of implementation.
  4. Based on project implementation costs of $15,983, it is expected to provide a Return on Investment of at least 513 percent.
  5. The Net Present Value of implementing this project was calculated at $140,451, providing a Present Value of Cash Flow around $156,434 in a two-year period.
  6. To date, there has been up to a 68 percent improvement in daily output.
  7. To date, there has been a 54 percent decrease in return inventory even with an increasing workload.
  8. The project was also able to proactively prevent a number of ergonomic risk factors that may have inadvertently been incorporated into the new flow process, including shoulder moment risks and low back compressive force issues.
  9. This project has objectively demonstrated that, when Lean Manufacturing principles and Ergonomic concerns are worked cooperatively as part of the planning and implementation process, significant positive results can be obtained.

General Electric Canada - Railcar Repair Services

Tank car valve removal system (2007 entry)

The Problem
Tank car bottom outlet valve (BOV) removal and application is a common task at railcar repair facilities. Each car and valve setup is unique, manual process. There were two first aid cases related to BOV removal and application between 2004 and 2006 at Regina. On the employee ergonomics survey, the task of removing and installing a BOV was noted as being difficult. On the same survey, BOV installation rated nine on a scale of 0-10 for excessive strain and fatigue. This was the highest score given.

Here are some of the problems identified:

  • The carman made numerous trips to the valve shop for tools (1,500 ft of walking).
  • The task was performed on wooden pallets that had to be moved off and on the pit whenever cars were switched at the steam rack area.
  • During removal, there was no mechanism to prevent the 30-pound average BOV from falling, which posed a serious risk of injury to the carman or damage to the valve.
  • The 30-pound BOV was being carried a total of 250 feet to and from the valve rebuild shop.
  • The valve application method was entirely manual, requiring the carman to lift and hold the 30-pound BOV above his or her head for one to four minutes while they started the mounting bolts.

The Solution
During the preliminary investigation, five major repair shops were researched (including GE and non-GE shops). All had similar conditions and requirements for BOV removal and application and employed similar methods to Regina’s 'before' process. No off-the-shelf solutions were found. Lean action workouts (kaizan events) and tools such as 5S, visual management, try-storming, and 7 Ways, provided the format for improvements. Three months of evolution and continuous improvement led to the current system, which is still being improved. Overall, 90 percent of the team’s time was spent outside of the conference room.

The current system has three components:

  • Tool management cart: The cart holds all required BOV tools. It is mobile and easily pulled to the work site. It is visually managed to ensure control.
  • Bottom outlet valve jack: This lifts, supports, and removes valves easily. It quickly traverses for labor efficiency and is pneumatically operated. A lightweight dolly makes jack mobile and safely holds valves while in motion.
  • Mobile support platform - Easily movable platform between rails. Steel construction for durability. Adequate strength to support personnel.

The team developed a three-component system consisting of a tool management cart, a bBottom outlet valve jack, and a mobile support platform. Combined, these tools reduced the amount of walking by 83 percent, eliminated lifting and moving pallets, eliminated BOV carrying and lifting, and eliminated the BOV fall risk.

The Outcome
The highly manual, highly non-standard task of BOV removal is now a significantly more worker-friendly task and poses significantly less risk of personnel injury and fatigue. In addition to the ergonomic benefits, the BOV removal system provides a solid return to the Regina shop in the form of increased capacity for growth, which is estimated to be $11,700 CDN/year.

General Electric Energy
Sheet metal stockroom pedestal movement device (2009 entry)

The Problem
This site manufactures large electrical control cabinets, including fabrication and assembly. Large steel panels being delivered to the stockroom on pallets from fabrication had to be transferred into storage racks, and then later transferred to carts for transport to assembly. Employees performing these tasks routinely manipulated panels in excess of 100 lbs. Using the GE Ergonomics Risk Factor Identification Form, 25 risk factors were identified in these tasks. The NIOSH Lifting Index was calculated at 5.54. The steel panels were delivered from fabrication to the stockroom on pallets. From the pallet, two manual lifts were needed to maneuver the panels into the storage racks. There is no lift assist present in the area and one operator, due to size and complexity of the lift, did all lifting. When transferring panels into the buggies from the racks for delivery to assembly, there were two more lifts and three pushes required to complete the transfer. There was high turnover in the sheet metal stockroom because of the excessive manual lifting that a large number of employees could not execute. This department has experienced 11 recordable injuries since 2001, varying from back strains to crushing hand injuries from this task. Additionally, many first aid injuries, particularly hand lacerations, have been associated with the manual handling of panels, as well as frequent complaints of MSD discomfort.

The Solution
The innovative pedestal panel transfer device was designed by hourly ergo team members and sheet metal employees, and built in-house by production operators. The progression of ideas transitioned from a wooden elevated platform, to several prototypes with rollers, to finally the “pedestal” design with the proper dimensions, weight-rated rollers, casters, and a handle. The solution went through a number of developmental steps. The panels are now delivered from fabrication to the sheet metal stockroom on delivery buggies instead of on pallets. The sheet metal fabrication department uses an existing panel lifter device to position the panels vertically and then they are pushed onto the delivery buggy. The panels are then transferred to the storage racks in the sheet metal stockroom using the new pedestal panel transfer device. The sheet metal panel racking system in the sheet metal stockroom had to be reorganized into a straight line to enable the pedestal transfer device to be fully effective. The panels are then transferred back onto a delivery buggy once again using the pedestal panel transfer device for delivery to assembly. The greatest risk was associated with handling the largest 100lbs+ panels. For these panels, we went one step further and reduced the number of handlings by making a process / material flow change. These large panels are now transported directly from sheet metal fabrication to the assembly areas and are not taken to the stockroom for storage. As with the smaller panels, the large panels are up righted in fabrication with the lifting device designed to reposition them vertically and are then pushed into the large transfer buggies. Panels are delivered to point of use where they are stored vertically in the transfer buggies. From there, the assembly departments have an overhead crane to maneuver the panels.

The Outcome
Savings was calculated based on one MSD type injury and one laceration per year. Averaging one MSD injury as $50,000, one recordable smash/laceration as $5,000 and $6,250 saved through reducing five hours a week in labor is a total savings of $61,250 per year. Additionally the total number of risk factors was reduced from 25 to 11 after solution implementation. Additionally, the NIOSH lifting index was calculated at 5.54 before the solution was implemented. Subsequently that task has been eliminated and the push/pull now in place is well within the maximum acceptable forces using the Humantech guidelines. More benefits comprise of having less employee turnover, which allows for more experienced employees on the job. Employees can now be rotated from sheet metal stockroom to the main stockroom and vice versa, which allows operators a rest period to recuperate on a lighter job. We also saw an increase in production by storing the larger panels in the assembly areas so operators do not have to wait on the panels to arrive from inventory.

2011 Excellence Award for Cost Savings - ROI GE Transportation
Locomotive Handrail Assembly

The Problem
For over a century the handrails on the locomotives had been painstakingly welded and beaten into place using five and twenty five-pound sledgehammers. Finally the GE Transportation Locomotive Assembly Ergonomics team said enough is enough and developed the bolt-on process for the entire assembly. The old process was very labor intensive involving static positions during welding and grinding, significant exposures to welding fumes, elevated noise from welding and beating on the vertical supports, retaining clips and the handrails themselves. To assemble and install the handrail via the old method the employees were required to perform welding, grinding and or hammering on 50 distinct points along the handrail which resulted in a non-standard FRA compliant handrails. In addition, the entire 40 plus foot handrail assembly was assembled on the ground and then lifted onto the locomotive platform for installation using overhead crane. Ergonomic issues included strain to the back, the neck and shoulders. Over the past three years 15 injuries occurred at this assembly station. This included nine first aids, four lost times and two other OSHA recordable injuries/illnesses. Handrail assembly amounted to 36 percent of the total Lost Time cases in the Locomotive Assembly Center of Excellence.

The Solution
Using 7 Ways and Trystorming tools the question of “why weld” the handrails was addressed. CTQs were identified and the 7 Ways ideas ranked verses the CTQs. Trystorming was then used to verify which 7 Ways would work best to achieve the CTQs. As the 7 Ways were eliminated based upon trial and error, the final solution was achieved. An alternate design/installation process was implemented that involves bolting on uprights, using “U” bolts and couplers to eliminate the need for welding and grinding. The handrail assembly can be easily bolted together and allows for dismantling without using cutting tools. Team involvement was imperative as each of the 7 Ways was evaluated. Since the handrail assembly has been implemented the handrail operation has not had an OSHA recordable injury. Since welding and grinding have also been reduced a by-product of the ergonomic fixes is that Industrial hygiene issues (welding fume generation and elevated sound pressure levels) have also been eliminated.

The Outcome
Six high risk ergonomics tasks (identified using Rodgers Muscle Fatigue analyses) were completely eliminated and 10 high risks ergonomic tasks were reduced to low risk. Over the past decade (2000-2009) average locomotive production at the Erie, PA facility was 700 units. This new process will eliminate or reduce the following items/tasks, per locomotive:

  • 10 feet of weld eliminated (circular weld around rails, support columns to platform)
  • 3.5 hours of grinding eliminated (all welded areas needs to be ground down)
  • Almost all hammering eliminated (some light hammer used still required for minor adjustments)
  • Old assembly time required 8.5 man-hours while new process requires only 2.5 for a labor reduction of 71 percent or $510.00 per unit.

Injury Prevention Savings: Over the past two plus years (2008-1st quarter 2010), this operation resulted in four ergonomically related Lost Time Accidents (LTA rate of 44.8). Since the implementation of the process there have been zero OSHA recordable incidents and no Lost Time cases.

Operational Savings: A cost savings of $510.00 per locomotive or $357,000.00 per year, based upon a 700 locomotive year (2000-2009 average). The Simple Return on Investment was 36.7. This new process paid for itself in less than 10 days.

FRA Compliance: The Federal Railroad Administration standard was much easier to achieve with the new bolt on process and allowed GE Transportation to discontinue a long-standing FRA variance given for the welding operation. Changes to the handrail after market can be performed without any additional cutting or welding.

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.
Coaming Drilling Improvements

The Problem
The mechanics had to make sure the Coaming (baggage door frame) stayed steady for drilling, countersinking, and screw installation. They did that by holding the part in place with their feet on the shop floor and then performing these operations in an awkward position.

The Solution
We purchased a "Lazy Susan" rotation device for $15. We then had our Manufacturing Engineering Co-Op Student fabricate a "Wind Mill" holding tool to fit the part. This holding tool was made using scrap wood from our Cabinet Shop. We now have a rotatable holding fixture to securely hold the part in place during the manufacturing process.

The Outcome
This job previously took four hours to do. The team reduced the time to do the job by 45 minutes. This was a 19 percent reduction in time for the job. We accomplished this efficiency and ergonomic improvement with minimal cost to our company. We performed an eTools before and after study that showed we reduced all ergonomic risk associated with this production process.

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.
Eliminating Pain BEFORE it Occurs: Flipping the G650 Canopy

The Problem
The original Aircraft G650 Canopy build fixture was designed in a manner that required the technician to work entirely overhead. This meant the Technician would be forced to work in an environment that once studied, showed a RULA score of seven.

The Solution
A cross-functional team was set up to review each fixture design from every stakeholder’s perspective. The team was comprised of technicians, building designers, industrial engineers, manufacturing engineers, aerospace engineers, material and process engineers, tooling designers, material liaisons, and professionals specializing in management, safety and the environment. The fixture was analyzed, debated, and then improved upon before approval. The fixture was fully redesigned placing the area of work in front of the technician as opposed to above, reducing the RULA score to three.

The Outcome
The team was able to redesign the fixture to provide the technician an environment showing a RULA score of three, a 57.14 percent reduction in risk to the technician. Additional benefits are listed below:

  • Higher quality work
  • Less part damage
  • Better lighting
  • No debris falling in the eyes of the technician
  • Sound is reflected away from the technician as opposed to directly toward the technician
  • The overall display of the part in the fixture is more aesthetically pleasing to customers
  • The changes were free

Harley Davidson

Sequencing specialty paint tanks (2007 entry)

The Problem
Employees would load and unload motorcycle tanks weighing 18 – 26 pounds onto carts that had shelves that ranged from six inches off the ground to 60 inches high. On a daily average, employees handled 450 tanks multiple times at these awkward heights. Quality was also an issue as the tanks would clash. This caused cosmetic damage which required rework and re-handling. Employees also lifted and handled 24-pound tanks multiple times to stack and store them at various heights. This resulted in awkward postures and lifting and causing shoulder and back injuries

The Solution

A cross-functional team was put together. They came up with a workable solution that reduced the bending and reaching, and reduced cosmetic damage. They redesigned the storage and racking system by designing specialty carts that minimized the awkward postures. This reduced the bending and reaching since the new carts allowed employees to place the weights closer to the waist level.

The Outcome
This solution has eliminated all shoulder and back injuries since implementation. It reduced cosmetic damage to the tanks due to the design of the specialty carts. It improved the flow of material through the plant and presentation to the assembly operator. The reduction in rework has decreased downtime and has improved efficiency. This also resulted in multiple cost benefits from reduction in injuries and rework, and improved material flow. It reduced worker's compensation by $200,000 in the first year alone. The ergonomic risk was lessened by 50 percent.

Honda of America - Marysville AF Department
Heavy Duty - A mobile recycling transporter (2009 entry)

The Problem
Production associates are exposed to ergonomic risks when lifting bolt recycling bins from the floor to a height of approximately 3 feet, then carrying these bins for distances of up to 357 feet, and then dumping the scrapped bolts into the designated recycling hoppers. Not only are the bins heavy as they are normally approximately 45 pounds, but can be up to 192 pounds, associates also assume awkward postures during the lifting, carrying and dumping tasks. These risks have resulted in a number of injuries to production associates.

The Solution
The project team fabricated a mobile recycling bolt transporter out of recycled materials. This eliminated the need to lift and carry the recycling bins to the designated hoppers. With input from several other production associates, the team incorporated several features into the transporter to optimize the working postures, as well as to prevent accidental dumping of the bolts onto the ground/floor surface and to provide proper machine guarding. The team created operation standards, trained all associates on this improved scrap bolt disposal method and confirmed this training through sign-offs. The total cost to fabricate these transporters was $11,200 (56 transporters for the entire department).

The Outcome
The features of the mobile recycling bolt transporter eliminated the risks associated with lifting, carrying and awkward working postures. By providing a safer method of transporting scrap bolts to the designated recycling hoppers, the team significantly minimized the potential for injury. Feedback from the various team areas indicate a positive improvement by simplifying the scrap bolt disposal process. This simplification also reduced the time requirements to complete the disposal tasks, allowing the production associates to be back at their regular job process areas and be readily available for their normal job functions. More scrap bolts are then properly recycled rather than being disposed of improperly. With all these enhancements (injury cost avoidance, improved morale, reduced task time and proper bolt recycling), the team estimated total cost savings and avoidance of over $15,000. Hence, the project resulted in a payback of less than one year.

Honda of South Carolina Mfg., Inc. 
Insulator Press (2011 entry)

The Problem
During final assembly of the engine head, a rubber insulator is installed on the intake inlet. Associates have complained in the past of the awkward postures and the forces that are exerted while completing the process. 24 first aids incidents related to hand and wrist pain were reported to plant medical due to the process. Further investigation from plant medical and the ergonomics committee revealed the same process was required on four of the eight models produced. With one hand the associate holds the engine head in place while the other hand is used to press/push the insulator on the intake inlet. Wrist extension was recorded at 45 degrees, and insertion forces were recorded in excess of 140 foot pounds. Ergonomic stressors are identified in both arms, hands and shoulders. Honda insertion force guidelines identify maximum palm push forces are not to exceed 24.2 pounds.

The Solution
A team was assembled from plant medical, ergo committee and process development to reduce the ergonomic risk, attacking the hazard from the associates’ point of view. An insulator press was designed by the team to eliminate the physical hazard. Management approved the design. The unit was then built and installed by plant maintenance. The rubber insulator is loaded onto a plunger located on a single acting pneumatic cylinder. The engine head is then placed on a holding fixture that was designed off the head dial pin holes. Sequential valve buttons are pressed, activating the pneumatically driven plunger to press the insulator on the engine head.

The Outcome
Safety-pneumatic cylinder installation eliminates excessive insertion forces and awkward postures, pneumatic valves (buttons) operate the press using 8 pounds of force. Wrist extension was eliminated completely. MSD risk factors were eliminated.

Quality: Reduced fatigue levels were reported by process associates, as a result the defective part totals were reduced, scrap rates related to mishandling were reduced.

Delivery: 51 percent process time reduction. Before ergo improvement - 39 second process time / After ergo improvement 19 second process time.

Costs: Equipment cost $1,203.18 to complete. Eliminated potential medical /worker cost claims. $20,300.02 savings by process efficiency improvement annually.

Morale: Associate morale has improved and positive ideas have been brought forward from process associates on future improvement items.

Honda of America Mfg.

Linear way (2007 entry)

The Problem
Honda’s Anna Engine Plant mates engines to transmissions made at Honda's nearby transmission plant. Transmissions attach to engines with large bolts. The process to drive in the bolts and torque check them was difficult. Torque checking these bolts required hand forces of 43.11 pounds. The heavy, vibrating impact gun and large torque led to several arm and shoulder injuries. A large right angle electronic torque controlled DC tool was purchased to eliminate torque checking. The unsupported DC tool couldn't be used because of a large reaction force (kick) when it reached final torque and the resulting quality problems.

The Solution
A team of associates worked to countermeasure these concerns through experimentation and testing. The team worked to improve the tool setup using multiple trials of testing and associate feedback. A linear way rail, with a flexible joint, was added to accept the kickback from the tool. A reaction bar was designed and fabricated in-house and a new swivel socket added to complete the project. To our knowledge, this is a unique use of these separate components and in-house designed reaction bar. A U.S. patent is under investigation.

The Outcome

  • Safety: Removed associate’s exposure to high push/pull force, vibration, and tool kickback eliminating any future injuries.
  • Quality: Torque data is much more consistent and now available for tracking purposes.
  • Delivery: Reduced manpower by two. Implemented design on other line with same condition.
  • Cost: Eliminated injuries and reduced manpower for a cost savings of $180,478.
  • Morale: Improved process conditions for our associates.

Honda of Canada Mfg

Roofmold clips: Ergonomics through quality systems (2007 entry)

The Problem
T-stud clips for roofmolds were difficult to set. Force for thumb push was measured to exceed 45 kg. Work height was too high at 1680mm, impacting ability to see clips for a quality check. This caused awkward shoulder postures impacting force development capability to set clips. One hundred percent of associates in this area raised concerns for this process. Indirect manpower was used to install clips and ensure quality during this time. Causes were identified included line height, clip spec (flashing), paint sealer interference, weld T-stud position variance, and part handling in stamping. Also identified were part flashing, sealer interference, t-stud variance, and stamped part handling.

The Solution
Team-driven improvements were led by an assembly quality associate. Countermeasure activity was completed by team members in multiple departments. Initial activities included process relocation for height by the assembly team leader; jig creation and implementation to improve set force direction and grip by assembly quality and associates; quality tracking and analysis to identify; and drive activity upstream through production to control root cause. This analysis drove clip spec confirmation and tweaking by the parts group; aealer application and impact training as well as operation standard improvements in the paint department; modifications of stamped roof comp carts to eliminate part deflection; and creation of in-process checks and laser positioning system to improve T-stud placement in weld.

The Outcome

  • Quality: Reduction of roof mold clip rejections by 54 percent.Reduction of excess sealer by 99 percent
  • Cost savings of $172,480 (Inj + MP)
  • Delivery: Reduction of temporary manpower required to set clips and confirm quality by two
  • Morale: Reduction in associate concern
  • Safety: Reduction of insertion force from 45 kg to 11 kg (76 percent). Improvement push direction (increase force in vector component matching clip set direction). Contact stress on thumb/finger eliminated with jig palm push. Reduction of work and visual inspection height from 1680 mm to 1430 mm. Reductino in injuries.

Honda Manufacturing of South Carolina
Pneumatic ergo compression unit (2009 entry)

Many applications throughout Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing require the associate to install parts using significant palm force. Injury history includes associates with complaints of compounded calloused palms, shoulder pain, pain in both hands, and pain and stiffness in wrists. A team approach recognized the broad problem and designed, tested and implemented the resolution. This eliminated ergonomic stressors, decreased process time and improved quality by providing uniform results with each application.

The Problem
Associates were required to perform tasks in excess of the maximum allowed palm force and reach. For example:

  • While in an awkward posture, the associate holds plugs in the intake and exhaust ports of the engine to perform leak tests for more than 43 seconds per cycle (350 times per 8 hour shift). Applied palm force in excess of 56 ft. lbs.
  • The associate presses the carburetor into the throat of the carburetor intake while reaching above their shoulder and extending elbows equal to shoulder height with applied palm force in excess of 82 foot-pounds.

The Solution
The Ergonomic Committee, with assistance from production engineering services (department maintenance), created and implemented a compression tool. This tool design provides a flexible design that fits problematic processes throughout the facility.

The Outcome

  • Safety: Issues regarding palm push force and reach requirements have been eliminated due to tool design replicating required actions. This has eliminated associate complaints in these processes.
  • Quality: Quality has improved as the tool applies constant and pre-measured force to application and decreased cycle time.
  • Cost: The solution has eliminated costs associated with ergonomic injuries
  • Tool costs: In-house - Design, parts, labor and construction costs = $374.00/unit. Commercial unit - Design, parts, labor and construction costs = $3500/unit.

Honda of America MFG. Inc./East Liberty Plant
It's In The Bag (2011 entry)

The Problem
The old method of using portable sewing machines to seal service bumper shipping bags resulted in high pulling forces while moving the sewing machine through the bag, as well as pinch forces to keep the shipping bag layers properly aligned. This has resulted in a few safety incidents over the last couple of years, which included one lost time case. Additionally, there have been instances when associates have accidentally sewn their uniforms with the shipping bags, or worse, punctured the electrical cord, exposing the associates to other safety hazards. This process also does not guarantee a good quality seal, resulting in contamination of the service bumpers being shipped. Associates also took almost two minutes to complete the process, and required at least eight hours of training time to learn the process.

The Solution
Inspired by a FedEx® package, this team modified the method in which production associates pack service bumpers by using a shipping envelope-style seal. After contacting several packaging suppliers to test different styles of shipping bags, and testing six different prototypes for various performance parameters, the team developed a bag design that incorporated lighter weight materials and integrated foam protection. The team also developed a new packaging fixture that holds the bagged service bumper in place while the seal is placed. One production associate can now pack the service bumpers into a shipping bag using one simple step.

The Outcome
Aside from eliminating all the ergonomics and safety-related hazards associated with the sewing process (high pull forces, pinch forces, potential for punctures and electrical hazards), the project also realized enhancements to quality, productivity and environmental performance. With a more consistent seal, this has reduced the potential for contaminants to get into the shipping bags during shipment of these service bumpers. The time to train associates to complete the sealing process was reduced from eight hours for the sewing method down to less than one hour for the sealing method. The time to complete the pack and close the bag was also reduced from about two minutes for the sewing method down to about one minute for the sealing method. The new shipping bags also allowed for a 25 percent increase in the number of service bumpers that fit into the shipping container (from 16 bags using the old method up to 20 bags using the new method). The new method cost less than $7,000 to implement (materials, labor and training time). All these improvements (cost avoidances from safety incident prevention and cost savings from quality and productivity and delivery enhancements) totaled $16,000 per year. This resulted in a 20 percent reduction in cost per unit (from $12 per unit down to $10 per unit) and a payback of less than half a year.

Honda of America MFG., Inc. / Marysville Auto Plant
Socket (2011 entry)

The Problem
Spring bolts used on Honda stamping dies have a special head design and are recessed in the dies. When the bolts are recessed down inside the spring pockets, there is limited space and the wrenches cannot be positioned on the flat sides of the bolt head to remove the bolts properly. In this case, other hand tools such as pipe wrenches, vise grips or channel locks are used. While removing these bolts there is a significant risk of injury from the 20-pound grip force and the repetitive wrist turns to remove the bolts, along with the extended reach and awkward postures of the wrists, arms, shoulders and back to remove these bolts. There is also a potential for the tools to slip off the bolt head, which could cause contusions and abrasions of the fingers and damage to the bolts and die. It also takes eight minutes to remove four bolts per die.

The Solution
The team developed a socket set that fits every size spring bolt that is used for all Honda stamping dies. The sockets can be used with air impact hammers or ratchet wrenches. The sockets, when used in conjunction with the proper hand tools, make it possible to remove and install the spring bolts even when the bolts are recessed down inside the spring pockets or in areas of the die that may otherwise require extended or awkward reaches.

The Outcome
The ability to access the bolts that are recessed with the correct tools greatly reduces the risk of injury and damage to the bolt. This socket had a significant impact in reducing force from a 20-pound grip force down to holding a 3-pound tool. Before the sockets, it took eight minutes to remove and reinstall four bolts with an adjustable wrench. This was reduced to one and half minutes with the socket. Wrist and elbow postures changed from severely bent positions to more natural positions. Damage to the bolts has been essentially eliminated with the new sockets, avoiding a spring bolt replacement cost of $22 to $33.50 per bolt. The feedback from associates was very positive not only from this plant, but also from the Stamping Department at the other plant in Ohio. Information has been shared with all the other Honda facilities as well. The cost avoidance and savings from the safety incident elimination, quality enhancement and die maintenance time reduction totaled $15,000 a year, representing an 81 percent reduction in the operating costs. With a total cost to implement this project at $309, this project had a payback of only one week.

Johnson & Johnson - Georgia

Needles flipping device (2007 entry)

The Problem
Sixteen employees were manually flipping needles from wash baskets to silicon-coating baskets approximately 100 times per shift. The manual process required the employees to work in approximately 90-degree wrist ulnar deviation posture up to 2,250 times per shift. Using the Johnson & Johnson ergonomic job assessment tool, this task was identified as high risk because of the ulnar deviation.

The Solution
A pneumatic flipping device was developed that eliminates the 90-degree wrist ulnar deviation posture. The implemented solution has the employees placing the empty silicon-coating basket on top of the full needle wash basket. The assembled baskets are placed between two plates that are held together pneumatically through the activation of a tumble switch. A turn switch pneumatically rotates the plates and joined baskets, transferring the needles into the silicon-coating basket. Through the creative thinking of the team and a small budget of $600, the high-risk wrist ulnar deviation posture was eliminated

The Outcome
The new process effectively eliminated the ulnar deviation resulting in the job being categorized as low risk using the Johnson & Johnson ergonomic job assessment tool. Additionally, $4,000 per year was saved using this new device.

winning entry 2007 Joint Genome Institute

Manual plating fixture

The Problem
The manual process of plating involves filling agarose plates with glass beads and a specific volume of transformation stock. The force needed to handle five plates at a time, the awkward postures, and wide grip span used to repeatedly tilt and rotate the plates for up to 40 minutes per batch increased risk factors for musculoskeletal problems and led to reports of discomfort and fatigue in operators. This process was conducted at a fume hood in a high traffic walkway that does not accommodate a sitting workstation due to the lack of leg clearance.

The Solution
Prior to this intervention, lightweight, low-profile bioassay plates were substituted for high-profile plates to reduce the load on the shoulders and the grip span when plating, but this was not sufficient to reduce risk factors. The strain index dropped from 60.8 to 40.5. With this intervention, the plating process was moved outside the fume hood to a lab bench in a bay with less foot traffic and more legroom. The lab bench accommodates the option of a sit-down or standing workstation. A chair can now be used with adequate leg clearance, and an anti-fatigue mat is available for those who prefer to stand. The key element was suggested by a production line operator, leading to the design and fabrication of a swiveling manual plating fixture with three degrees of freedom, eliminating the sustained gripping of the plates and dropping the strain index to a safe score of 2.3. The acceleration, tilt, and rotation of the fixture are controlled by the operator. This becomes extremely important as the glass beads in the plates must travel across the entire plate in order to efficiently produce high quality bacterial colonies, critical for subsequent steps in the production process.

The Outcome
Prior to this intervention, shoulder, back, and upper extremity musculoskeletal complaints were common in production workers performing this task and one injury was directly attributable to plating. Since the intervention, production staff reports no discomfort after plating, and no injuries have occurred in association with this task. This intervention reduced the grip force from 30-41 percent of maximum voluntary contraction with a Strain Index of 40.5 to a grip force from 14-19 percent of maximum voluntary contraction with a Strain Index of 2.3. The quality of the sample did not change and the throughput increased by 25 percent. Prior to this intervention, there were common musculoskeletal complaints due to load on shoulders, back, and hands. The participatory process yielded a production staff design concept which was fabricated into a usable tool. After implementation, the new workstations created flexibility in workspace setup which created opportunities for multiple operators and increased cross training. This intervention increased morale due to improvement of the task and future plans to automate this step in the process.

2011 Excellence Award in Simplicity Nexteer Automotive
Heat-Shield to Hydraulic Hose Assembly Assist Tool

The Problem
The assembly of heat -shields to hydraulic hoses was inefficient and posed risk for injury. About 250 convoluted heat-shields were manually assembled to pressure hoses per day. This operation put mechanical stress on thumbs and fingers due to sharp edges on the conduit and the use of excessive force to assemble and position the heat-shield to the hydraulic hose.

The Solution
The team designed and implemented an assist fixture so the operator could complete the operation pain free and more efficiently. The fixture, resembling a gun barrel, has a hollow shaft, polished on the outside so that the heat-shield can easily be slid on. The hose is partially inserted into the inside of the tube so when the two components are pulled from the fixture they are firmly secured. 

The Outcome
The new fixture reduced ergonomic risk by 95 percent and improved the efficiency of the assembly process by 50 percent. This has resulted in annual labor savings of $35,000.

Keystone Foods - Ohio Division
Final Grinder - Centering Pin Extractor

The Problem
This facility produces hamburgers. During production, beef reaches the final grinding process, where it is ground into hamburger meat. The meat is pulled through the final grinder by a large auger. This auger separates the primary meat and pushes the reclaim meat through a reclaim tube. The reclaim meat can then be re-worked a second time.

During the 3rd shift sanitation process, the final grinder must be disassembled in order to allow for proper cleaning. Once the large auger is removed, the centering pin, which is inside the auger, must be separated. After pushing nearly 250,000 pounds of meat through during the production day, this pin becomes embraced with excess meat and fatty tissue. This makes the center pin extremely difficult to remove, and has resulted in several recordable injuries, low morale, equipment damage and time consumption.

The Solution
A team was assembled using the most experienced persons involved in removing the centering pin and auger. A new tool was designed to attach to the center pin. The team designed several phased improvements to the new extraction tool, including equipping the tool with a handle which is easily turned and handled. The pin is now removed quickly, easily and safely.

The Outcome
The new centering pin extraction tool has allowed the equipment to be disassembled now in three minutes or less, which is a time savings of 88 percent. Fewer employees are required, one person instead of four, which is a reduction of 75 percent. There has also been a decrease in the number of recordables by 100 percent going from six down to zero. A decrease in damage to equipment has resulted in a savings of $165,000 per year. There has also been a drastic decrease in ergonomic related risk factors, some of which included pinch grips, lifting and bending. And finally, there has been an increase in quality of product.

PPG Industries
Next Generation Lighted Inspection Tables (2011 entry)

The Problem
PPG Huntsville produces aircraft windshields. Each unit requires multiple tests to validate quality. These windshields, with average weight of 41 pounds (100-pound maximum), would be lifted from station to station to perform each necessary test. This involved lifting each unit typically five times, which resulted in both injuries and part defects.

The Solution
The solution is a combination of newly created equipment and a new process. The Next Generation Lighted Tables allow a polarized window frame to scroll up and down in front of the inspection lights allowing one lighted table to provide both polarized and standard lighting required by the inspection. Also, by adding a rotating table to the middle of each area, it brings each test to the part instead of lifting the part to each of the different tests. Now only one lift off of the incoming cart and one lift to place the units onto the delivery cart after inspections is required.

The Outcome
Anytime a windshield is handled the risk of a handling defect increases, such as scratches to the glass or some of their delicate coatings. These are expensive to correct. By reducing the number of lifts required, we have also reduced the potential for damaging the glass units while handling them. A 10 percent reduction in handling defects at pre-finish inspection would correspond into a 1.2 year return on investment. The total cost of the project is around $40,000. This equates to a $34,000 annual savings.

The prevention of a single back surgery would also provide a return on investment for this project. Five injuries over the last three years have been reported in this inspection area due to the required lifting of this job. One of these injuries resulted in a wrist surgery costing greater than $10,000 in medical expenses. We managed the other four through onsite medical services (physical therapist and company doctor) at a cost of approximately $2,500. By adding the prevention of previous medical issues and handling defects, this effectively pays for this project in less than a year.

On average, 115 parts per day are processed though pre-finish inspection. The average unit weight is 41 pounds. Currently, there are eight employees working pre-finish inspection across all shifts. 115 units lifted five times each is 575 lifts per day. With this 60 percent reduction in lifts, this project saves us 345 lifts per day at 41 pounds each on average. This will save over 60,000 lifts per year and 2,460,000 cumulative pounds that no longer have to be lifted. A risk assessment was completed using Auburn Engineer’s Ergo Job Analyzer eTools both before and after the improvement. A total risk score of 136 was the baseline and after implementation the total risk score was lowered to 48.

PPG Industries, Sierracin/Sylmar Aerospace Division
Mechanized autoclave loading/unloading system (2009 entry)

The Problem
Laminating-racks, after placing a large batch of parts weighing up to 8000 pounds, are placed inside an autoclave (equipment used for lamination), by two to three operators. This required a combined manual force of up to 400 pounds to push and pull those racks (on-wheels) into and out of the autoclave. This exceeded ergonomically-safe allowable force limits for various hand and shoulder motions, for loading 156 laminating-racks per week.

The Solution
The Sierracin Ergonomic Team analyzed and brainstormed this ergonomically challenging operation and designed and built an air-motor powered, friction-wheel propelled, mechanized system for loading and unloading those laminating racks. The Autoclave Loading/Unloading mechanism has turned this task into a simple joystick controlled operation, carried out by one operator. All hand and shoulder motions requiring application of brute force are eliminated by this mechanized solution.

The Outcome
After an enthusiastic embrace of the first such system by the workforce, the Sierracin Ergonomic Team is now in the process of getting similar loading/unloading systems built for four other large autoclaves.
This solution, when fully deployed on five large autoclaves at Sierracin, will eliminate one of the biggest potential sources of hand, shoulder and back related injuries at Sierracin. Moreover, under the re-engineered method, for loading/unloading the laminating racks, the need for operators to enter inside the autoclave or to touch those racks (both of which have very hot metallic-surfaces at the end of lamination process) is minimized. The fully deployed solution is estimated to reduce current worker’s compensation costs of $1.5 million per annum, by 3 percent, in the long run; resulting in an annual cost avoidance of $45,000. Additionally, the fully deployed "after" scenario on five large autoclaves will be used to load and unload an estimated 156 laminating racks per week. At a minimum, an estimated direct labor saving of 15 minutes per occurrence of loading or unloading a laminating-rack, or a total of 78 man-hours per week is expected. Using a direct labor plus variable burden rate of $25 per hour, those man-hours savings translate into a cost saving of $1,950 per week, or $97,500 per annum (50 working weeks). The total estimated cost for the five Autoclave Loading/Unloading Systems is $75,000 (first system for $25,000 + two shared systems for four more autoclaves, for $50,000); and the total estimated cost savings are $142,500 per annum; which offer a 190 percent ROI and a payback period of 6.32 months.

PPG Industries Inc.

Multiple clipping device (2007 entry)

The Problem

Production employees were required to apply several thousand binder clips to automotive glass each day using excessive force. There has been one significant injury and numerous employee complaints of pain in their fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms. Binder clips are applied to automotive windshields to prevent manufacturing rejects. A total of 180 binder clips are applied to each rack of windshields. At current production rates, approximately 30,240 clips are applied every day. Each production employee opens and affixes approximately 3,360 clips per day. The pinch grip force required to open the clips was measured to be 4.7-pound force. According to the ergo job analyzer" (EJA), the combination of frequency and force rates this task as high risk for injury.

The Solution

The Creighton ergonomics team designed a simple device made of high molecular weight Teflon that separates all the pieces of glass in a rack without the use of individual binder clips. It is easy to handle and eliminated the risk factors of force and repetition required to apply individual binder clips between all the pieces of glass in a rack. The Creighton ergonomics team developed a simple, lightweight, comb-shaped multiple clipping device. This device has no moving parts and is gently positioned in place with a small mallet. This device eliminates the need to apply individual binder clips to each piece of glass and meets all process requirements.

The Outcome
Before the clipping device was put into use, there was one OSHA recordable case and eleven discomfort reports filed by production employees. The recordable case was a musculoskeletal disorder costing $12,743 in direct costs alone. Since the risk factors have been eliminated by the device, there have not been any injuries and only one report of discomfort associated with the task. This device has also decreased production cost. Previously, four employees were required to perform the task of clipping. There were three on the line and a relief person per shift. With the new multiple clipping device, this task only requires two employees per shift. At a labor cost of $15.00 per hour, this equates to expected annual savings of $187,000. Another benefit of the device is improved quality, since the Teflon clipping devices are less likely to scratch the glass than the metal binder clips.

Spirit AeroSystems
MVP Strap Drillers (2011 entry)

The Problem
Drill-out of the 18A stringer put mechanics in awkward and static postures while applying excessive manual force with handheld vibratory drilling tools. These high-risk ergonomic issues led to discomfort, fatigue, injuries, and reductions in productivity. The drill-out task could only be performed by a 95th percentile male. Mechanics performed 375 manual exertions of 75 push pounds each. Lower backs and buttocks were used to help leverage their drilling force through a two-inch metallic stack-up. These static postures led to discomfort, fatigue, and ergonomic injuries and resulted in productivity issues.

The Solution
A height-adjustable drill jig mounted on a rolling cart made a 200-lb drill jig virtually weightless and positionable by one mechanic. The team developed an innovative design that provided mechanical adjustment from the floor level because access from the top was obstructed. The jig positioner eliminated 375 forceful exertions by allowing powerfeed motors to replace the manual drilling process

The Outcome
Benefits include a 100 percent improvement in quality, a 25 percent improvement in cycle time, a risk reduction of 86 percent, and an additional injury-avoidance cost savings in excess of $146,000. All employees are happy with this solution. This solution was designed so now it is used on two additional production lines.

Spirit AeroSystems
Torquing of blocker doors (2009 entry)

The Problem
The torquing of bolts in this manufacturing process required workers to assume awkward postures while exerting upper extremity force that was a risk factor for sprain/strain. The task could only be performed by workers that had high levels of shoulder/arm strength. The worker access to the 900-inch-pound torque task required prone position and full extension of both arms resulting in stress to upper extremities and high ergonomic risk to injury.

The Solution
The team developed a unique torque end effector attached to a 90-degree pneumatic powered tool designed to eliminate the manual force while providing a counter-reaction force that eliminated “kickback” that normally is part of using a high torque (900 inch-pound) power tool.

The Outcome

  • The torquing task is now performed in less time and by a person with 50th percentile female arm strength.
  • Quality: Inspection was eliminated as the process no longer requires an independent quality check.
  • Delivery: 228 percent improvement
  • Cost: Injury cost avoidance
  • Safety: 94 percent reduction in injury risk (before/after risk scores)
  • Morale: 100 percent of workers were satisfied with solution to countermeasure the risk.

Swagelok Solon
Filter Basket Ergonomic Hoist (2011 entry)

The Problem
Operators are required to clean a 35-pound metal filter containing metal chips and oil located below the work platform they walk on, an average of 3-4 times each shift. The original process required operators at seven different work stations to kneel on metal plates and use their upper-body strength to lift the 35-pound filter from below the platform in a kneeling position, stand up, carry the filter down a set of stairs and over to a chip cart located 10 feet from the stairs. Once the filter was clean, the operator then had to carry the metal filter up the stairs, kneel down and place the filter back into the oil sump.

The Solution
This solution was a proactive effort resulting from a routine safety evaluation. In reviewing the movement of the operators and the ergonomic burdens associated with the strenuous task of removing the filter weighted down with oil and metal chips, it was clear that we needed to redesign this awkward, repetitive, daily assignment. To remove the burden of the operators kneeling on a metal surface, bending, lifting and carrying the 35-pound (average weight when full) metal filter down the stairs and then holding the filter while cleaning it, we designed and fabricated an electric hoist with arm attachments to simulate human movement. The operator now presses a button to lower the hoist and the arm attachments into the oil sump where two hooks are attached to the metal filter. The hooks have been designed to allow the chip basket to drain the oil prior to lateral movement. The operator then uses the electric control to raise the filter and guide it along an innovative custom-bent overhead track to the chip cart location where he or she brushes off the filter as it is held by the hoist. The operator then returns the metal basket to the oil sump by reversing the process.

The Outcome
As mentioned, this was a proactive improvement based on an ergonomic evaluation of the work area. The change in this process has resulted in a safer working environment which is measured by the prevention of injuries which could have occurred with the previous design. Using the Ergonomic Screening Tool from The Ergonomics Center of North Carolina, the ergonomic improvements with the hoist reduced the risk factor from High (36) to Low (13). The eye-catching design of the hoist has also caught the attention of those working in and around the area. It represents a clear message stating the importance of and our commitment to safety. This initiative also opened the lines of communication for several additional suggestions to continue to improve the safety and ergonomics of the plant. In 2010, six other similar ergonomic projects within the facility were highlighted during an Internal Ergo Cup competition.

Sunrise Medical

The WELDING M.A.T.E. (mechanical articulating turning equipment) (2007 entry)

The Problem
In our weld booths we weld power wheelchair frames. These frames in the final configuration become heavy and awkward to handle. In order to weld all joints, the frame must be continuously repositioned. This repositioning causes strain on the welder and increases welding time. The goal was to reduce fatigue, related injuries, and labor required to weld wheelchair frames. The weld fixtures were also not dedicated to the stands, requiring the welders to change the fixtures for each different frame. This constant changing caused poor grounding and the possibility of the fixture falling on the welder.

The Solution
The solution was to develop a weld fixture capable of being rotated with air powered motors. This weld fixture is fixed to the weld stand and rotated with a foot control. This allowed the welder to stay in one position and weld the frame. When the frames were completed, the fixture was easily moved out of the cell and a new fixture was moved in.

The Outcome
THE WELDING M.A.T.E. reduced the weld time by 30 percent, reduced the injuries associated with changing the heavy fixtures by 60 percent, and reduced claim costs from $48,000 to $800.

2011 Excellence Award in Innovation Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc.
Quarter Glass Installation Improvement

The Problem
At the Georgetown plant, four Quarter Glass windows are installed every 55 seconds requiring a force of 230N to set. Team members must repeat this operation 1/55 secs, with elbows abducted and for up to eight hours per shift. Failure to fully seat the part may lead to water leaks and wind noise defects. The combination of high force, frequency and posture caused five injuries and four additional complaints of discomfort with direct medical costs of $210,300 within an 18-month period. The high force required also impacted the team members’ ability to consistently, fully seat the part causing 22 defects per month.

The Solution
The team identified the cause of the force as friction as the part is seated. Soaking the part in a lubricant easily reduced the friction but added non value-added work to the process and contamination to the area from drips and transfer to/from team members’ gloves. An enclosure with a semi-automated spray dosing of lubricant reduced time, kept lubricant contained and controlled the amount and location of application, thereby eliminating mess.

The Outcome

  • The lubricant lowered the installation force to 100N
  • Injuries reduced from 0.27/month to zero
  • Quality defects reduced from 22/month to 0.67/month
  • ROI Cost: $400 (one time)
  • Cost avoidance: $210,300
  • ROI: 525 percent
  • Payback period: $11683 per month
  • Injury cost reduced to $0 per month
  • Cost: $400 (one time)
  • Payback in 0.94 days

Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc.
Tap-Tool Ergonomics (2011 entry)

The Problem
Solving cumulative trauma but risking acute injuries, was the dilemma. Vehicle body shells require hundreds of spotwelds. As steel panels are melted together sparks of molten metal are sent flying, some into nuts welded onto the body. The sparks damage the threads requiring repair by “tapping” out. A manual tap requires 220N of rotational force at the handle, applied over 29 seconds to repair a damaged nut. Repairs are required five times per hour. Attaching taps to a power tool eliminates force and time issues but generates an entanglement hazard when wearing gloves.

The Solution
An innovative guarding solution addressed the safety hazard and subsequently the ergonomic risk. A power tool was the answer to eliminating the force and time issues but applied in such a way as to eliminate any entanglement hazard or introduction or any deviated wrist postures. This was achieved by enclosing the tap attachment within a spring loaded nylon sheath which effectively guards the otherwise exposed section of the rotating tap.

The Outcome
Rotational force was reduced from 22kg/cm to 1.9kg/cm. Wrist and forearm postures are neutral. Time to complete each repair has reduced from 29 to six seconds saving 115 manhours/yr. which translates to approximately $3,500/yr. Previously, there were three injuries over two years at a cost of $95,800. Elimination resulted in a cost avoidance of $47,900/yr.


  • Cost of equipment = $87 (one off cost)
  • Total annual savings = $51,400/yr.
  • ROI = 590 percent in first year
  • Payback Period
    • Cost of equipment = $87 (one off cost)
    • Total annual savings - $51,400
    • Payback period: Approximately 6 hrs.

Toyota - Kentucky

ESI/SAFETY TMMK: Part holders saves shoulders (2007 entry)

The Problem
Due to manpower reduction in the ED repair area of Bodyweld, one team leader was left to change damaged parts alone. The parts included doors, luggages, and hoods weighing up to 44 pounds. This created a heavy burden on the team member's shoulder and resulted in immediate discomfort for the team members and one injury requiring physical therapy. The Bodyweld ESI team was called in.

The Solution
The ESI team met with the affected team members, videotaped and assessed the process concern. We then brainstormed some ideas, focusing on assist jigs. We developed a countermeasure plan and then contacted the project group to build the jigs and implement them to the line. A shoulder strengthening exercise program was incorporated for the affected team members.

The Outcome
Our measurable outcome includes the manpower reduction that decreased labor costs; however, it increased the team member's ergonomic burden which led to one serious injury and another potential injury. We will include the medical costs associated with doctor's visits, X-rays, MRIs, and physical therapy. We will have figures on the cost incurred by the company due to restricted time from work due to injury. We will discuss the reduction of quality-related defects to other parts of the car caused by the doors, luggages and hoods falling down. This also creates more labor costs.

UTC Fire & Security
Siga Fame Frame (2011 entry)

The Problem
UTC Fire & Security located in Pittsfield, Maine is a manufacturer of electronic devices for the fire detection and alarm industry. Edwards brand Signature detection products are tested in an environmental chamber to ensure proper performance in the field. This critical reliability test was identified as a high ergonomic risk during site hazard analysis. The environmental test for our Signature fire detection devices involves loading a test frame with 720 devices. This large, fully loaded test frame weighs over 800 pounds and must be lifted three feet to be pushed into an environmental test chamber from a wooden pallet. This operation required six employees and a pallet jack. All initial and sustained forces measured over 100 pounds with risk factors in grip, pushing/pulling, and lifting/carrying.

Using ergonomic measurement tools and techniques, the Pittsfield Ergonomics Team designed a new and unique test fixture that nearly eliminated all identified ergonomic and safety hazards. Our team gathered recycled materials to design and build a custom pallet to support the test frame. The test frame can easily be transported while on this pallet. In addition, the team designed and modified the test frame with a wheel system. With this system, the test frame can easily slide into the test chamber from the pallet. For safety, a safety latch and wheels locks were installed to secure the test frame to the pallet when not in use.

The Outcome
The team’s solution produced a net reduction of 60 percent in all push/pull forces surpassing the team’s goal by 10 percent. The team calculated goals using the GE Humantech MMH Calculator. In addition, lifting/carrying and grip risks factor were eliminated, and push/pull risk factors were reduced to a controlled and safe level. The solution produced a reduction of 83 percent in setup cycle time to increase productivity. The team’s solution also reduced the number of operators from six to two. Lastly, the employees expressed high spirits and confidence in the team’s solution. The Ergonomics Team is confident that continuous improvement will bring greater measurement outcomes with this project in the future.