with Brian Ladegard, Director of Operations
Q: A recent article in Design News discusses how ergonomics and repetitive motion injuries are major issues in manufacturing. How does ebm-papst address these concerns?
A: We review ergonomics continuously on our shop floor. We work with outside consultants on an annual basis with tours and audit reviews – but we also use both engineering controls and supervisory controls to prevent injuries.
For example, we do ergonomic stretching exercises with each and every production employee at the beginning of the shift and then once again right after the lunch break. These stretches are a series of basic movements that were developed independently and given to us for this purpose. The total stretching time is approximately 5 minutes and is mandatory. Just like athletes would stretch out before a game – so do our workers!
Also, we use engineering controls like counterbalanced tool holders for any screw driver or torque tool that applies a strong “reverse torque” that would twist operators’ arms. We use supervisory controls like job rotation. This is where take three people in one working place and have them switch tasks – within a single job – every two hours. One person might be crimping for 2 hours, then switch to riveting for the next two – and then finally to testing for the last two hours. This basic rotation allows each person to change their range of motion during the day, thus preventing too much repetition.
In the sheet metal shop, we use part supports to hold heavy parts at the required tool height – along with extensive use of scissor style pallet jacks to help prevent operators from having to bend down to floor level for the first few layers of finished parts as they come off machines.
The final examples are the use of robotics for tasks that combine high levels of repetition with higher levels of production – like the new robotic welding cell and the robotic bending cell.