ebm-papst Fans, Blowers and Technology

Ergonomics for the manufacturing floor – keeping it healthy and safe

Posted on Thu, Jan 16, 2014
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By Brian Ladegard- Director of Operations

In manufacturing, we have to anticipate and react to several challenges that arise when building
our products – product weight and required fastener torque are two of the most common.

Product Weight
Our products have become increasingly larger over the years, as our product range has expanded and our EC motors began to proliferate. We now work with parts that are much heavier than previous generations.
To avoid unScizzor Jacknecessary injuries (such as back strain or pulled muscles) from product lifting, we researched, specified and installed many lift assist devices. These devices range from the simplest form of a Scissor Jack, whereby the product pallet can be raised off the floor to a more comfortable 32” working height, to more elaborate larger crane systems.

Generally, we use two main types of cranes – overhead bridge cranes and freestanding jib cranes. Overhead describe the imageBridge Cranes allow for mechanically assisted part lifting
and then movement from station to station in a work cell. Typically, this type of crane assists in moving product through 3-5 stations in succession. Freestanding Jib Cranes perform the same assisted lifting – but only do this in a small circular area around their base. Typically, we use jib cranes to pull parts out of boxes, put parts into boxes, or assist with lifting in a single work space. Both are designed to keep operators from becoming fatigued over a full shift of work.

Required Fastener Torque
The other related challenge is fastener torque. Along with our product sizes – the fasteners we use have also grown overtime. Generally, fastener torque is proportional to the size of the fastener. Torque is the twisting force required to install a specific fastener so that it tightens the mechanical joint and keeps it from separating.
The issue with torque is one of physics – for every force there is an equal and opposite force. So, when we use a pneumatic or electric screwdriver to apply this force, there is an equal and opposite reverse force felt by the person (or device) that is holding the screwdriver.  This is called a “torque reaction” or “break back torque”. If left unchecked, it can cause muscle damage, aches and soreness to operator wrists. So, whenever we use devices with higher torque values we employ an “ergo arm” or a “counterbalanced arm”. These arms are supplied by the makers of the screwdrivers and are designed to allow for free movement of the screw gun, while eliminating break back torque on the operator’s wrists. Typically, they also balance the physical weight of the tool – so operators can work for long periods using this tool with comfort.

About Brian Ladegard
A lifelong tinkerer with a passion for product engineering, ebm-papst Inc. Director of Operations Brian Ladegard draws his expertise from the variety of engineering and sales positions he has held at the company over the past 20 years. He’s managed ebm-papst operations since 1996, including manufacturing engineering, production planning, component purchasing, production/plant operations, building maintenance and external contractors. Brian also oversees the company’s MRP planning, inventory control, capacity planning, bar coding, shop floor control systems and strategic sourcing activities.

Tags: ebm-papst, GreenTech, Manufacturing, Scizzor Jack, Product Weight, jib cranes, break back torque, counterbalanced arm, Efficiency, ebm-papst Inc. Director of Operations, Fastener Torgue, product lifting, fastener, torque, ergonomics, Brian Ladegard, Ergo Arm, overhead bridge cranes

Q&A with the Director of Operations at ebm-papst

Posted on Fri, Nov 30, 2012
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.

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Tags: ebm-papst, Manufacturing, ergonomics