More productivity with ergonomic work environments

Published
July 05,2018 - 02:00pm

Article from Hoffmann Group USA

Every person has his or her own needs and requirements for the work place. When planning work stations and storage the company equipment consultants of the Hoffmann Group always have the whole work environment in their sights. This includes factors such as lighting and the height and size of the employees.

Support the human body

A basic requirement for being able to concentrate on work without getting tired is a well illuminated work place with an optimized mix of lighting, as lighting influences the biorhythm. A balanced mix of direct and indirect light as well as work place lighting and daylight is perfect. For sufficient light the ratio of translucent areas (windows, doors and skylights etc.) should be at least 1:10 to the room surface area. For work which involves especially high visual requirements then a ratio of 1:5 is needed. Individually adjustable work place lights should be used for concrete visual tasks, where the immediate work place surroundings are well illuminated and thus avoids creating shadows. So that the eyes don’t have to keep re-focusing and to keep the employee from having to bend down too much, the things should be placed in the corresponding fields of vision according to their importance and it should also be possible to adjust the space of reach. To adjust the work place to arm’s length and to make things simple to grasp without having to bend your wrist, then swivelling perforated side walls on the work benches have proved themselves. Grip holders, tools and visual information are always set at the same distance away from the employee.

Photos courtesy of Hoffmann Group USA

Relieve the bones and muscles

Often tasks which are done standing up are carried out at industrial work places. Standing aids can compensate up to 60 percent of the body weight and are recommended when employees have to stay standing in the same position for more than two minutes. Anti-tiredness mats which are placed in front of the work places also help to improve the circulation in the legs and to relieve the joints. As on the mats it’s necessary for the legs to keep making micro-movements to counterbalance the weight. Additionally the anti-tiredness mats collect dirt particles and decrease the possibility of slipping. Furthermore the correct flooring surface can also absorb the noise and keep noise emissions lower.

To prevent back problems, damage to posture or alleviate tension in the shoulders and neck it’s important for the employees to be able to adjust the height of their work bench or work station. Decisive for the right working height alongside the employee’s body size and height is also the task to be completed, as well as the dimensions of the piece being worked on. Work benches and work stations with electronically height adjustable work surfaces are especially comfortable. For operations in a multiple-shift environment it’s also possible to get these with a memory function so that each employee can set the optimal working height for him or herself. So employees who need to work at different places within factory facilities and still need the stability of a solid work bench can work more ergonomically the Hoffmann Group presented an electrically height-adjustable work bench with wheels and electrically retractable wheels at the LogiMAT 2018. After the feet have been retracted the work bench can simply be moved to another place and with the powerful battery a mobile power supply for electrical tools is always there. For employees, who move around a lot during their shift, the Hoffmann Group invented a self-propelled work bench with electric drive. This is also powered by a battery and can be moved forwards or backwards with variable speeds up to 4 km/h with only one hand on the steering grip. This means the entire work station area can be moved without any real effort. Vice, tools and other heavy objects are thus always at hand; heavy carrying is avoided, relieving strain on the back.

Ergonomic PPE and tools preferred

Also the choice of personal protective equipment (PPE) has a great influence on the well-being, safety and productivity of the employees. Safety shoes with a suitable damping system don’t only offer the necessary protection but also help to prevent back pain, by absorbing jolts to the spine. Gloves for assembly work shouldn’t only offer high protection and grip but also be breathable and highly flexible so there’s enough feeling in the hands when handling oily parts. To be well-accepted work clothing also needs to offer high flexibility and movement as well as a suitable design. Things that are comfortable and look good will be used well and often. This isn’t only true for protective equipment but also for company objects and tools. This is why the Hoffmann Group places great importance on good design and with success, as numerous design awards prove. The latest example are the awards for the new roller cabinet Garant ToolCar, the Garant Xpent vice and a hydraulic magnetic measuring stand, which were granted the iF Design Award.

Tools shouldn’t only be designed from an aesthetic but also from an ergonomic point of view. For example screwdrivers with rounded handles can transfer power more efficiently; tools with Santoprene grips lie better in the hands and prevent premature fatigue. Good grip is especially important for wet or oily hands. Special attention should also be paid to hand-held and hand-guided electric tools as they often transmit vibrations to the hand-arm system and could cause circulation problems for the fingers and hands. Low vibration tools and technical aids for vibration reduction provide relief.

Holistic concepts

Introducing a well-thought out order system improves efficiency. This ensures that the employees can also orientate themselves quickly and always have the necessary tools quickly to hand. The 5S method from Japan is a well-tried and proven concept. 5S makes it possible for employees to understand the work environment at a glance. 5S is based on the five principles of order: selection, arrangement, cleanliness, standardization and self-discipline. Using 5S the storage place for a tool depends on its frequency of use. Uncluttered storage for example is offered by Garant perforated panels which can be customised using Garant Easyfix hooks and holders. For tool drawers there are e-shaped foam inserts with gaps in the shape of tools used. These offer a quick overview of whether any tools are missing.

Planning an industrial work environment can be done nowadays with CAD software on the computer including a simulation phase. The Hoffmann Group also offers a virtual tour of the premises using VR glasses. This service also gives the customer a better feeling as well as a bit of fun. As they can develop a better feeling for the space before it goes into the final planning stage. For setting up modern facilities based on clear planning and using a predefined grid the Hoffmann Group has just introduced GridLine, the holistic set up concept at the LogiMat 2018. Thanks to GridLine lots of combinations and extensions are possible. Aesthetics and functionality can still be guaranteed even when changes are made to the set up in the future, which means that the employees still feel good in their work environment in the future and can work productively.

Related Glossary Terms

  • computer-aided design ( CAD)

    computer-aided design ( CAD)

    Product-design functions performed with the help of computers and special software.

  • fatigue

    fatigue

    Phenomenon leading to fracture under repeated or fluctuating stresses having a maximum value less than the tensile strength of the material. Fatigue fractures are progressive, beginning as minute cracks that grow under the action of the fluctuating stress.

  • relief

    relief

    Space provided behind the cutting edges to prevent rubbing. Sometimes called primary relief. Secondary relief provides additional space behind primary relief. Relief on end teeth is axial relief; relief on side teeth is peripheral relief.