Increasing the Degree of Automation in a Production System: Consequences for the physical workload
Journal article, 2006
In spite of the continuous development of production systems work-related musculoskeletal disorders is still a large problem. One reason might be the difficulties in quantifying the ergonomic effects of interventions. In this paper ergonomic consequences of technical and organisational changes were quantified in a plant for producing slats for parquet flooring. Muscle activity, work postures and movements were assessed for neck/shoulders and upper limb by direct technical measurements at three generations of production lines. The physical workload for 31 operators at the manual, semi-automated and automated line was derived based on all existing work tasks. The work was characterised by moderate muscular loads, the 50th percentiles being 1.2-3.8%MVE for the neck/shoulder muscles, high repetitiveness and constant movements of the hands and a high prevalence of neck/shoulder disorders. There were statistically significant differences considering exposure levels between the work tasks within each line as well as between the lines. The semi-automated line implied reduced muscular load for all muscles registered but more constrained work postures. The automated line, on the other hand, required higher skills, offered less constrained postures, lower loads and repetitiveness for the hands as well as frequent changes between different physical load levels. Relevance to industry: When designing or redesigning production systems, technical solutions are often used to obtain 'beneficial' ergonomic conditions, implying a strive for low physical workloads. However, there is a risk that this might lead to more constrained physical activities. Possibilities for job enlargement must be thoroughly utilised. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
cross and multi-sciences approaches
perception of work and work conditions
work-related musculoskeletal disorders
occupational health issues
manufacturing system design