What are the obstacles and needs of proactive ergonomics measures at early product development stages? - An interview study in five Swedish companies.
Journal article, 2012
Despite health and safety legislation and ergonomics regulations for several years many Swedish companies are still unable to effectively prevent the consequences of poor ergonomics. Corrective measures are often made (too) late when employees complain and work-related disorders have already occurred. Besides, several studies have shown that poor ergonomics result in deteriorated assembly quality and reduced productivity and that late measures are often costly. Other studies have proven that design engineers are often unaware of design consequences and do not know how to apply ergonomics principles in new product and production design. Therefore, the purpose of this study was explore what is required to improve the situation. One way to find out was to ask engineers involved in product and production development. Thus, 64 engineers in design and manufacturing engineering in five Swedish companies were interviewed about ergonomics conditions related to quality and productivity issues. In general, their answers unexpectedly demonstrated a fairly good awareness of the implications of poor assembly ergonomics but also that appropriate product and production design methods and tools to prevent these are missing. 58 of the respondents thought that poor ergonomics can result in reduced product quality. 47 stated that profitability calculations are necessary for changes of poor ergonomic solutions. 37 said that ergonomics risks are accepted due to lack of appropriate calculation methods. Altogether, many suggestions emerged for how to improve product and production design methods and tools in order to achieve more complete and sustainable manufacturing solutions.