Participatory Ergonomics in Product Development and Workplace Design Supported by Computerised Visualisation and Human Modelling
Doctoral thesis, 2001
This thesis discusses and reports on improvements in workplace design and product development, with focus on production systems in industrial environments. The processes of workplace design and product development are considered to be both complex and placed under significant time pressure. Methods commonly used often result in poor ergonomics and inefficiency, which gives unsatisfactory results for the end users of the workplace.
Participatory ergonomics represents an approach involving the people who know the work process or who actually use the workplace or product. Besides other positive effects, this makes it possible to improve the workplace or product. When using participatory ergonomics, it is important that solutions and ideas are presented in such a way as to reach a greater understanding. Computerised visualisation is a means to reach this understanding. Computer manikin software is a modern tool, which can be used to visualise and model human aspects. There is still a general lack of knowledge on how participatory ergonomics may be implemented and, in particular, how computerised visualisation and human modelling affect the participatory ergonomics process.
The objective of the thesis was to provide new knowledge, based on industrial case studies, about the participatory ergonomics process as well as to further develop the existing theoretical base. An additional objective was to provide new knowledge about the role of computerised visualisation and human modelling in the participatory ergonomics process. Four case studies have been carried out, ranging from the industrial environment producing piston rings, via materials kitting for car assembly and the development of new buses, to the development of a workplace for the International Space Station. In all case studies, a participatory ergonomics approach has been used. The participatory ergonomics approach has been combined with computerised visualisation, and two case studies have also included human modelling.
Results show that the involvement of workers, i.e. participatory ergonomics in its basic interpretation, gives positive effects. However, it is suggested that the worker need not be involved close to the core participatory ergonomics process but can instead act in an adjacent loop. It is proposed that a new dimension, named Activity, be added to the existing participatory ergonomics framework. Finally, a new concept of participatory ergonomics is proposed - Participatory Ergonomics Design (PED). The introduction of PED is aimed at encouraging the use of participatory ergonomics in the product design phase, which is not commonly done today. The results illustrate that computerised visualisation supports participatory ergonomics and that the computerised tools used are becoming more complex. Also, additional prerequisites are needed when using computer manikin software as tools for ergonomics analysis, which is especially important if the analysis is extensive.