Ergonomi som verktyg. Fem fallstudier om uttryck för och användning av ergonomikunskap inom logistikverksamhet
Ergonomics as a tool. Five case studies of expressions and use of ergonomic knowledge in logistics.
Product- och Production Development, Chalmers University of Technology
There is an abundance of ergonomic knowledge available, i.e. knowledge on how to design man-machine systems. Even so, the number of documented complaints and injuries, many of which are caused by misfits between man and technology, increases. In particular, this is true for materials handling and transport. Is the available knowledge not used?
Answers have been sought in five case studies and with support from theories on change, learning and understanding. Different methods (interviews, questionnaires and observations) have been used in investigations of the prerequisites in materials handling for learning in general and for ergonomics in particular. Single goods terminals as well as entire transport systems have been studied. Change processes, perspectives on ergonomics and prerequisites for learning have been mapped in companies describing differences in acceptance and use of ergonomically designed work tools. The knowledge process in the company that developed these tools has also been studied. Finally, the understanding of ergonomics in companies that are considered good examples has been investigated.
The studies revealed many deficiencies in the design of materials handling work, work places and tools from an ergonomic perspective; that the understanding of ergonomics was limited; and quite often that the necessary prerequisites for further learning did not exist. Differences in the acceptance and use of ergonomically designed tools could be explained, e.g., by differences in the character of the change process applied (top-down/bottom-up), a micro vs. macro perspective on ergonomics, and differences in the opportunities for learning when the new tools were implemented. Further, the encounter between a competent (in ergonomics) salesperson and a competent customer seems to create the best opportunities for closing a deal on an ergonomically designed product and a characteristic of the companies that were considered good examples was that ergonomics was not considered a goal in itself. Instead the knowledge was considered a tool for increasing the companies competitive strength.
The work has meant a shift in focus from knowledge and learning to understanding and meaning, and from ergonomics as a goal to ergonomics as a tool. Learning is a precondition for understanding. Seven prerequisites for learning have been identified: e.g., a holistic perspective (making visible the relation between work task and result); knowledge exchange; a transparent systems where the entire production process is visible to all actors involved; a social climate that supports dialogue and participation; and the development of a common language. The answer to the initial question cannot, however, be limited to that of lacking possibilities for learning. Ergonomic knowledge is not considered meaningful. In order for knowledge of ergonomics to be developed and used it must be understood from a business perspective and regarded as a tool for competitive advantage. This applies to companies producing products and services, purchasing and using them as well as companies that develop work tools. The conclusion that ergonomics must be understood as a tool, rather than a goal in itself, has resulted in a tentative model for analysing in what way an ergonomic strategy can be formulated and integrated with the companys overall business goals.
Keywords: ergonomics, ergonomic strategies, change, understanding, knowledge, learning, man-machine system. materials handling, logistics