Virtual and Physical Methods for Efficient Ergonomics Risk Assessments - A Development Process for Application in Car Manufacturing
Work-related disorders and sick leave are well-known common problems in the manufacturing industry. Workrelated
disorders cost both society and the manufacturing industry huge amounts of money every year as a
consequence of poor working environment and assembly-unfriendly products. As a result the productivity and
product quality in the companies are affected which negatively influence the potential profits. There is a
significant correlation between ergonomics, quality and productivity which has been shown in many studies.
Good production ergonomic conditions have the potential to decrease work-related sick leave, staff turn-over
and increase the product quality and the company profits.
The purpose with the following papers was to find efficient methods for ergonomics evaluations both during
manufacturing engineering and during the manufacturing process itself. There are big gains in identifying
ergonomic risk factors and in preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders as early as possible during the
Ergonomics mapping and evaluation of entire production systems require deep ergonomics competence and
very good knowledge about the local circumstances. Since continuous mapping and risk assessment was a very
time consuming business, it was necessary to find better assessment tools and methods. Another troublesome
problem was the difficulty to keep the mapping continuously up to date.
Thus there was an urgent need to develop more efficient methods for identification, evaluation and classification
of ergonomics risks both on product level and on station level in the plants. On plant level a production
technician method called ErgoSAM was chosen for study and evaluation.
In order to investigate if early proactive identification of potential ergonomic problems during the
manufacturing engineering phase of a new product was possible, a new Sport Utility vehicle (SUV) was chosen
as an object to study. The purpose was to compare the results of early ergonomics simulations in virtual reality
with the results of ergonomics assessments made on physical cars in a traditional manner. The intention was to
see what criteria formed the basis for doing ergonomics simulations, to what extent it was possible to perform
realistic simulations during early project phases, and to show optional ways of further developing methods and
Finally the ambition was to point at good examples of holistic thinking in ergonomics.
With addition of important data missing and adjustment of assessment parameters in line with company
standards for ergonomics, ErgoSAM proved to be a useful and efficient tool for simultaneous time
measurements (SAM) and assessment of ergonomics (ERGO). But it is urgent to emphasize that training in
ergonomics and in usage of the tool itself is of vital importance for proper application of the data built into
ErgoSAM and for adequate outcome of results.
The virtual participative working methods proved to work well in general and the members of the module teams
(project teams) were very positive to the usage of virtual tools. A big amount of ergonomic problems was paid
attention to and solved but the number of ergonomic simulations was lower than expected. The reason for this
was referred to as due to lack of ergonomics competence. Nevertheless, the opinion in the module teams was
that there was a greater potential to identify and solve several ergonomic problems in early project phases than
was the case in this study. An overall important outcome was the recommendations to the company of how to
improve virtual working procedures, follow-up of simulation results and improvement of virtual tools for the
The Corporate Ergonomics Programme at Volvo Car Corporation appeared to be a good example of a macro
ergonomic (holistic) approach. The programme resulted in an increased level of knowledge and awareness of
the importance of ergonomics beside improved collaboration between stakeholders. Comprehensive technical
standards in ergonomics were attained. Documents, checklists and other tools for assessment were developed.
Improved cross-functional cooperation within project groups and ergonomic groups was obtained. Absenteeism
decreased. Personnel costs went down.