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Engineering/Ergonomist-driven workplace solutions

2011 winner Spirit AeroSystems
Torque Wizards

The Problem
Four mechanics applied 560 foot pounds of manual force to multiple bolts while in awkward postures in the strut assembly process. This required two mechanics “gang-pushing” a five-foot torque bar, one mechanic applying reaction force in a limited-space, and one mechanic stabilizing the socket from an elevated platform. The excessive forces required three of the mechanics to have the strength of a 95th percentile male to successfully accomplish this task.

The Solution
An innovative socket reaction stabilizer was designed and fabricated to work with an electric torque reduction system. As a result, this manual process is now transferred to a mechanical method that eliminates excessive forces, awkward postures, and work from elevated platforms. It also allows any mechanic to perform the task.

The Outcome
Benefits include a 15 percent improvement in quality, a 66 percent improvement in cycle time, a risk reduction of 96 percent, and an additional injury-avoidance cost savings in excess of $146,000. All employees are happy with this solution. This technology will be implemented with two additional production lines.


Amerex Corporation
Dry Paint Ergonomic Hanger (2011 entry)

The Problem
Every cylinder has a threaded collar that screws onto a hanger so that the cylinder can be carried via a hanging conveyor line to be painted. Once painted and cured, the cylinder is unscrewed off of the hanging conveyor. This is repeated more than 12,000 times per shift. This caused awkward and stressful ergonomic issues as well as high turnover and inefficiency.

The Solution
Amerex used a multidisciplinary team to design and implement hangers to reduce the ergonomic stressors placed on the employees working on the dry paint line. The approach included prototype testing, evaluating, and modifying solutions until the ergonomic, quality, production, and human resource issues were reduced.

The Outcome

  • Reduced ergonomic risk stressors
  • Created gender-neutral positions
  • Decreased employee turnover
  • Increased efficiency
  • Outstanding ROI
  • No quality complaints (internally or externally)

Boeing Company, Commercial airplanes
Ergo Smartcart (2011 entry)

The Problem
Our internal customer requested that the 747-8 cart, 2,000-pound part, be transported via a push cart in order to more easily move it around in the area. They wanted a "right-sized" piece of equipment over the traditional approach of moving all parts via forklift. The change was needed because the part flow required the part to move into tightly spaced constrained areas of the shop.

The forces to manually push a standard blue cart with a 747-8 beam loaded is well above our push/pull guidelines of 45 pounds. Existing motorized cart technology does not meet requirements for load capacity, size of part or a dynamic type control that responded easily to the operator. 

The Solution
We have designed a cart that adaptively responds to the amount of operator force applied to the cart handle to provide a continuously variable output to the drive motors for direction and sufficient power for motion. The force required to activate assistance does not exceed 20 pounds. This cart provides power only when required; it is not a constant “on” or an initial momentary boost. The goal was to make the control of the cart transparent and to follow the human tendency currently used to move our standard blue carts. The state of the art in powered carts on the market today appeared to be of limited control functionality which would provide only timed one shot boosts for several seconds at a time.

The Outcome

  • Safety: The force required is 20 pounds, thus allowing for 5th-95 percentile population to move this 18-foot long, 2,000-pound part well within Boeing ergonomic guidelines. This solution has also met a root cause of reported discomfort from Mechanical Equipment Operators (MEOs). Current mitigation is for multiple people to move the beam on a TME (Transportation Mechanical Equipment) which is not ideal.
  • Delivery: Time savings were realized with respect to eliminating the need for multiple people to move a beam on a TME, including wait time in order for several people to be assembled, or wait for an MEO to move it with a forklift. With the old system, production could be slowed even further during the swing shift if it is at half the staff of day population and during the night shift at one third of that.
  • Cost Avoidance: This solution allows us to avoid the cost of injury to the company as elbow, shoulder strains had been reported. We are currently avoiding any lost time with this situation.

The Boeing Co. – Seattle Fabrication Division North/IRC

Praying Mantis, a.k.a. Binerator, a.k.a. Bin Carousel (2007 entry)

The Problem
There are four major types of 777 Center Bin Modules and Emergency Egress Modules. Each weighs up to 150 pounds depending on which of the four lengths and widths is being built. Typically 12 bins are processed each day. These modules are too heavy and too unwieldy to work on, or move well; plus part of the design problem was the variability and lack of common attach points. Risk analysis by the Boeing Ergonomics Enterprise System (BEES) indicated that the lift was extremely hazardous and that even the two-person lift would not reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries. Engineering out the lift was determined as the only way to totally eliminate this problem.


The Solution

We designed and built four units of a cantilevered lift and rotation tool. This allows full access, including walk around of any module we currently make. All actuators and motors are pneumatic, to accomodate a single shop air hookup. Safety is built in. For example, even if the motors are left on they’ll just stall out and never overheat or crush a module. The next steps include making this system part a moving production line, hence the nickname "carousel."

The Outcome
No back injuries have been reported. The module is now presented in an ergonomic position for all jobs, where previously it had to be in an overhead jig. No module damage has been reported due to transportation (no drops). A single person can handle all jobs after curing, where it used to take at least two. Loading for transportation to the airplane has been as fast as or faster than before. Cost of injuries in this area was reduced by 97 percent over typical cost of injuries in prior years.

Bridgestone
Can't Touch This! (2011 entry)

The Problem
The extrusion department had experienced several injuries during the process of manually loading skids of rubber to be milled. Injuries included sprain/strains and injuries requiring surgery due to the improper postures required of the manual loading method.

The Solution
The ergonomics representatives worked with the department management and engineering to investigate an automated rubber loading system. Engineering developed schematics and installed the first unit in December 2009. The new system is fully automated and only requires teammates to place the skids of rubber by forklift onto a platform.

The Outcome
The department has not experienced any injuries on the automated rubber loading systems. The new system is user friendly for all teammates and also allows them more time to monitor the production process. The new system has also been well received by all teammates in the department.

Bridgestone
Crank It Up! (2011 entry)

The Problem
The process of installing and removing large bladder assemblies for truck/bus tire curing presses requires excessive physical force by operators, which has placed them into a high risk category for injuries.

The Solution
The department worked with Engineering to develop an automated removal attachment to be used on a fork lift for removing and installing bladder assemblies. The new removal/installation device allows the bladder assemblies to be removed without the need for the operators to use manual force for removal or to be inside the curing press. 

The Outcome
The new process is now hands free which has eliminated the potential for future sprains/strains from manually removing bladder assemblies. The process also does not require the operators to be inside the bladder assembly to loosen bolts and other attachment mechanisms. This also reduced the potential for injuries caused by burns due to the high temperatures of the curing presses. The new method requires only one teammate to perform, while in contrast the previous method required three teammates. The new assembly unit cost a total of $2,000 to develop and implement.

Caterpillar Inc.
People, quality, velocity, cost benefits achieved through packaging improvement (2009 entry)

The Problem
This operation currently produces 10,800 Duo Cone Seals (DCS) per day. These production requirements translate into significant ergonomic risk due to thousands of wrist, elbow and shoulder manipulations required to load and unload the DCS machine center. The process also generates significant defects due to rust contamination from storage and shipping, throughput process problems and a considerable amount of packaging waste.

The Solution
A team led a study to define the best way to reduce ergonomic risk and improve quality for loading and unloading the DCS on the machine. The team iterated a design for a new package container that held 22 seals (seals were previously loaded one at a time) that could be placed on the machine, which in turn, reduced the number of wrist, arm and shoulder manipulations. The packaging, which contains 22 seals, can then be removed from the machining center which used to unload seals one at a time, and shipped to the customer, where they could utilize the rings directly from the new packaging containers.

The Outcome
The solution generated numerous benefits in terms of people, quality, velocity and cost (PQVC). In terms of people benefits, the packaging solution reduced the hand, arm and wrist manipulations by 83 percent, reducing the quantified ergonomic risk from medium to low. Quality was improved through providing packaging that prevents physical damage and rust to the product, a 0.3 percent reduction in defects was achieved, which translated into $210,000 scrap reduction savings. Velocity improvements were directly tied to the ergonomic risk reduction, by reducing the number of manipulations, thus reducing ergonomic risk. Velocity was improved by reducing the loading cycle time by 1,800 hours annually. Cost benefits were achieved through improving the service life of the packaging by four times. The improved service life of the packaging also improved sustainability by reducing the amount of packaging waste by four-fold. Similar benefits have been realized by one of our suppliers, they have been able to reduce their process loading tasks by 90 percent. All of the people, quality, velocity and cost savings provided us a two-year Return on Investment (ROI).

Dell Inc.

Don’t touch that! (2007 entry)

The Problem
Disassembly of a computer system may be necessary if the chassis becomes damaged during assembly. The cycle time to disassemble and restart a computer system was too long. Employees were at risk for injury due to systems being lifted multiple times and carried manually, crowded floor spaces with no clear footpath, and poor working postures.

The Solution
The facility held a continuous improvement event to value stream map the current process and the desired future state. An action plan was developed to redesign the workstations, custom design a material handling and work platform cart, and reduce material handling with mobile, flexible conveyor systems.

The Outcome
The new process resulted in a new ergonomic workstation layout, a custom designed cart, and significantly reduced cycle time and ergonomic injury risk. With systems weighing up to 35 pounds, reducing the number of times our teammates have to lift each system from five times to one time significantly reduced injury risk. The future state in phase two of this project is zero lifts with the addition of an elevator. The design of the new workstation and process also considered the optimal ergonomic work envelope as it minimized the reach and overall distance that the teammates needed to travel to dissemble and reintroduce the new order. This resulted in reducing the clutter in the area as the flow and in-process work was reduced.

In the old process, disassembly of systems occurred in batches on racks which increased the restart time. With systems being disassembled one at a time, restart time is reduced from 117 minutes to less than one minute. The former process had only one station capable of resetting computer configuration settings. Now each disassembly station has this capability further reducing the total process cycle time. The main ergonomic benefit is the near elimination of batching chassis onto racks which required multiple lifts of systems. The overall cycle time was reduced 86 percent, aging inventory was reduced by 16 percent, and ergonomic risk was reduced with less manual carrying of systems. Quality also improved due to more efficient space usage for parts and less handling of parts (reduced touches).

ETHICON, a Johnson & Johnson company
Wire mill pay-off strand (2009 entry)

The Problem
The Johnson and Johnson Ergonomic Job Analyzer, an internal evaluation process, rated the loading of the Pay-off Strand as a high-risk job, which included high risk scores for bending forward, pushing and pulling, and hand grip force. Loading the Pay-off machine involved maneuvering spools of wire, weighing up to 700 pounds, four to five times over an eight-hour shift into the finishing block where the load had to be aligned with precision in order for the Pay-off strand machine to run properly. The precise positioning of the spool involved the handler adopting poor postures while repeatedly pushing and pulling the load from side to side (8-10 times) to align. The Pay-off Strand job involves operators bending forward at 60 degrees and exerting initial start up push and pull forces of 60 pounds to precisely position the spool so that the arbor shaft aligns properly. Normally, this alignment task can take an operator up to five minutes to perform. Over the last three years, the Pay-off Strand job has been responsible for a first-aid case and two OSHA recordable incidents, one of which resulted in lost time. There have also been many complaints from other operators on the difficulty of the job and discomfort reported in the back as well as upper limbs. In addition, there were safety concerns of several pinch points created by moving the spool within the finishing block.

The Solution
The engineering solution, designed internally by Fred Jacob the Staff Design Engineer, uses a conveyor system with two large cylinders that allows the operator to place the 700-pound spool anywhere on the cylinders that are stationed in a recess in the floor. This eliminates the need to align the spool. Guarding was required to eliminate pinch points. This guarding is affixed with category 3 interlocks aluminum framing, and lexan shielding that allows the operator to see if the wire is moving freely off the spool.

The Outcome
The new design eliminates the ergonomic issues with bending and applying high push/pull forces and the pain and discomfort reported by operators. The new system only costs $8,000 per machine to implement. Throughout the development of the project, operators were regularly involved in the design and development of prototype conveyor. Since the solution was implemented there have been no injuries reported or complaints from operators. The solution has already been shared with other J&J facilities where large spool product is loaded into machines.

2011 Excellence Award for Ergo Risk Reduction Ethicon Endo Surgery
"Designing In" Ergonomic Risk Reduction Enhances Line Productivity and Comfort

The Problem
Previously, associates had to load devices (weighing approximately 1.75 pounds each) into snaps in a precut blister and take a precut Tyvek lid, leading to multiple repetitive movements per batch. Precut Tyvek lids had to be sent through the print shop and individually inspected for presence of LOT numbers.

The rotary assembly process was time consuming and required associates to endure ergonomic issues including:

  1. Finger/thumb snap forces as instruments were placed into package
  2. Technicians had to deal with single arm pulling forces when tipping roll stock
  3. Without redesign, technicians would be bending forward or stooping frequently to clear rejects and collect rejected items
  4. Technicians exposed to overhead/shoulder reaching and pushing when replacing Tyvek
  5. Associates were reaching for product and workers had a single fit seated workstation
  6. Lighting was limited and shadowed during inspections.

The Solution
As new production lines are placed into the facility, all aspects of the new job tasks are reviewed for improvement. This line allowed six ergonomic changes to be made to improve productivity and associates' comfort:

  1. Finger snap forces in package loading were eliminated
  2. Pull forces for tipping roll stock were eliminated
  3. Bending and stooping for reject collection were eliminated
  4. Overhead/shoulder reaching and pushing were eliminated
  5. Reach and worker fit risks were eliminated
  6. Lighting risks were reduced.

These powerful ergonomic pluses were considered and designed into a unit slated to save 2.5 million dollars in material usage alone. This new line including ergonomic changes brings a healthy ROI.
Revolution is an automated packaging line that was redesigned to move product codes from a manually laborious line of rotary assembly. Revolution, by design, eliminates many of these steps. There are no snap fits, no precut Tyvek lids requiring individual handling, no precut blister packages having to be individually handled, and no additional inspection for pre-printed Tyvek lids. The design of a retainer that is easily dropped into the blister along with the instrument allows for one preloader. This retainer, and forming tooling design, eliminates the need for snap fits and additional packaging layers at the back end.

The Outcome
Using Auburn Engineers eTools method of ergonomic risk determination where possible, we were able to objectify the changes engineered into the new line in comparison to similar lines or previously rated ergonomic risk calculations:

  1. Snap forces in packaging were eliminated with drop in product design.
    a. Risk Before - HIGH - Averaging 50 pounds of force distributed over fingers
    b. Risk After – Zero
  2. Roll stock handling pulling forces and handling were eliminated with custom roll stock handling unit
    a. Risk Before – 806
    b. Risk After – Zero
  3. Reject bin collection was eliminated with working height deposits
    a. Risk Before – 60
    b. Risk After – Zero
  4. Lid packaging material handling was eliminated with location height location changes and dual roll splicing capabilities
    a. Risk Before – 806
    b. Risk After – Zero
  5. Reach and Fit risks were eliminated with fully adjustable sit/stand inspection workstations.
    a. Risk Before – Moderate
    b. Risk After – Zero
  6. Lighting risks were reduced through new line inspection configuration.
    a. Risk Before – Moderate
    b. Risk After --  Low

Based on all the built-in design changes and efficiency measures resulting from material savings, an ROI of 108 percent is the expected first year result. Previous production levels were 19.86 sale units per hour per associate with the newly enhanced and ergonomically designed line, production is projected at 23.88 sales units per associate per hour equating to a 16.9 percent increase in productivity per associate per hour with minimal risk and improved comfort.

Ethicon Endo Surgery
Tooling Cart Design Prevents Future Manual Handling Injuries (2011 entry)

The Problem
A Thermo Forming Line was installed with forming tools to be used in the process weighing 200 lbs. Each for is set at heights of 32 and 48 inches. These were expected to be manually handled during change overs. The task would require three large individuals to replace tooling during tooling changes. There was also a need for storage and transport once the tooling was removed.

The Solution
A tooling cart was built in-house to allow any single individual to change out tooling forms. The cart cost was $1,000. The cart was designed to allow minimal handling of tooling forms. It was also designed for multiple functions, including storage and transport of the forms from one location to another. The custom design was completed using standard materials/equipment and in-house labor. The risk avoidance was significant, eliminating the need for two additional persons to manually handle the tooling at least four times per week. Tooling change-over times were reduced by 80 percent. Functionally, the job task that required three strong males for manual handling can now consistently be performed by a 5th percentile female without risk of injury.

The Outcome

Measurable outcomes from the project include the following:

  1. Reduction of lifting from 200 pounds to zero
  2. Improved change-over time from 15 minutes to 5 minutes
  3. Reduction in overall ergonomic risk score from a risk score of 66 to zero, using the Auburn Engineers eTools protocol for measurement
  4. A projected cost avoidance of a moderately significant low back injury would be $80,000 based on one back injury. However, the likelihood when three persons are involved means the risk is multiplied and compounded.
  5. By design, we now have ensured any of associates who may be required to perform the task can do it safely (95th percentile fit).
  6. Risk was eliminated prior to the start of full production, thereby preventing significant injury through early ergonomic intervention.
  7. Space considerations were included leading to the use of only 8.25 square feet and the elimination of additional fixed shelves, handling equipment, and lifting devices.
  8. Resulting Cost Avoidance: Prevented Injury - Single strain $57,462 per OSHA estimate.
  9. ROI Projected - Simple Annualized ROI 1880 percent, based on cost avoidance.

GE Healthcare
eBike...Back Injury Prevention (2011 entry)

The Problem
The GE Healthcare eBike is an ergometric device used in the medical environment to capture clinical data to support stress and electrocardiography testing. To perform the preventive maintenance (calibration) of the eBike, a Field Engineer (FE) has to place two calibrated standard weights of 4 kgs each under the eBike. To be able to put these two weights on the eBike, the FE has to lift the eBike, which weighs 70 kgs, and place it on two solid chairs or other “items” of equal height that are found at the customer’s site. This maintenance approach was very inefficient because the materials needed for this task had to be found within the customer’s workplace. It is not unusual for it to take 30-45 minutes to locate the materials. Additionally, the resulting set-up was often not stable, impacting the quality of the service and the overall efficiency of the operation. Several ergonomic risk factors were observed (lifting, back twists, bending forward, kneeling and squatting, etc.) affecting four body parts (back, leg, wrist, neck). The NIOSH lifting index for this task was 4.5, which indicates high risk. Our employees describe this task as, “dangerous due to the fall hazards” and “difficult to perform alone due to the manual handling.”

The Solution
Thru brainstorming and several trystorming sessions, the GE Healthcare Field Services German team worked with a local tool manufacturer to develop a specific tool around four criteria: avoid manual lifting, be easy to assemble, light in weight, and assures safe position. The tool was inspired from motorcycle parking. It is composed of eight metallic parts, with a pre-fixed system that incorporates directly into the eBike and has a fast assembling system with only three screws. The total weight of the tool is under 3 kgs, so it is easy to transport to customer sites. The FE has to first attach the tool to the front wheel. The side parts are then attached to each side of the eBike. The total time to install the tool on the eBike is only 2.5 minutes. This solution is easy to use, and it is adapted specifically to the task, thereby creating a mistake-proof system. Its simplicity encourages its usage and improves injury prevention. An extra person is not required to perform the job safely, so the Field Engineer does not need to wait for help. Its simplicity allows the FE to be self-sufficient and increases process efficiency. The cost of each tool is only $381. In summary, this solution is low cost, is fully dedicated or customized to the eBike product, is convenient and simple to use, and provides a way to accomplish the calibration task which eliminates the high risk lift and eliminates other safety hazards including falling product and pinched fingers.

The Outcome
Implementation of this solution eliminated the high-risk lift and fully eliminated the risk of injury from the eBike falling during calibration. The task is now easy to perform and minimal effort is needed. The simple ROI calculated for the solution is an amazing 5.2, which translates to a payback period of only 70 days! This simple ROI of 5.2 was calculated using both operational savings achieved through cycle time reductions, as well as injury prevention savings.

ROI = Total Operational and Injury Prevention Savings / Total Cost of Tool

ROI = $6000 + $53,400 / ($381 per tool x 30 employees) ROI = 5.2

The total operational savings of $6000/year was based upon time savings of 20 minutes per calibration task. 450 eBikes are calibrated each year, saving a total of 150 man-hours/year. Multiplying the 150 hours with the average wage of $40/hour, results in $6000 savings per year in Germany alone. The injury prevention savings assumed the prevention of two musculoskeletal injuries (MSDs). Using historical GE workers compensation data, two MSDs cost approximately $53,400. The costs assume that a tool is provided to every FE in Germany. The intention is to roll this eBike tool out across all of EMEA, which will prevent more injuries and achieve an even higher ROI.

winning entry 2009 General Electric (GE) Healthcare
X-Ray AMX/AMX4 Battery Changes

The Problem
The portable X-ray is necessary when patient injuries require a rapid scan (e.g., emergency room scans). Field engineers routinely perform the service task of replacing nine 22-pound batteries stacked in a small compartment in the lower portion of the portable X-ray. The X-ray units’ low-profile design requires the field engineer to work lying on the floor for three to four hours in an awkward position. This is the only position that allows the engineer to reach into the compartment to disconnect and individually remove the batteries. There are also “blind” reaches to disconnect 18 battery leads that create an arc flash/electrical hazard. Employees suffered musculoskeletal related strains in the neck, shoulder and arms. Also lying on floors in rooms and hallways was creating pressure contact stress to shoulders, hips and knees. A field engineer complaint to the safety manager and X-ray engineer prompted a serviceability review that resulted in recommended improvements.

The Solution
The solution and study was trialed by a group of field engineers across the U.S. The nine individual batteries will now be replaced (when needed) with two battery packs mounted on a modular tray that are assembled and pre-wired by the supplier. The modular tray is slid into the unit with a genie lift and only two wires must be connected (without lying on the floor). The task is completed in just one hour including running system diagnostics.

The Outcome
This improvement reduces ergonomic awkward positions, blind reaching into the compartment and the risk of electrical shock by 71 percent based on task-time reduction. The change also adds 1,575 hours of potential annual up time to the AMX4 install base, which provides for more patient scans and customer revenue potential. Added plastic shielding eliminates exposure to live electrical connections, which prevent electrical arching.

GE Universal Orlando

Shrek costume redesign (2007 entry)

The Problem
Shrek is a costumed character that performs daily at Universal Orlando. The performers that bring Shrek to life have had issues with shoulder, neck and lower back pains. Due to a number of back, neck and shoulder injuries sustained by performers that wear the Shrek constume at the Universal Orlando theme park, a redesign of the current costume was necessary to reduce injury. The issues identified were the weight of the costume, body positioning in the costume, ventilation and visibility. This resulted in 21 first aid cases, 26 recordable injuries, 622 light duty days, and 49 restricted/lost work days from June 2004 to March 2006 with a direct cost of more than $80,000.


The Solution

To achieve the weight reduction, the harness, deemed the heaviest component, was discarded and replaced with lighter materials. Additional nonessential layers were removed to reduce weight 10 pounds. To straighten body and head positioning, the head was separated from the body to allow for movement and to balance weight inline with the spine. A ventilation opening was added in the back of the head to allow for air flow. This was assisted by a battery-powered pancake fan. The separation of the head and added mobility to move the neck increased visibility. The solution cost was $100 in materials and $1,600 for labor and installation. Low cost, high yield.

The Outcome
After changes were implemented on March 1, 2006, injuries fell to zero with no lost time. The result was increased performance, zero injuries and a simple solution at a low cost of $1,700.

Harley Davidson

Motorcyle tire inflator (2007 entry)

The Problem
Employees had to use a lot of force and effort to inflate motorcycle tires. Two employees had to exert a lot of force to hold and position the tire while it was being inflated. They had to hold and push down on it just to get the tire inflated.

 

The Solution
The team worked on several designs to exert the required forces using other mechanical or hydraulic means. They finally developed and designed a tool and system to facilitate this operation.

 

The Outcome
They have eliminated all shoulder and back injuries since implementation. The new system has also reduced cosmetic damage to the wheels and tires. The processing time was improved by 90 percent. Multiple cost benefits were realized from reduction in injuries, reduction in rework, and improved material flow. It is now a one-person operation while before they needed at least two employees. They also reduced workers' comp by $80,000 in the first year alone.

 

Honda of America - MAP Assembly Department
Sunroof subcord solutions (2009 entry)

The Problem
Traditional Sunroof Subcord installation required the associate to climb into and out of every car and then work overhead inside the car to complete the tasks. This process exposed production associates to physical stresses of getting into and out of every car body as well as having their shoulders raised for a majority of the job process. In the most recent 12 months, the manufacturing department has logged eight injuries due to this process, most commonly strains to the shoulders, neck and back. There was a negative ergonomic impact to the production associates while performing 13 out of 14 tasks during this Sunroof Subcord installation process.

 

The Solution
The project team first submitted a design change request to the Honda designers during the development of the 2008 model of the Honda Accord. This design change allows the installation of the Sunroof Subcord directly to the Sunroof itself prior to another production associate installing this Sunroof to the car body using an articulating assist arm. The team then created a prototype sub-assembly table with significant input from the production associates who perform the job process. The team then tested the use of this prototype equipment with the production associates throughout 2008 Honda Accord New Model development. The team then fabricated a final sub-assembly table after all the trial events. This new sub-assembly table combined with approved Sunroof Subcord design changes allowed for the transition from the ergonomically poor traditional method of Sunroof Subcord installation to a more ergonomically correct method. The total cost to implement these changes (including material, labor and training time) was $23,500. The equipment also allows for future plans to eliminate manual lifting of the part.

 

The Outcome
The new Sunroof Subcord installation method eliminated all of the risk factors attributed to overhead work (40.1 seconds total), as well as all of the risk factors attributed to climbing into and out of every car body (7.9 seconds total). As a result, the manufacturing department has not logged any injuries from this process since Mass Production started in July 2007 (an avoidance of 8 injuries a year). This project has also eliminated virtually all of the negative ergonomic impact to the production associates while they perform these tasks. The team has estimated a total cost savings and avoidance of $540,000 over the entire Accord model cycle. This benefit includes not only injury cost avoidance, but also the cost savings from reducing the process cycle time and from decreasing potential downtime. With the initial cost of the changes, there is a very attractive return on investment with a payback of less than 15 days.

 

Honda of America Mfg.

Melt furnace cleaning tool lift assist (2007 entry)

The Problem
Melt furnaces are cleaned each shift to ensure high-quality aluminum engine components. Furnace operators were using very long (24 feet or longer) steel rakes, requiring downward forces exceeding 200 pounds to remove the impurities from molten aluminum baths. No assist device existed in the market and only one tool company was willing to take on this project.

The Solution
We worked with a local engineering firm to develop a lift assist to meet our specific situation. This was generation one. Associate feedback on the first version was lukewarm. Honda of Alabama’s lift assist was improved based on associate feedback, which led to generation two. Eventually, with persistence, the third generation lift assist was designed and installed with improvements and associate involvement. The final version is well-accepted and used by all furnace operators.

The Outcome

  • Safety: This project was completed before any injuries occurred. However, with the risks we measured, we believe that eventually one injury would have occurred on each of the seven furnaces. This cleaning process was ranked as the number one safety issue during department safety audits.
  • Environment: No effect.
  • Quality: Although quality improvements cannot be documented, we believe that we have cleaner metal because of reducing physical constraints.
  • Delivery: No effect.
  • Cost: Considering injury avoidance and other factors, we calculated the return-on-investment to be 1.6 years.
  • Morale: Associates are happy with the final design, and morale has improved. Smaller-stature associates are now capable of rotating onto this process.

Honda of America MFG Inc./Anna Engine Plant
Ergo Rotate (2011 entry)

The Problem
Production associates manually lift a 50-pound crankshaft in a horizontal position and rotate it to position it vertically on a quality check (QC) fixture. To complete this process, the associates had to extend in front of the body and at the same time raise their arms to the side away from the body. This process has actually resulted into safety incidents involving the shoulders. Additionally, there is always the potential to drop this heavy part. Finally, it took quite a bit of time to properly align the part on the QC fixture. There have also been instances of damage to the parts when the associates failed to properly line up the center alignment holes of the part to the quality check fixture.

The Solution
With input from the production associates performing this task, the team fabricated a device to position the heavy crankshaft on the QC fixture. Using an air hoist with a lock arm to prevent the part from falling off, the device brings the heavy part to the QC fixture. Using a gear reduction box, the device rotates the part to the vertical position. Linear rails slide the part into the QC fixture, and another set of gears sets the part on the QC fixture, ensuring proper alignment and more consistent inspection results.

The Outcome
Aside from eliminating all the ergonomics and safety-related hazards, particularly those associated with manual lifting and rotation of the part, the new device resulted in injury avoidance to the shoulders, back and arms. The device eliminated damages to the center holes of the crankshaft due to better alignment with the QC fixture; hence, eliminating scrap and repair costs. The device also reduced the time it took to complete the process. The total expense to fabricate enough devices for seven QC stations amounted to $50,000. Considering the cost avoidance from safety incidents and cost savings from quality and productivity enhancements, which totaled $38,500, the project had a payback of 1.3 years.

Johnson & Johnson
Chemical Cleaning Reinvented: Clean, Lean and Green (2011 entry)

The Problem
The Central Cleaning Department is responsible for cleaning all the mobile equipment of Chemical Production to the required GMP standards. The cleaning process consists of a pre-cleaning, disassembly and a final cleaning step. The parts are then dried, re-assembled, packed and stored. All these activities were labor intensive and required continuous manual material handling. Nine ergonomic high risk tasks were identified, using the J&J Ergo Job Analyzer. In addition, the operator had to wear PPE for a substantial amount of time during these activities due to exposure to chemical agents, active pharmaceutical ingredients and noise. The aim of the upgrade was to implement ergonomic improvements at the workplaces, reduce industrial hygiene exposure to chemical and physical agents, reduce the environmental impact, substantially meet compliance with more stringent quality requirements and improve the workflow and cycle time.

The Solution
A cross-functional team started the challenging task to entirely rethink the way auxiliary equipment was cleaned. As part of the transformation roadmap, a number of projects were initiated to re-engineer the cleaning process, address several EHS issues and new cGMP-requirements and improve the overall working conditions in the Central Cleaning Department. Overview of implemented projects:

  1. Drying: Installation of drying room instead of manually drying using compressed air.
  2. Cleaning small tools: With the custom made ultrasonic installation we invested in a new, environmental friendly technique for the cleaning of chemical contaminated equipment on a large scale. Equipment that formerly was cleaned manually using solvents is now cleaned in a full automatic ultrasonic street, unique in J&J.
  3. Container & drum cleaning: Two types of container washing installations were upgraded by changing the movable rinsing ring into fixed spray balls, allowing a perfect working of the installations.
  4. Hose cleaning: We designed a completely new, custom made hose cleaning installation. We now clean automatically 10 hoses at the same time in a closed way. This new cleaning method is less labor-intensive and at the same time, the exposure to solvents and high potent products is reduced.
  5. Assembly and disassembly: we installed custom-made lifting devices. With these tools we can assemble and control every piece of equipment avoiding awkward positions.

The Outcome
With great ambition, they met the goal to literally transform the cleaning process, and move from a labor-intensive, solvent-based, lower-quality cleaning process, to a “Clean, Lean and Green” process in every aspect of the operation.

  1. Return On Investment: 3,125 year ? invested capital 1.587,000 ? - annual savings 507,800
  2. Ergonomics: Reduction of all nine ergonomic high risk tasks to moderate or low risk
  3. Industrial hygiene: Reduction of use respirators with 67 percent elimination of hearing protection
  4. Implementation of detergents and ultrasonic cleaning: Reduction of 88,000 liters of solvent/year equals direct savings 61.981 (cost solvents + waste treatment)
  5. Optimization detergent use: Five percent solution to 1.5 percent equals 5,500 liters/year ? savings 22,231
  6. Automation ultrasonic cleaning small parts: Moved from 100 percent manual cleaning (4100 working hours/year) to 34 percent (1359 working hours/year). Direct cost savings: 132,572
  7. Automation hose cleaning: Moved from 100 percent manual cleaning (3872 working hours/year) to 57 percent (2216 working hours/year). Direct cost savings: 82,787.
  8. Quality: 40-fold increase in quality performance (10 mg/swab to 0.24 mg/swab) and compliance with new cGMP requirements.

Winning entry 2007 Johnson & Johnson - Belgium

Ergonomic improvement to cleaning filters in a chemical production facility

The Problem
In a chemical production manufacturing facility, the synthesis of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) takes place. During the synthesis process, APIs are separated from the mother liquor with the use of cloth filters. After each production cycle is complete the filter cloths must be manually replaced for cleaning. To remove the filters for cleaning 84 screws must be removed and replaced manually. The unscrewing and screwing of 84 screws occurred above shoulder height with worker lying on the ground. This activity was identified as the highest ergonomic risk on site when all the tasks were evaluated by using the Johnson & Johnson Ergonomic Job Analyzer. Filter cloth replacement was a very time consuming job. In the hand safety program, it was identified as the most severe risk for amputation. In the industrial hygiene program, it was identified as a critical activity due to employee's exposure to the contaminated filter cloth.


The Solution
In place of the filter cloth, the maintenance department developed a new type of metallic plate (filter) and installed cleaning-in-place nozzles. This eliminated the need to manually remove the filters for cleaning. Now, the operators can install the nozzles for cleaning and run the program via the computer screen. This eliminated all of the ergonomic risk factors, hand-safety issues, and possible industrial hygiene exposure. After testing and making some modifications to the plates, the four filters (two stainless steel and two hastelloy) have been replaced with the metallic plate. This represented a total investment of $750,000.

The Outcome
This was a successful reduction of ergonomic risks. All of the high (wrist extension, mechanical stress hand, forearm supp, shoulder flexion, lifting, push and pull, heat stress), moderate (employee response, repetition shoulder), and low (handgrip force, bending forward, bending to site, twisting) ergonomic risks related to this task are reduced to no risk as per the Johnson & Johnson Ergonomic Job Analyzer.

The new metallic plate stays in the filter, reducing the risk of hand injury or amputation. Exposure to solvent vapors and active pharmaceutical ingredients is elminated as te new metallic filer plates are cleaned with the new nozzles with the equipment remaining closed during cleaning.

Several productivity improvements and cost and time reductions were achieved. No parts need to be replaced during cleaning. The assembly and disassembly of the filter cloth took 16 operator hours. An average of 50 filter cloths were replaced annually. This results in a saving of 800 operator hours. Processes are now transferred form the centrifuges to the filters due to this result.

We also achieved a long term investment cost avoidance of $1,200,000, excluding costs due to medical treatment of operators with ergonomic injuries.

Northrop Grumman Newport News

Catapult Multi-Function Tool (Aircraft carrier catapult) (2007 entry)

The Problem
Employees were experiencing wrist injuries because of the difficulty drilling new holes in the catapult trough using current drill machines. 

The Solution
The solution was to design a new machine that would condense each evolution into one process. The liners would be laid off, machined, drilled, and tapped on location rather than machined at a shop. The Catapult Multi-Function Tool (CMFT) is designed to incorporate the functions (machine operations) of several different machines into one. The first machine operation is countersinking of drilled holes to allow for weld repair of holes. The CMFT then is used to machine the facing bar in way of drawing (IWD) welded up holes providing a flat surface for fitting holes. This operation in the past was done by hand, causing several wrist problems. The CMFT will then be setup in place after the deadman alignment fixture. The CMFT will be used to machine the catapult liners in place and then be used to drill and tap.

The Outcome
This machine allowed us to streamline the countersinking, drilling, and machining process to reduce man hours resulting in fewer ergonomic related accidents. Injuries were reduced by 25 percent. The total time savings is 77 percent per catapult. The total cost savings is $649,500 per ship. The total cost of a new multi-function machine: $192,000 vs. $350,000 for a single function (milling) machine.

Ortho Clinical Diagnostics
Successful Ergonomic Risk Mitigation during Change Control Process (2011 entry)

The Problem
Previously, gel to fluid ratio inspection was performed on 50 cards per lot using a paper gauge. Driven by a need for quality improvement, the inspection process needed to be changed. At this time a calibrated gauge was built to replace a paper gauge. It was also determined that instead of 50 cards, 350 cards would need to be inspected for each lot. We run two lots per shift and two shifts. Each day the inspection of 700 cards per shift is usually performed by one person per shift and takes, on average, 6-7 hours. During change control review of the new process and gauge, risk of repetitive stress injury was identified. It was noted that the new gauge being made of metal was rather heavy, and that the significant increase in repetitions may be problematic. Ergonomic Job Analysis showed multiple high and medium risk motions for inspection.

The Solution
The card is to be read at eye level. Because of the weight of the gauge, Our Facilities Maintenance Technician designed and built a stand for the gauge to be placed on. It is height adjustable so different sized users can adjust it appropriately to eye level. The first stand built came with a new problem. When adjusting the gauge the user must reach up to the top of the gauge to adjust the knob to line up the narrow line with the gel level in each tube. If the gauge is at eye level, one must reach up above shoulder level to make this adjustment. Our Facilities Maintenance Technician then designed and built a modification to bring the adjustment into the operator’s green zone by adding a wheel crank and cable to the design.

The Outcome
This was a successful implementation of quality change after mitigation to reduce fatigue to inspectors. High risk motions of Shoulder Flexion/Abduction and Neck Extension were mitigated to OK risk as defined by J&J Ergonomic Job Analyzer. The repetition risk was reduced from moderate to OK as the use of the stand allowed the operators to remain in neutral postures while performing the task.

Spirit AeroSystems
EZ Rotators

The Problem
Spirit’s chemical-milling process required large steel frames to be manually rotated 360 degrees as they were moved between floor-embedded tanks. The manual 360 degree rotation of thirty 40’x12’x2’ stainless steel frames, each with up to an 800-pound load, contributed to multiple injury risks due to an initial 135-pound force and 60-pound sustaining force. For example, workers risked being struck by frames. These forces were applied while in awkward postures by two 95th percentile male workers. The tank chemicals used in the milling process, along with the tank temperatures, deteriorated the turn mechanisms, which at the initial pull, inhibited rack rotation. Once this chemical barrier bond was broken, a sustaining 60-pound force was required to complete the rotation of the loaded rack.

The Solution
A unique hex head fitting was designed to work with a hand-held battery-operated 1300-foot pound torque tool. Complementing this part of the solution was a rack design modification to create a dual reaction yoke; this was welded to 30 racks. This yoke now accepts the reaction bar on the torque tool making the rotation force achievable mechanically rather than manually. This solution was later applied to a prep line where it affects a total of 53 workers.

The Outcome
An unexpected 14 percent improvement in quality was realized because the rotation could be easily controlled in either direction reducing oil canning (skin indentations). Cycle time was reduced by 10 percent and an ergonomic risk reduction was calculated at 96 percent which resulted in a cost savings in excess of $373,000. Now, all workers are capable of performing the rotation task in a risk-free work environment.

Spirit AeroSystems
Mandrel Masters (2011 entry)

The Problem
A history of ergonomic injury risks can be correlated to long hours of sanding as tooling technicians work to remove release agents from bond tools. This process, often referred to as tool resurfacing, typically occurs after multiple cycles in the autoclaves. The only process qualified for composite tool resurfacing was hand sanding using three increasingly fine grit sandpapers over the surface. Mechanics were expected to hand-sand 2,880 square feet of tool bond surface with three increasingly finer-grits of sandpaper successively. This processed required awkward postures of the neck, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. These risk factors were further exacerbated by exertion forces, repetition, and excessive task durations.

The Solution
An environmentally-friendly chemical solution was developed to clean these bond tools. With the implementation of this solution, tooling technicians have replaced their hand sanding operations with a light surface scuffing, a chemical spray-on and dwell period, and then ending with a high-temperature powered water rinse. The reduced hand exertion forces and awkward postures result in less fatigue as the scuffing occurs once across the bond tool surface rather than three times while hand sanding.

The Outcome
A 50 percent quality improvement was derived as the new process significantly reduced possibilities of any surface distortions, weakening, or wear and tear. A 98 percent cycle time improvement and 83 percent ergonomic risk factor reduction was realized. Morale remains positive as workers prefer the new process to manual hand sanding. A projected injury avoidance cost exceeds $351,000. This savings, along with the productivity improvements, is estimated to be a $32 million savings based on current program needs. The chemical solution and application method has now been implemented in a comparable process and is being investigated for additional bond tool program applications.

Swagelok Alfred 
Monoflange Assembly Work-holding Vise (2011 entry)

The Problem
Monoflange products have several valve heads and fittings in multiple locations around the entire perimeter of the product. This translates into an operator precisely tightening up to 10 features or fittings on every product. This product can also be cumbersome and weigh up to 40 pounds. Based on typical throughput and the amount of features per valve, the operator could perform up to 50 torques per hour. Fixturing and re-fixturing these parts in the original two jaw vise did not always provide the operator with the most favorable orientation for assembly or torque operations and can sometimes require an additional operator due to the weight of the part.

The Solution
A cross-functional team was put together consisting of operators, site engineers and engineers. Some team members were not particularly close to the current process facilitating an open perspective to observe and brainstorm ideas while taking into account operator pain points. The fresh perspective of the new team members and “hands-on” user feedback allowed for an iterative process that led to an engineered solution that addressed operator needs (overall height adjustment and part manipulation to access multiple locations) as well as design for manufacture.

The Outcome

  • Safety: The solution reduced the possibility of injuries and fatigue-related injuries associated with repeated handling of same part, e.g. fixture once for all operations. It reduced lifting and wrist strain related injuries as well. The Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) tool was used to measure before and after results. We were able to reduce our RULA score by four points after initiating the device.
  • Cost/Efficiency: This eliminated repeated fixturing of the same part and the need of second operator to aid in manipulation of the heavy part. This increased productivity as a result of reduced fatigue.
  • Quality: The solution reduced the risk of cosmetic and functional damage by eliminating repeated handling and fixturing. The improved part placement also leads to a more consistent delivery of torque.


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