Ergonomics in Lean Manufacturing

 In Ergonomics

Oftentimes the benefits of ergonomics include a general improvement of efficiency. But how exactly does an emphasis on ergonomics result in improved efficiency? One way that we can identify a change in efficiency is to consider “Lean Manufacturing” practices. Lean practices in manufacturing involves the elimination of wastes, and centers around 5 “S” terms that originate in Japanese Manufacturing.

The Five S's Of Manufacturing

Japanese Term Translation 5 S’s Explanation
Seiri Organize Sort Eliminate whatever is not needed by separating needed tools, parts, and instructions from unneeded materials.
Seiton Orderliness Set in Order Organize whatever remains by neatly arranging and identifying parts and tools for ease of use.
Seiso Cleanliness Shine Clean the work area by conducting a cleanup campaign.
Seiketsu Standardize Standardize Schedule regular cleaning and maintenance by conducting seiri, seiton, and seiso daily.
Shitsuke Discipline Sustain Make 5S a way of life by forming the habit of always following the first four S’s.

Seven types of waste have been identified in manufacturing systems: overproduction, excess inventory, excess motion, defects, over-processing, waiting, and transport. Excess motion refers to the extra steps taken by employees to accommodate, for example, a poor shop layout.

Ergonomics is a method of designing workstations, work practices and workflow to accommodate the capabilities of workers. Good ergonomic shop design will reduce awkward postures or excessive strain on the human body while performing work tasks. Extraneous motions such as stretching, bending, or working under uncomfortable postures will not only contribute negatively to the safety and health of the workers, but also to the productivity and efficiency of the company as a whole.

In one ergonomic work study, conducted by Nor Abdullah and Dr. Rosnah Yusuff, analysis of the movement and postures of workers while performing their work task were observed and evaluated. In this particular study, the analysis showed that the lower back, upper back and the shoulder were frequently subjected to MSD risks, which manifested itself in operators experiencing pain or discomfort in the neck, torso and legs. Based on these findings, an ergonomic intervention was suggested to reduce wasted and strained motion factors in the manufacturing processes.

When you’re designing a manufacturing process or workstation, remember to consider the 5 “S’s” of lean manufacturing. When you’re considering the ergonomics of the design, add “safety” to the mix and you’re ensured to see additional improvements throughout your manufacturing process.

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