Ergonomic Design Makes Good Business Sense

The use of ergonomically designed processes and equipment is one of the most effective ways of reducing work site injuries.

The use of ergonomically designed processes and equipment is one of the most effective ways of reducing work site injuries. Today, ergonomic design has progressed beyond the simple goal of improving employee health and safety, according to Dennis Duell, vice president of MegaStar Systems, which manufactures automated storage and retrieval systems.. Good design not only reduces the incidence of employee injury and potential liability and litigation, says Duell, but organizations are designing ergonomic processes to provide a fast return on investment, and that''s just good business sense, he adds.

Virtually every business has some type of storage and retrieval requirement, he notes, and these operations are often not only a cause of employee injuries but can cause inefficiencies if not managed properly.

"We know that by reducing or eliminating the need for employees to bend, reach, lift, and stretch to retrieve stored items we can reduce the incidence of on-the-job injuries," says Duell. "That reduces a company''s liabilities, but there are other business benefits as well."

The focus of ergonomic design of storage and retrieval systems is on the delivery of the stored items to a height that minimizes bending and reaching. Generally, that is about waist level. This positioning not only reduces the amount of bending and stretching required to retrieve stored items, it also reduces the amount of time an employee has to walk aisles while searching for storage locations. This reduction in travel time can significantly improve efficiency in most applications. That savings translates to a better bottom line.

For example, MegaStar manufactures a product called the MegaStation Vertical Carousel, a system of vertically rotating shelves that move up and down along a tracking guide, delivering stored items to an operator at an ergonomically positioned extraction shelf. By eliminating the need for employees to search traditional shelving, manually picking an order, the MegaStation Vertical Carousel can improve order-processing efficiency by 50 to 60 percent.

"The design of the vertical carousel also creates controlled access to stored items, resulting in improved inventory control. That''s another advantage of the ergonomics of these systems," Duell points out.

Ergonomic design also improves system throughput. By placing controls in positions that are easily accessible, operators can complete more transactions within a given period. Those transactions will generally be more accurate as well, says Duell.

"The philosophy behind ergonomic design ... is that functional design not only makes the system easier and less strenuous to use, but also improve the overall efficiency of the system," he notes. "There are principles of universal design that we follow to minimize employee stress while maximizing system performance."

Ergonomic design not only reduces the incidence of employee injuries and improves storage and retrieval efficiency, it can also attract and retain employees who might otherwise be enticed to other, less strenuous jobs.

"There are many benefits to ergonomic design. The best benefit of all, however, is that concern for employee safety and health is good for the health of the bottom line," says Duell. "You can still do well by doing good."

For more information about MegaStar Systems, a company of the KRI Group of Zurich, Switzerland, call 800-639-5805.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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