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Ergonomic efficiency boost

New research suggests that teaching staff about improving their posture and working conditions in a manufacturing plant can boost productivity by more than fifty percent. Details of the research will published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Oguzhan Erdinc of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the Turkish Air Force Academy and Ozalp Vayvay of the Department of Industrial Engineering, at Marmara University, in Istanbul, investigated how simple improvements in the working conditions of employees at a clothes factory could improve performance and reduce the number of faulty "seconds" being produced by an apparel factory.

The researchers studied two machine sewing lines at a clothing manufacturer. "Major ergonomics problems were awkward postures, musculoskeletal discomfort and difficulty in monitoring operation of machine needle and flow of stitches," the researchers explain. To remedy this situation, the researchers gave the operators ergonomics training and a handbook on correct work methods. They also installed a reminder figure showing correct work postures and adjusted the tilt of equipment so that the operators could work more comfortably.

A marked improvement was seen in product quality following these interventions, Erdinc and Vayvay explain. "After interventions, significant reductions in ergonomics problems were attained and the proportion of Sewing Operator Related Defective Products (SORDP) was reduced by 56% in Line 1 and by 52% in Line 2. Moreover, the employees were more comfortable in their work. This low-cost approach to ergonomics involves simple adjustments to equipment and education of operators to improve their conditions and their products.

The researchers concede that the study was limited in the number of operators involved and follow-up studies would demonstrate unequivocally whether ergonomics training and practices are more widely applicable. There is the possibility that simply addressing the issues of comfort, improved the operators' outlook, and so longer-term studies that would determine whether product quality improvements are sustained would demonstrate whether the approach is cost effective in the long-run or not.

The team adds that more sophisticated ergonomics interventions, such as installing sit-stand workstations and implementing cellular machine sewing practices should now be investigated to see whether they too can improve working conditions and product quality in the apparel and other manufacturing industries.

Albert Ang | alfa
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