By Joy M. Ebben, Ph.D, CPE
Human Factors and Ergonomic Specialist, IAC Industries, Brea, Calif.
Parrallel layouts... can reduce awkward postures and improve line of sight in both directions...
In manual assembly operations, using workstations with conveyors creates a common ergonomic problem. Typically, operators are forced into awkward, nonneutral working postures while the conveyors generate contact force on arms, wrists or legs.
Ergonomic workstation design has improved integration with conveyors for seated operations. Achieving proper working height for standing operations is costly when conveyors are involved.
The conveyor, not the worker, moves the product. This reduces material handling time and human energy expended.
Sometimes it is better for one person to complete all the assembly tasks. Not only does this lead to job enlargement, and possibly increased job satisfaction, it could reduce risk of musculoskeletal disorders.
Besides creating ergonomic problems for the workstation configuration, conveyor systems are usually in fixed configurations. A straight-line conveyor cannot be easily reconfigured into a U-shaped conveyor. Confirm that an integrated workstation/ conveyor system is correct for your operation.
The primary conveyor application for moving product between people is in-line assembly. For example, each person performs a small number of assembly steps relatively quickly and several people complete all steps.
Typical workstations/conveyor layouts position the station either perpendicular or parallel to the conveyor.
A perpendicular orientation usually forces the user into awkward postures while moving items on ad off the conveyor. The extent of this problem depends on the size of the workstation, the operator’s location, and the size and shape of the item being moved. Another shortcoming of a perpendicular layout is that workers can’t easily see product and people in both directions.
Parallel layouts, however, reduce awkward postures and improve line of sight in both directions if they are designed properly. In either configuration, a good design for seated operations provides the following:
Considering assembly workstations with conveyor systems? Address ergonomic issues to avoid exposing employees to musculoskeletal risks. A professional ergonomist can help you design a successful implementation.
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