When it comes to ergonomics and environmental compliance, the Renton, WA, plant owned by Kenworth Truck Co. (Kirkland, WA) earns high marks. The recipient of ASSEMBLY magazine's 2004 Assembly Plant of the Year award has also received other laurels.

For instance, the 270,000-square-foot facility recently received an Ergonomics in Action award from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The award recognizes individuals, employers and organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary commitment, leadership or innovation in preventing work-related musculoskeletal injuries.

Kenworth was cited for a number of innovative projects completed at the plant since it opened in 1993. The state of Washington recognized the company for applying ergonomic principles to reduce injuries and increase productivity. Employees and managers worked together to come up with solutions. In fact, ergonomics was incorporated into many of the plant's systems and programs.

"We are grateful for this award from the state in recognizing the improvements we have made and continue to make in the Renton plant," says Tony McQuary, assistant general manager for operations. "By focusing on ergonomic systems and equipment, our plants are safer and more efficient, our employees are more productive and we produce higher-quality trucks."

Kenworth was cited for projects such as equipping assembly areas with manipulators that tilt truck cabs forward to enable workers to install lights and horns. The manipulators help employees easily lift heavy components such as mufflers, exhaust pipes and air cleaners.

The company also installed devices on overhead rails that allow employees to grab components off skids or racks and insert them into trucks. Lifting device grips were adapted to fit the hands of different operators. Kenworth engineers designed and placed ergonomic-friendly equipment in eight assembly departments. In addition, the company realigned parts racks to make them more accessible.

The Renton plant also receives good "grades" for its environmental stewardship. In fact, the facility recently received a Commitment to Compliance award from King County, WA, in recognition for continuous wastewater discharge compliance in 2003.

"As a resident of the City of Renton, the plant takes its role seriously as a leader in the business community in environmental protection and resource conservation," says Doug Baugh, plant manager. Efforts to protect the environment and conserve natural resources include the following:

  • Achieved 100 percent compliance with plant's wastewater discharge permit for five consecutive years.
  • Reduced volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions per unit of production by 59 percent.
  • Reduced hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions per unit of production by 89 percent.
  • Wooden pallets are recycled with other local businesses in the community.
  • Significant use of reusable packaging for purchased materials.
  • Recycling programs are in place for paper, cardboard, wood, steel, aluminum, plastic, oil, anti-freeze and batteries.
  • Paint spray gun wash solvent is recycled on-site.