When implementing ergonomic guidelines on the plant floor, it’s important to look, listen and learn. David Verrill, applications support manager at IAC Industries Inc. (Brea, CA) recommends following these six steps:

1. Look around. “Look everywhere in your facility,” says Verrill. “The rule that gets developed for one assembly line may be an absolute exception for another area within the same facility.” This step basically involves brainstorming and making lists.

2. Talk to each of your operators and listen. “It may have become readily apparent in step one that everyone on the assembly line might benefit from a swing arm tool caddy and a tool trolley,” Verrill points out. “But, your operators accomplish their tasks daily. They know what will and won’t work for their particular workstation. Sometimes, adding accessories is a waste of money if a particular operator refuses to use it.”

3. Consider what type of training will be necessary to encourage operators to use the improvements that are being proposed. “I know of a [manufacturer] that spent nearly $20,000 on adjustable footrests and simply threw them under each workstation,” says Verrill. “The intent-improved postures and greater operator comfort-was certainly honorable. But, this company didn’t realize any short-term benefits, because it didn’t bother to explain to the operators why they were receiving the footrests and how they should be used. The purchase was deemed a wasteful failure until I was brought in to speak with everyone and demonstrate the benefits they would realize from using the footrests correctly. Luckily, the tides changed and the solution was eventually deemed a great success story.”

4. Research outside your facility. In addition to conducting an extensive Web search, Verrill suggests speaking with peers in other industries. Attending conferences such as the upcoming Assembly Summit is a good way to do that.

5. Write a draft, review it and rewrite it as many times as necessary to ensure that all aspects have been considered. Verrill says this may be a good time to consider partnering with a vendor that can provide some genuine guidance, as opposed to trying to make a larger sale by piling on a bunch of accessories. “One misconception with ergonomic solutions is that the most expensive solution is the best,” says Verrill. “That isn’t always the case. Most insurance companies also provide consultation services like this, and they [often have experience solving problems in a wide range of] industries.”

6. Implement written guidelines, improvements and training, and be ready to make some adjustments. “Guidelines are exactly what the word implies,” warns Verrill. “There is no hard rule involved upon which improvements cannot be made. Schedule a regular review of ergonomic guidelines and update them whenever necessary.”