Category Archives: The Impact of Worker Discomfort on Product Quality

3D printer manufacturing

Innovation Is Not Just for the New and Most Up-to-Date Products for Consumers

Your employees deserve innovation, too.

3D printer manufacturingA recent article in the Harvard Business Review focused on the importance of U.S. firms bringing home their innovation centers—which they’ve shifted overseas right along with manufacturing (Sridhar Kota, et al., 2018). The article additionally points out that the U.S. “has also lost the ability to do the kinds of process improvements that are essential for innovation.” Our expertise and experience tell us that there’s a particular deficit when it comes to factoring in the humans, particularly those on the production line and the assembly floor.

Sports medicine technology and injury prevention innovations and their benefits are not being captured by industry.  Innovations made in data science, virtual technologies, and data collection and manipulation can now reveal, in real time, just how individuals move, thereby creating the platforms for movement retraining and other methods to restore optimal movements in any individual employee.  The impact of poor movement and the benefits of optimal movement aren’t a line item on any profit and loss statement, but they are certainly being felt there.  You’ll never see human movement in a strategy document, either, but you should, and here’s why.

As technology innovations advance, companies can begin to see exponential growth.  However, if these new types of technologies are imbalanced within a company, collisions will begin to occur—in output, life cycles, and elsewhere.  Although these innovations work on paper, they don’t always integrate and succeed on the assembly floor.

An example here would be that engineering innovators are using technologies such as virtual simulators, like 3D printing and other types of technologies.  While on the assembly floor, employees are still required to contort their bodies in order to assemble the product.  Some of the processes can now take longer due to the intricacies of advancements in product design and manufacturing.

In addition, these enhanced assembly processes now require increased skills from employees.  Current employees require more training, and new employees require new and different training.  This eats up valuable resources and does show up on the profit and loss statement as employees must be educated, trained, and mentored much longer.

Manufacturers have no choice but to invest in innovative approaches in the manufacturing assembling process.  Robotic assembly is not the only innovative restructuring process out there, and in fact is ancient in today’s marketplace. Powerfully integrating employees into today’s advanced manufacturing processes is the Holy Grail.

This type of methodology and use of technology can be referred to as “translational research”: not only investing in the R&D, but turning that R&D into physical reality, and that includes technology-enabled proactive and positive integration of the human part of the equation.  It’s this type of innovative use of human-focused technology in process design that can decrease employee injury, increase the consistency of quality of product, and increase the efficiency of production time.

Most large organizations have not yet come to the realization that seeking out cutting edge responses to human limitations on the assembly floor is a critical component of strategy and process design in today’s quickly changing production environment.  SMBs are looking for big business models to follow.  In both cases, the ROI of focusing on such solutions is rapid and a conservative >800% in the first few months.*

For some years to come, human beings will be on the assembly floor, much of the work there requiring more awkward positions and/or tedious fine motor skills of the upper extremities.  Biology of the human body is not getting a facelift in the near future.  Therefore, using the innovations happening in human movement analysis, correction and optimization will help to integrate and capitalize on the human aspect of assembling the new innovations created by engineering designers.

*Case studies available on request.

Employee Morning Stretch Program

Why Your Morning Stretch Programs May Be Waning

Employee Morning Stretch Program
Many organizations have some type of morning stretch program prior to the work day.  They are often led by employees volunteering to lead the program.   We consistently observe at various companies that many employees do not participate in the program.  When asked why, the reasons are varied and some examples are:

  • “Stretching isn’t for me.”
  • “I don’t like it.”
  • “I do this at home.”

Such generalized statements led us to think:  Why?  We gathered some of these employees and asked them if they would help us in finding answers.  What we determined is that many employees do not participate because:

  • They know their range of motion is very limited and they're embarrassed;
  • They're overweight and consequently cannot perform the stretches, and again are embarrassed, or
  • They think that stretching will re-aggravate prior surgeries or injuries.

Morning stretch programs should be designed specifically for these individuals, but are not.  Allowing the morning stretch program to falter and die is a disservice to the employee.

Organizational managers and top executives can't be focused on output and EBITDA alone.  Remember, it's the assembling employee that IS your means to achieve your output.   If the employees are not educated and motivated to increase their physical abilities, the output will be continued accidents, inconsistent quality, longer output times and employee injuries.

If your stretching program is going through a similar decline, rather than scrapping the program welcome wellness companies in to revamp, teach, educate and motivate and continue to evolve the program.  Stretching—proper, individualized stretching—requires professional education and in-person guidance.

Targeting the audience of employees that are very reluctant and may need this the most in order to prevent soft tissue injuries at work or outside of work takes a gentle touch, the right stretches, and a cheerleader’s loving enthusiasm to get them to stay the course.

The benefits of treating musculoskeletal discomfort before it becomes injury.

The Benefits of Reducing Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) Through Better Movements, Postures and Tools

The Benefits of Treating musculoskeletal discomfort before it becomes injury.
Let’s be realistic: many organizations’ production/manufacturing processes and equipment will not be changing to “fit” the worker any time soon. And even if they were, workers will still become injured. Why? Soft tissue adhesions will continue to happen due to work station alignments that can’t be customized to individual workers. MSDs will result in individuals due to historical injuries that are difficult to record, track or know about. “Proactive” ergonomic changes such as reducing steps or reducing how many times someone handles materials can inadvertently cause other worker injury risks. For example, changing the work requirement from walking to static standing can be absolutely debilitating.

What’s left out of so many employee health and safety or ergonomic programs is a a focus on the individual. A blanket ergonomic program can correct many problems, but ultimately one size fits one. A proactive program to analyze and correct poor movements for individuals as well as overall has many benefits.

Such as:

  • Focusing on and correcting poor movements ultimately reduces costs. By proactively preventing and reducing MSDs, companies save approximately $1 out of every $3 in workers’ compensation costs. By continuing to focus on and correcting poor movements everywhere in the company and reducing the MSDs, indirect costs also go down, which can be up to 20 times the cost of one reported injury. If an average cost of an MSD episode without surgery costs $12,000.00, indirect costs will be dramatically higher!
  • Correct human movements boost productivity. Posture and movement solutions improve productivity by reducing muscle fatigue, especially towards the latter half of the work day. Optimal movement patterns need less muscle exertion, resulting in better efficiency of movement and a better quality product produced.
  • To emphasize, correct human movements improve product quality. Non-efficient movements lead to fatigued workers. This creates two issues: 1), increased risk for an injury due to lack of concentration, and 2), decreased quality of product made. The latter now delves into indirect costs rising.
  • Proactive programs to resolve movement-related discomforts create better employee/employer relations. Employees do notice when their employer takes action to foster their health and safety. And they certainly know when they feel better! And feeling better directly as a result of an employer-sponsored, employee-centric program builds a sense of satisfaction, loyalty and commitment of the company as a whole to build better products and to stay happily engaged in the process. Less employee turnover means less dollars spent on the hiring process and re-training. Less job-related fatigue and discomfort means less time away from work, less shifts that have to be covered, less disruption overall.
  • Early symptom intervention programs cultivate better safety practices. Safety is obviously a core value these days. As proactive care programs permeate a company’s culture, they increase all employees’ education on health and safety, demonstrate the value the company places on its employees, and improve employee self-esteem. It’s not the product or your customers that is your most important asset. It’s your employees. And caring for them in this way has an exceptional ROI.