Category Archives: The Impact of Worker Discomfort on Product Quality

Remote working from home: Posture, Ergonomics, Exercises: a series on more choices when you are at home

SERIES ONE:  YOUR CHAIR IS THE FOUNDATION FOR A BETTER POSTURE

The ability to change your posture yet maintain a good posture when working at a computer for extended time periods is like good real estate:  location, location, location!  Without going into extreme details, good and changing postures maintain optimal joint alignment, uses various muscle groups for sustaining of different postures, that ultimately reduce those nasty trigger points on either side of the base of your neck, low back stiffness, and other stiff joints.  Most often we sit in chairs at work, that have rollers on them, side arms, and some handle mechanisms to change the height or tilt of the chair.  And if the chair you use does not help you when at work, your physical complaints begin to over ride your ability to focus on tasks at hand.  In many organizations, you may not have a choice of the chair that is good for you.  Now that you may be working from home, your choices and adaptations expand immensely.   For an example:  at work you would like to sit on an exercise ball, but the company policy is no exercises balls to be used as chairs secondary to liability reasons.  At home, you can certainly use an exercise ball as a choice. 

Lets begin with the “I don’t have a chair with wheels, and that would certainly be nice to have.”  Find one or two chairs, that will fit several postural changes and attach furniture sliders on the legs by attaching them with sticky backed Velcro.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sliders-300x225.jpg
Furniture sliders work well on carpet and are easily attached to legs of most chairs.

   This way the sliders are easily removed.  Placing sliders on the legs allows to push the chair around without too much friction and resistance.  If your home office space is hardwood or tile, use the thick felt pads and attach them in the same manner with Velcro. 

At home, you can make most chairs fit for changing your posture frequently, thereby reducing over fatigue of postural muscles.  The key component is when changing your posture, work in a stretch or a 15 second exercise.  All which helps to “reset” muscle firing patterns and to normalize postural muscle firing rates. 

So, you have picked out a few chairs.  The next step is to figure out which one or two will work better for you.  The chair is a piece of equipment that can determine your pelvic position.  This is important to determine optimal pelvic alignment first.

GOLD:  The Position of Your Pelvis is the Foundation to How the Rest of You Aligns!

I wrote a piece before about good posture in sitting, and, I think redundancy builds in the habit; so let’s review how pelvic alignment really aligns the remainder of your spine that includes your head.  Your pelvis, made up of 3 bones on the left and right side of your body connect to your sacrum, the triangular bone at the base of your lumbar spine.  All together these bones form a bowl shape.  Your hips are also apart of the pelvis.  The red circle surrounds this pelvic region.  The picture to the right shows the person in what is called a “posterior pelvic tilt”.  Nothing wrong with that, but this tilt of the pelvis is actually dictating how the spinal bones will align traveling to the head.  This posture creates a domino affect to the rest of your torso, including your shoulders.  And, with prolonged static postures, as is common in computer tasks, the muscles associated with posture begin to behave abnormally, that you cannot detect.  By the time you detect muscle soreness, fatigue, headaches, or joint stiffness, this abnormal muscle firing and firing patterns have been going on inside of you for a long time. 

Current ergonomic postulates state that the hips and knees should be at a 90 degree angle for proper sitting postures at seated work stations.  Yet when hips are flexed at 90 degrees, the pelvis is more apt to be in a posterior position.  The many individuals will correct by increasing the pelvic tilt to an anterior tilt that increases lower lumbar disc pressure.  All of this information, still very basic, may appear to be too detailed, yet it is in the understanding of your position, that will empower you to do and correct properly.

The picture to the left has the hips in more of a 100 degree angle, which, is good.  Now begin to look up the spine: The red line shows the true plumb line.  So, in this picture, the person is leaning back slightly, which increases shear force on the sacrum, increases a forward head and rounded shoulder posture.  I would not use this picture as a good visual for seated posture.     

Learning from Visuals

Since most of us have difficulty “feeling” where our body’s are in space and understanding and feeling a correct manner verses what we are used to doing, (usually not correct),  and if there is no professional to truly help you to discern and self correct, then good visuals are another method.  Since this paper is to talk solely on the chair, the above are pictures that can help you to learn an optimal posture that you can sustain.  Let me repeat here again that sustain static positions are the worst repetitive motion, therefore sitting for long periods of time at a work station, say, longer than 15 minutes, reeks havoc not only on the musculoskeletal system, but metabolically as well.  Use some of the short visual basics as choosing and using a chair to your greatest advantage!

If you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out to us!

info@physicalperformancesolutions.com

PH: 803-275-7675

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.