Your employees deserve innovation, too.
A 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.