By: Ergonomics  11-27-2009
Keywords: Furniture, health, Health Care

Dan MacLeod

July 25, 2006


This case example is based on the financial benefits over a 10-year period at a small die cast operation in central .  Its products are electrical components of the sort that could easily be relocated to or .

Currently, this facility has incorporated more ergonomics improvements per capita than most other facilities that I am aware of.  In fact, it is difficult to spot any employees in the classical bad working positions like bending down to get parts or reaching overhead.

The plant also has a very nice success story in terms of costs and benefits.  Undoubtedly, these effects have occurred throughout many operations, but the advantage here is that this facility is small, i.e., only about 100 employees.  As is often true, causes and effects are more visible in small facilities and plant-wide successes easier to document. 

Comments on graphs

The plant produces electrical fittings and has a large die cast operation.  Total pounds of zinc cast per employee in this case is a good measure of productivity.  The actual numbers are:

1995       10,100 lbs     200 employees

2006         7,800 lbs     100 employees

The absenteeism and turnover reductions are related in part to other factors, primarily the economic downturn in the past number of years.  However, one of the work areas with the highest absenteeism and turnover was in the hot die cast building and involved repetitive lifting of heavy loads.  These rather undesirable jobs were among the first to be addressed.

More details on the specific improvements are provided on the next few pages, but the summary costs and benefits can be summarized roughly as follows:

Investment Costs

Hopper Loading Systems (2)                               $120,000

Packing Stations (17)                                               42,500

Tumbling Material Handling System                        330,000

Total One-Time Costs                                 $492,500

Annual Savings

Labor                                                               $1,200,000

Workers’ Comp                                                    410,000

Absenteeism:                                                        300,000

Turnover:                                                         not available

Total Annual Benefits                            $1,910,000 +

The equipment changes were a combination of ergonomics, lean manufacturing, and automation.  At this level, these strategies are often intertwined.  The following are brief descriptions of the most important improvements.


In the past, packing was done in a different area and the assembled products were brought to that area in bins with a forklift.  As part of a lean manufacturing strategy, the plant decided to relocate the packing into the assembly area.  To achieve this goal, the plant needed to do two things:

  1. Reduce the physical and time demands on the assembly employees by eliminating the manual loading of bins, which was accomplished by using the loading system described above.
  2. Raise the completed parts up to an appropriate work height.

Of special note, plant engineering decided that purchasing inclined conveyors was too expensive, so they built their own for roughly $400 using an I-beam, an electric motor, a belt, and a modest amount of steel supports.

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