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.
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
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.
details on the specific improvements are provided on the next few pages, but
the summary costs and benefits can be summarized roughly as follows:
Hopper Loading Systems
Tumbling Material Handling
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:
- 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.
- Raise the completed parts up to an appropriate work height.
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.