Chapter 13

The Economic Impact of Integrating Ergonomics within an Automotive Production Facility

W. Gary Allread William S. And Marras

13.1 Introduction

Since Henry Ford perfected the assembly line in the early 20th century, automotive production work has been associated with repetitive activities. That is, an assembly worker performs the same or similar activities over and over throughout his or her shift. In addition, advances in technology and process control throughout the past several decades have shortened cycle times, further increasing efficiency and productivity. From a strict industrial engineering perspective, these improvements in manufacturing help to streamline production and use of resources.

Unfortunately, repetitive movements and rapid work can negatively impact one valuable production resource—the employee. The National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine (2001) found that increased reports of low back pain were related to frequent bending and twisting as well as to load moment (i.e., the combination of an object's weight and the distance from the spine it is held) and heavy physical work. Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) of the upper extremities also were clearly associated with repetitive work, along with high-force exertions and exposure to vibrating surfaces.

Recent statistics suggest that, when employees produce goods using repetitive and rapid movements, their injury risk increases. In the United States, the manufacturing sector comprises just ...

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