Many people believe, and rightly so, that ergonomics helps people feel comfortable and reduces injuries at work. But can ergonomics help in other ways? Or more specifically can ergonomics improve product quality?
It seems as though it can. I recently read a research article titled “The Influence of Production Ergonomics on Product Quality” by J. Almgren and C. Schaurig. At a Volvo Production plant in Sweden, a study was undertaken to see how many errors occurred in tasks with good ergonomics vs. tasks with poor ergonomics. It was found that twice as many errors occurred in the tasks with the poor ergonomics than with the good ergonomics. As a result, extra time was needed to be taken to fix the errors and this affected the quality of the product.
In another article, “Ergonomics and quality in paced assembly lines” by L. Lin, C.G. Drury, S.-W. Kim, a study was undertaken on a manual assembly line in a camera plant. The number of defects was measured at each workstation and it was found that there was over a 50% of difference in quality between the two lines. The reason for this difference in quality was because of two ergonomic variables: increased time taken to complete the task and poor posture.
And in a third article “Relationships between ergonomics and quality in assembly work” by Jörgen A.E. Eklund, quality deficiencies were three times as common for poor ergonomics tasks compared to other tasks. The ergonomic variables were identified as discomfort from injury, organizational issues, and time pressure. Another interesting finding in this study was a high link between job satisfaction and product quality – to be happy in their jobs, workers ranked producing good quality products as very important. So not only is product quality good for the bottom line, it results in happier, more productive employees.
This is a great example of another way that ergonomics is beneficial. Not only does it reduce injuries and increase comfort, but it improves product quality and results in happier employees. And in the end, that’s just what every company and employee needs.