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The 9 most commonly used ergonomic solutions in manual production

Companies make particularly frequent use of these efficiency-boosting work bench design optimisations for assembly staff. 

A key finding of our study on behavioural ergonomics solutions in manual production is that they are widespread at first glance. Just under 83% of the 153 respondents indicated that such solutions are already in use at assembly workstations at their companies. This statistic alone doesn’t give the full picture, though, because it says little about exactly which solutions are being used and provides no direct comparison of how often each one is utilised. It’s therefore worth looking specifically at the top answers when respondents were asked which ergonomic solutions their companies are currently using. One important thing to note in this connection is that there was no focus on any particular area of manual assembly when selecting participants. The fact that fewer respondents came from companies specialising in the precision assembly of products may explain why there were comparatively few mentions of ergonomic optimisations for this type of work.

Further details in the study

Find out about the current situation regarding ergonomic measures in manual production, and discover potential for optimisation based on user surveys and interviews with experts.

What kind of behavioural ergonomics solutions do companies use in manual production?

Solutions with universal relevance in terms of ergonomic work bench design in industry fare best:

  1. Work chair (76%)

In addition to being the behavioural ergonomics solution used most often at the companies of the study participants, an ergonomic chair also has a major impact on the relevant employee’s wellbeing. To achieve this, the chair should support dynamic sitting by allowing synchronised movement of the seat and backrest. It’s generally important for the sitting position to be adaptable, with numerous adjustment options that the employee can select intuitively while remaining seated. ESD safety is now a must in a growing number of production environments, so it’s becoming more important for chairs to be electrostatically dissipative. A further safety-related aspect is equipping chairs with castors that have a braking function or lock fully in position when under load.

  1. Work bench (75%)

The use of ergonomically configured work benches is virtually on a par with chairs in practice. They represent the two standard measures that are applied at the majority of the companies. The most important requirement is for the work bench height to be adjustable. In addition to ensuring an optimum sitting position for employees of different sizes, this also enables dynamic switching between sitting and standing when working. What’s more, the material for the table top should be selected with a view to avoiding unpleasant contact temperatures and glare from reflections.

  1. Lifting aids (59%)

Lifting heavy loads from a low position is one of the manual production activities that take a particular toll in the long term. Staff often fail to adopt the optimum posture when lifting, which adds to the medium-term risk of long-lasting back problems and the associated absences from work. All kinds of universal lift trucks, material lifters and slewing cranes are available to companies to provide staff with targeted support in this area. The special conditions encountered in production often call for custom factory equipment engineering solutions. The comprehensive item component portfolio provides an ideal basis for this.

  1. Light (55%)

An often underestimated factor that influences optimum ergonomics and efficiency at manual assembly work benches is the selection of appropriate lighting. The use of LED industrial lights has become widespread in such applications. Our special blog post offers tips on selecting the right LED light fitting when configuring industrial workstations. Illumination intensity and colour temperature aren’t the only factors relevant to this decision. An optimum illuminated area and homogeneous lighting play a key role, too. It’s also vital to avoid casting multiple shadows and prevent low-frequency flickering.

  1. Floor mats (46%)

Protecting the floor against soiling and meeting various requirements of an ESD safety concept aren’t the only reasons for having floor mats in manual assembly applications. They also help prevent fatigue during a shift when staff primarily work standing up. The mats compensate for poor foot posture – if staff adopt a relieving posture when carrying out strenuous work, for example. Standing on ergonomic work bench mats is more comfortable in principle, so such mats ideally prevent a relieving posture of this kind being adopted in the first place. It’s important to select the appropriate hardness based on the respective working environment and the employee’s subjective perception. Although very soft mats offer good damping properties, and also stimulate the muscles and the blood flow to the legs, these very properties can lead to fatigue over longer periods.

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  1. Material supply (35%)

When it comes to material provisioning and picking, the ideal place to position components is in the one-handed zone, which staff can reach without turning their body. Employees should ideally be able to adapt the material in this zone to their specific handling area using articulated swivel arms. Components that are needed less often can be located in the extended one-handed zone – on mobile, height-adjustable material supply trolleys, for instance. In terms of accessing tools, every tool should have an allotted place that has been selected based on ergonomic criteria. The item toolpanel® System is one possible option. The resulting routine reaching motions cut the amount of time staff spend looking for tools and changing their grip.

  1. Foot rests (32%)

In cases where height adjustment is impossible due to the work bench design or interlinking with other workstations, foot rests are a vital ergonomic enhancement at work benches for seated operation. They can be particularly helpful for shorter manual production staff, enabling them to adopt an ergonomic sitting posture by reducing the gap between table top and floor. A sufficiently large contact surface and the ability to adjust both the height and incline are key selection criteria for foot rests. An additional rocking and swinging mechanism improves the flow of blood to the legs. Foot rests can also be utilised at work benches for standing operation, where they enable users to move their legs and relieve leg strain by regularly alternating the standing and resting leg.

  1. Tool guidance (31%)

Above all due to their weight, pneumatic drivers and other power tools typically used in manual production can cause staff to adopt constrained postures. They place particular strain on the wrists. A compound slide and tool balancer combination makes working with such tools far less strenuous and thus more efficient in the long term. Thanks to the tool balancer, only a small amount of force is required to pull the tool towards the area of application as it moves over the two axes of the compound slide, just above the working area. Once the necessary steps have been carried out, the employee can place the tool in an ergonomic parked position that is easy to reach.

  1. Arm rests (29%)

In numerous production operations requiring fine motor skills, it’s virtually impossible in practice to avoid manual assembly tasks – even nowadays – and yet it’s precisely the lengthy and complex steps involved in precision assembly that put particular strain on staff. From a behavioural ergonomics perspective, upholstered arm rests provide effective relief in such situations. Targeted support of the shoulder and neck area prevents fatigue, which protects staff and also enables them to work more efficiently.

Further practical recommendations, figures and assessments can be found in the item study “How ergonomically do companies work in manual production?”.