Jumat, 31 Desember 2010

Industrial Ergonomics, Productivity and Competitiveness

Ergonomics actually impacts our everyday life, from the home and especially to the industrial workplace. We describe ergonomics as designing products, work facilities and workplaces to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and productivity of the worker. And, more importantly, to improve worker's safety and health. There are so many definitions for ergonomics terms such as human factors, human factors engineering, human engineering, human factors psychology, engineering psychology, applied ergonomics, occupational ergonomics, industrial ergonomics, and industrial engineering. The most inclusive terms are ergonomics and/or human factors. Both represent to the study of work and the interaction between man and his work environmental systems. The main objective is especially fitting with the need to design, develop, implement and evaluate human-machine and environment systems that are productive, comfort, safe and satisfying to use.

According to the International Ergonomics Association, ergonomics is defined as a science that applies knowledge of human physical and mental abilities to the design of products, processes, workplaces and complex human technology (and also environment) interaction. The simply definition of ergonomics is the study of work, which is associated with human psychology and physical work. Looking at how ergonomics impacts the workplace, future ergonomists could contribute to the design and assessment of workplaces across the country. Many ergonomists typically focus on the evaluation and design of workplaces, where both the physical (such as lifting, repetitive motion, lighting, noise and energy expanded) and the cognitive (such as perception, attention, decision making, etc) would operate. Preventing eyestrain, headaches and musculoskeletal disorders and obtaining optimal performance can be achieved when equipment, workstations, products and working methods are designed according to human capabilities and limitations, that is by applying the principles of ergonomics. Ignoring these basic principles of ergonomics will cause many problems such as injuries and occupational diseases, increased absenteeism, higher medical and insurance costs, increased probability of accidents and errors, higher turnover of workers, less production output, lawsuits, low-quality of work, less spare capacity to deal with emergencies, etc.

The adoption of an ergonomic approach in the workplace (industries) has a proven track record. Probably, the first prehistoric man to use a tool for his protection or service as the founder of human factors thinking. Indeed, an ergonomics study of people-powered farming tools (e.g. axe, sickle, scythe, etc) in agriculture era reveals change over time that informally reflects the work system development cycle. More over it will continuous until the development of machine-powered and computerized machine-controlled in the era of industrialization and informatics technology. The ergonomic principles could also be applied in micro-scale (man-machine system) until macro-scale (industrial organization) with focusing still into human factors. The first organized effort in the “industrial engineering ergonomics” is usually attributed to Frederick Winslow Taylor, who in 1898 restructured an ingot loading task at Bethlehem Steel – USA. Taylor delineated basic ergonomic principles of work design and formalized time and motion studies which became the basis for today’s task analysis and enhance productivity in industry. Additionally, Frank and his wife Lillian Gilbreth, Fayol, Muntersberg, Barnes, Granjean, Mundel, Kroemer, McCormick, Sanders, etc introduced a new paradigm and useful tools for safe and productive technology. Moreover, they developed standards, recommendations, procedures, etc concerning working conditions and occupational, health and safety (OHS) to improve productivity, competitiveness and quality of work life.

Industry should be specially treated in the field of ergonomics because of their need to apply ergonomics in their work. They face many problems, such as poor quality, low productivity, health and safety (OHS) problems of the workers and high rejection costs because of so many waste or unproductive activities (idle, delay, material handling, accidents, etc). These problems are mostly caused by lack of ergonomic workstation design, machine and tools design, products design, processes, and work environment. Many ergonomic researchers and organizations attempted to fulfill the needs of the industry by promoting the use of ergonomics to solve their problems. Their work is reviewed, presented and discussed in so many seminars and other scientific forums. Some cases are not only beneficial for promoting academic degrees, but also implemented as really industrial ergonomics’ problem solving.

Ergonomics was a new and emerging field in the Indonesian industries and was a useful tool for safe and productive technology transfer from the Industrially Advanced Countries. Moreover, the standards, recommendations, procedures, etc. concerning working conditions and occupational health and safety (OHS) developed in the industrially advanced countries would not be fully applied because of the differences in climate, people (anthropometrics, cultures), method of work, facilities, infrastructures of technology, finance, etc. The education and training succeeded in creating ergonomics & OHS awareness and motivated employees to utilize their creative problem-solving capacity. Hopefully, these had helped Indonesia industries in tackling low productivity, lack of quality and OHS problems.

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