Ergonomics done right.®
September 13th, 2010

BMW & the “Silver Tsunami”

Sm_NEWbmw_0905_480x360 Last Sunday morning, CBS aired a segment on how BMW has found a creative way to solve the “silver tsunami” (aka- the aging workforce) – click here to view .  This special BMW project was highlighted in a March 2010 Harvard Business Review Article entitled “How BMW Is Defusing the Demographic Time Bomb” by Christoph H. Loch, Fabian J. Sting, Nikolaus Bauer, Helmut Mauermann.

The long and the short of the story is that they staffed line employees such that the average age was 47 years old.  Then, they asked the workers what they needed to make the workstations better.  They report that they implemented about 70 simple and small changes to the workplace. 

Total project cost, including purchase of materials & tools, modifications to equipment and people’s time was about $50K.  The payoff?  The defect rate dropping to zero, production going up 7% and absenteeism on the line falling below the plant’s average.

What I find particularly interesting is that BMW is now taking a very similar approach to improving their other lines, seeing the method not simply as a way of helping  the older people in their plants; rather a “new” plan to improve productivity plant wide.

Doesn’t this project sound familiar to you?

It does to us… all of this improvement comes from the application of the science of ergonomics – and a shop floor focused approach on improvement (in other words, The 30-Inch View).  What I find disappointing is the fact that not once in the article in Harvard Business Review, nor the segment on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” program, do they utter the word ergonomics.

The battle continues!