Ergonomics done right.®
March 12th, 2008

Live from AEC: Ergo Cup

One of the truly unique aspects of the AEC is the International Ergo Cup Competition. Each year, ergonomics teams from around the world put their innovative workplace ergonomics solutions head-to-head to claim the coveted Ergo Cup.

The goal of this competition is to recognize and encourage the development of innovative ergonomics solutions and education in the workplace. From training programs to engineering solutions, the competition comes from all sectors and includes companies both large and small. Any organization that can demonstrate an effective ergonomics project that took place in the preceding 24 months is eligible.

    Who does Josh like so far?

Hammering to Hydraulics: GE Energy – Bangor ME
This motivated group faced the problem of routinely hammering buckets (i.e., blades) into place around a turbine with incredible force and high precision and then ring the process to move them around the entire circumference of the unit. They were wearing out people and even the brass hammers couldn’t keep up. One of the team members talked about a process they call "Try Storming" where they didn’t just suggest ideas, they tried them. They tried tooling from the concrete leveling world to vibrate the buckets in place. No luck. Then they modified the tooling on a second try and still no dice. Finally, the team came up with a simpler answer. Use a sliding wedge plate attached to a hand pump hydraulic pack to move the buckets. Bingo! No more hammering and the ring process was eliminated. Just a few hand pumps and the work is done. How did the team feel about their effort? Scott’s response was classic Maine, "Pretty wicked cool, eh?" One twentieth the physical effort in a third of the time…pretty cool!

Center Panel Fixture: Honda of Canada Manufacturing – Alliston, Ontario Canada
While people love their car entertainment systems, the line associates at HCM didn’t feel quite the same way.  The Civic in-dash systems required multiple handling of the 20 pound units while working on all four sides of the product during sub-assembly prior to installation (and don’t scratch the LCD face or finished surfaces or its scrap). Two line leaders (Mark and James) described their improvement project. A five-access gyro fixture was made in-house to support the unit during assembly. They then used roller mechanisms and nylon guides to support part entry and exit and a brilliant cam action tilting mechanism ensured correct posture when the part is rotated. The results are impressive:

  • 67% reduction in part rejections
  • 100% associate acceptance
  • 70% reduction in line side space for the workstation
  • 8 second cycle time reduction
  • Under $10k in development costs, nearly $100k in annual savings

Who were the key players according to Mark and James? "If this project were a hockey game (spoken like true Canadians), our 3 stars would be:

  1. The line associates – they knew the process best and gave real world feedback
  2. Line supervision – At HCM supervisors are shoulder to shoulder with the associates and this was critical as the team tried out new ideas. Quality concerns  communicated directly to line management led us to the problem and ergonomics assisted us in developing the right countermeasures to mitigate the solution
  3. Senior Management – they kept the faith in the team as we learned from the process and developed. Now we can put these learnings to work in this Honda, the next Honda, and all new Hondas.

More tomorrow….