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Ergonomic workstations for industry and logistics

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

Long neglected, the physical and mental state of operators in industry and logistics has now become a central concern.

Comfortable working conditions contribute to well-being in the workplace, and that in turn has a positive knock-on effect on workers' performance.

With these aims in mind, correct handling of the notions of ergonomics and organisation of the work environment is essential.

What do we mean by workstation ergonomics?

The term ergonomics comes from the Latin "ergon" and "nomos" meaning "work'' and "law". Ergonomics is a field of scientific study analysing humans' working conditions within companies as well as the relationship between human, machine and environment.

The idea is to adapt the working environment (tools, equipment, spatial organisation, etc.) to the needs of the individual. When the working conditions and environment are favourable, the individual gains in effectiveness and performance. All of which contributes to the sustainability of an activity.

Thanks to feedback from the field and scientific reports based on studies lasting several years, there are more and more useful tools and levers available to improve ergonomics.

Ergonomic assessment: a logical process based on 3 approaches

- the physical relationship between the machine and the user: a work tool must be suitable for its user, guaranteeing them a maximum of physical comfort. Bad posture can lead to conditions and illnesses that can impact an operator's physical integrity over the medium and long term. It very often causes musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which can lead to time off work or even inability to work.

- the cognitive approach: this approach concerns how a person's daily tasks affect them mentally. The work environment and machinery must contribute to the operator's motivation and good concentration and not interfere with the performance of their duties.

- the work organisation and the social ties between people: in a company, each employee has a given role and must be fully aware of that role. Accordingly, mutual respect between individuals and good relations are goals that should be shared by any organisation. The management of human relations and conflicts undeniably contributes to workplace ergonomics from a social point of view.

The different types of ergonomics

These are closely linked to the 3 approaches outlined above:

- physical ergonomics: this is about the interaction between the human body and the workstation or equipment used. The aim is to protect physical integrity as much as possible.

- cognitive ergonomics: the aim here is to provide a healthy workspace compatible with the tasks to be carried out. This means facilitating good concentration, good perception and good memorisation of the tasks to be accomplished. Therefore, cognitive ergonomics impact the person's mental state.

- organisational ergonomics: this concerns all aspects of relational management in the company. It encourages better organisation and personnel management.

Effects of ergonomics on quality of work

To measure its effects, it is first of all necessary to identify the levers that can be used to optimise the ergonomics of a work environment in industry or logistics.

The workstation is without doubt the most strategic and impactful element in terms of ergonomics in an organisation. It is the most important thing used by any employee to accomplish their tasks.

The design of the workstation directly impacts the user's physical condition and performance. For example, you have to decide whether your employees can do their job standing up or whether they need to be seated at their workstation. If they need to be seated, they will need to have a comfortable posture to avoid back problems, as well as muscle and joint pain (MSDs).

This design will also contribute substantially to the performance of the activity by ensuring better prevention of non-quality. If the work is well organised (e.g. the right tools in the right place) and methodically planned (e.g. step-by- step assembly processes) in a given space, the risk of errors will be reduced.

Ease of access to machines and tools as well as the general organisation of a workspace (e.g. positioning of one workstation in relation to the next one) need to be observed when considering to ensure that operators can carry out their tasks efficiently. And that means without wasting time and without unnecessary disruption.

Raise and lower functions, articulated arms to reach containers with more ease, adjustable screen holders for quicker access to information, etc. In recent years manufacturers have been coming up with ever more ingenious ideas, developing an ever-growing number of accessories and features to make workspaces more practical.

This may appear to be a secondary issue, but we would also emphasise the importance of lighting on a workstation. Good-quality, non-aggressive lighting, directed exactly where it is needed will prevent the operator getting overtired and maximise their concentration when carrying out their tasks.

Integrating ergonomic workstations in your work environment

Before getting started on designing an installation, it is important to study your organisation and workflows. NORCAN can share its many years of experience in such matters and help you make the best choices, right from the outset when you start planning your project.

NORCAN offers a multitude of solutions designed to improve the layout and fitting out of your workspaces. We have worked on thousands of custom projects. Therefore, we can provide you with personalised assistance, from the drawing up of the specifications through to construction of the equipment and installation.

Our solutions are reliable, sturdy, and modular. And if your activities and organisation change? Our solutions can always be adapted.

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