Productivity and Safety Gains: Ergonomic Improvement Contest is Win-Win

posted on: Saturday November 9, 2013

DSC_6751Anyone in the manufacturing industry who seeks to improve productivity and eliminate injury-causing activities at a low price can learn a lot from this year’s finalists in Humantech’s “Find it – Fix it” challenge.  2013 marks the seventh year that Humantech has held this global contest for its clients in which 41 companies participated to submit over 180 entries.

The goal of the contest was for companies to create low-cost, high-impact solutions to ergonomic issues in their manual material handling operations. The designs needed to increase productivity, improve worker morale, and decrease injuries and illnesses. Contestants were judged based on: risk reduction, creativity, sustainability, waste reduction, and photo quality. e results are jaw-droppingly impressive.

Humantech narrowed down their pool to 15 finalists, two of which received honorable mentions and one of which was the lucky winner. The webinar announcing the winner describes the 15 finalists’ projects. The ingenuity and results in each of the 15 final submissions are astounding. (You can read the 15 finalists and access the webinar here: Here is a summary of what some of the companies accomplished:

  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber – Riesa, Germany: installed an automated lifting and lowering device to replace the manual job of changing liner rolls. The BEST score went from 34 to 18; Niosh lifting index went from 3.5 to zero. The ergonomic risk was reduced by 47%. Change time went from 5.1 minutes to 3.2. This project earned honorable mention in the 2013 contest.
  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber – Harahan, LA: replaced job of two employees manually lifting 170-pound tailgate with a mechanical boat winch system. Even with two people performing this job, the recommended lift maximum of 24 pounds was exceeded. A manual lift shoulder injury from the past cost the company over $32,000. The solution cost $500, completely eliminated all lifting, and made the task a one-person job.
  • Timken Company – Mesa, AZ: designed a portable, swiveling holding fixture to replace the fixed, non-adjustable fixture used to repair turboprop engines. Not only was the design an ergonomic success, it cut down a whopping seven hours of time per unit to complete the job.
  • Colorado Springs Utilities – Colorado Springs, CO: redesigned their sand bag hopper to eliminate all the discomfort caused by the old design and improve their rate from filling 35 rock socks and hour to 100.
  • Quad/Graphics – Lomira, WI: used an existing roll track to design a height-adjustable cart to eliminate the need to manually hoist 90-pound paper roll shafts and carry them 15 feet to place on a new roll. Their BEST score went from 30 to 7.5 for a75% reduction; their Niosh index went from 2.1 to zero – a 210% reduction!
  • Georgia-Pacific – Wauna Mill, Clatskanie, OR: employees spent $120 on a project that would have cost $50,000 for a store-bought system. They fastened garbage can rolling attachments to the bottom of hose spools. They attached their spindle to a pallet and eliminated the awkward postures used to previously access the spools.

Not only did these projects improve the jobs targeted, they significantly impacted productivity and injury risk – and for a fraction of outsourced costs. The fixes were all developed by company employees and often fabricated from pieces already in-house. While the winners are enjoying a well-deserved celebration, all contestants are benefitting from amazing improvements they should be proud of. It goes to show that an ergonomic improvement doesn’t have to be elaborate to make a big impact. (For links to contest results, see below.)

Of course, not all ergonomic solutions can be fabricated from in-house materials. Buying equipment is sometimes necessary to improve BEST scores and Niosh indexes. However, the right equipment will impact productivity, injury risk, and morale so greatly that the ROI is relatively short. For pushing and pulling tasks, Load Movers power tugs have been successful in significantly increasing productivity and reducing injuries.  They are economical, practical, and used for lean manufacturing across the globe. For information about our products, search this site, email, or call 952-767-1720.

For more details on the honorable mentions and the winner of the 2013 Find it – Fix it Challenge, visit or