Are you Overlooking this Major Obstacle to Productivity?

posted on: Thursday June 8, 2017

family-619570_640Manufacturers will always benefit from more productivity. Any business lives this truth. For manufacturers, however, there are factors that make productivity a unique challenge. It’s why so many great ideas, like Lean, are born from this industry. In the ongoing hunt for a productivity-boosting strategy, however, there is one thing manufacturers may be overlooking.

This issue was once very popular but is now often overlooked. The problem is that productivity wasn’t quantified within this field, so manufacturers don’t necessarily know how directly the two are related. If a manufacturer facing today’s issues wants to strengthen productivity, it’s time to revisit the world of ergonomics.

Historically, ergonomics has been tied to safety, and the ROI has been measured through the expenses spared when workers don’t get injured, file workers’ compensation, take a leave of absence, and so on.

What has been disregarded is the incredible impact ergonomics has on the employees’ ability to be productive, especially in today’s manufacturing labor demographics.

Adrienne Selko covers this in her MH&L article, “Can Better Ergonomics Relieve the Stress of Material Mishandling?” She points out that aging and obesity are prevalent in today’s workplace, and they’re two major factors that influence the potential for injury in a manual material handling environment.

Selko paraphrases Tim McGlothlin, executive director of The Ergonomics Center at North Carolina:

“With reference to aging, the strength of a 65-year-old is 75-80% of that attained between ages of 20-30, McGlothlin notes. At age 60, an individual will have only 60-70% of the maximum aerobic power (MAP) of a 20 year old. MAP, he explains, is a measure of maximum oxygen uptake and is generally used as to determine an individual’s capacity to do work.”

Furthermore, she cites the CDC’s estimate that 66% of the adult population is overweight, and approximately 32% is obese. From this, she states:

“Overweight and obese individuals generally have reduced strength and aerobic capabilities. Their body shape also prevents them from maintaining optimal postures during manual material handling activities.

These limitations can hinder an industry that is under increasing pressure to fulfill e-commerce orders with increased speed and often no extra labor, which again points to the rising interest in automated material handling equipment.”

So how does this directly impact productivity?

It’s very simple. The easier it is to do a job, the more quickly and correctly an employee can do it. In manual material handling, this goes beyond the task itself. You need to consider how the difficulty of the task increases throughout the day as a worker becomes fatigued, especially one who is aged or obese. Productivity can be initially dampened through the effort it demands, and then get even worse as the shift wears on.

As Selko wrote, paraphrasing Earl Hagman, president of Ergotech Inc., in an analysis of the issue. “By adding five minutes more ‘productive time’ per worker per day, a company with 100 workers earning an average of $12.00 an hour will produce a bottom-line return of $50,000 annually.”

The bottom line is that ergonomics has a drastic impact on productivity, and you have simple, effective solutions at hand.

Load Mover Inc. builds battery-powered tugs that were designed with both safety and productivity in mind. These tugs, also called electric cart pushers, relieve workers of the effort of pushing and pulling. They also maximize the amount of work that can be accomplished by one person. Whether it’s a large piece of equipment, a cart full of parts, or ten carts of parts, one person can use a power tug to move it alone in one trip.

To discuss how your employees can use a power tug to be more productive, contact us: 952-767-1720 or