Optimized ergonomics analyses with Motion-Mining®.

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Causes for ergonomics analyses

Nowadays, logistics and production processes are generally subject to a high degree of automation, depending on the industry. Industry 4.0 offers companies numerous new innovations. For example, intelligent, independently operating systems are increasingly taking over significant positions, some of which can no longer be performed by humans. Nevertheless, tasks remain that must be performed by a human due to their complexity or diversity. Ergonomics analyses come into play in these areas. At the same time, the ongoing digital transformation has not yet been completed in all companies or company divisions. In this respect, the area of manual work processes and the human factor continues to be of high importance.

Work in human resources is also becoming increasingly complex against the backdrop of demographic change and the shortage of skilled workers. This makes the analysis and optimization of manual work processes to increase efficiency and the implementation of ergonomics analyses to minimize physical workload all the more important. In many cases, these processes represent an informational "black box", especially in comparison to automated sub-processes. Inefficiencies are perceived, but can only be quantified in the context of an ergonomics analysis. This also applies, for example, to the detection of incorrect postures or repetitive activities, which are revealed during an ergonomics analysis.


Basics of ergonomics analysis

In ergonomics, human or automated work processes are considered and analyzed. Ergonomics analyses form the basis for optimizing measures so that the product of the service provided can be used in the best possible way. The focus of ergonomics analyses includes the working conditions of employees and the work process. Another concern of the ergonomics analysis is the adaptation of the working conditions to the employees, so that even after years of working at their workplace, they can work as fatigue-free and gently as possible and not suffer any physical damage. The main focus of ergonomics analysis is user-friendliness, i.e. the optimization of the working environment, the company and nowadays especially the human-machine interface. People who carry out ergonomics analyses or who also deal with ergonomics on a full-time basis are referred to as ergonomists.

The basic standard DIN EN ISO 26800 Ergonomics - General approach, principles and terms, can be used for orientation, especially for objectives, principles and procedures.


Goals of the ergonomics analysis

The object of an ergonomics is to create products that are easy to use and comfortable and to use them in a targeted manner in companies based on the data obtained from the ergonomics analysis.

In addition, based on the ergonomics analysis, the ergonomic design of the activity is aimed at, the main objective being to ensure an efficient and error-free work process and to protect the employee from health hazards even after several years of work. Ergonomics or ergonomic analyses thus have a special role to play in preventive occupational health and safety, employee health and the economy. This also includes ensuring that tools and machines are durable and designed to be as low-risk as possible.

Ergonomics analyses come into play in work environments whenever an employee comes into contact with machines, aids or other objects during working hours or other activities. In the future, this will also apply to human-free production lines (robots).


Ergonomics analyses in the various fields

In ergonomics analysis, different fields of ergonomics can be distinguished. As a rule, a distinction is made between product ergonomics (micro-ergonomics) and production ergonomics (macro-ergonomics). In the case of highly complex human-machine systems, the transition between the two sub-fields is usually fluid, because the subsequent context of use is also largely responsible for ergonomic product development. For example, when designing work equipment, the conditions of use such as the work environment and the work task should always be considered and taken into account.

Ergonomics as a link between work, technology and people is an interdisciplinary science that consequently encompasses an extremely comprehensive range of topics relating to work and system design that interact with each other.

Thus, ergonomics analysis in relation to system ergonomics includes, for example, the distribution of tasks between man and machine, the degree of automation, or the boundary conditions of the man-machine interface resulting from system integration. An ergonomics analysis in the context of spatial workplace design deals with the survey and description of the human body and the movements to be executed.

Due to the fact that ergonomics sees itself as an interface between humans and technology, the human sciences have a high priority in this field. Questions concerning the physiological characteristics of humans - especially with regard to their physical performance - are investigated in ergonomics analyses in occupational physiology. The interactions between human work and human health are the subject of occupational medicine.

While occupational psychology deals with questions of ergonomics from a psychological perspective, the focus of technical psychology is on the design of human-machine systems. The spectrum of topics ranges from the reliability of the individual to questions concerning psychological concepts for the evaluation of human-machine systems and human-machine interfaces to aspects of perception and cognitive psychology.


Ergonomics analyses - detection of overloads and underloads

An ergonomics analysis with regard to workplace design focuses primarily on physical stress. Environmental variables such as climate, color, noise, vibrations, anthropometry and psychological stress at the workplace also have an influence.

The musculoskeletal system, the supporting apparatus of the human body, is composed of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and connective tissue. It can be stressed by both overuse and underuse. Unhealthy stress situations are identified in ergonomic analyses and corrected accordingly.

By correcting poor movement patterns on the basis of the ergonomic analysis, sick days and absences from work can be avoided on the part of employees. Back disorders account for the largest proportion of musculoskeletal disorders.

Overloads of the musculoskeletal system can be detected by the ergonomics analysis. This includes, for example, overstraining caused by lifting, carrying, pulling or pushing loads, working in forced postures, repetitive tasks and work involving high levels of force. Underuse can be caused by lack of movement (e.g., in office or driving activities).

An ergonomics analysis identifies unfavorable ergonomic conditions at the workplace that lead to tension and, in some cases, serious health problems such as herniated discs or chronic neck pain. Long-term, static work (e.g. at a desk) should therefore only be carried out with ergonomically designed furniture. In addition to ergonomic office furniture, the workplace design is also subjected to close scrutiny during an ergonomics analysis. The arrangement of work equipment, the viewing distance to the screen, the consideration of gripping and movement areas and the lighting of the workplace are important starting points of the ergonomics analysis.

Motion-Mining® process analyses are currently primarily carried out in the production and logistics sectors. In the health care sector, we have also taken the first steps with pilot projects with regard to process optimization. The process analysis is carried out with regard to the recording of internal material flows, care activities and their documentation.


Motion-Mining® ergonomics analyses

Ergonomics analyses within the Motion-Mining® solution approach reveal hidden optimization potential. The solution approach, based on the ergonomics analysis, allows an evaluation of manual work with wearables (wearable sensors, similar to fitness trackers) and a deep learning algorithm, better known as artificial intelligence. Work processes are, during the ergonomics analysis automatically and anonymously captured, processed by artificial intelligence, and converted into human-readable metrics. Currently, we distinguish between more than 60 different motion sequences in our ergonomics analyses. Critical movements such as bending from the back, carrying, lifting, holding, and overhead activities are considered in the ergonomics analysis. These movements are recorded in movement intervals, during the ergonomics analysis. In addition to the typical movements, vibrations and repetitions in particular can also be detected. Based on the data from the ergonomics analysis, overloads, and permanent stresses can be detected and measures to avoid them can be derived.

Usually, efficiency and ergonomics analyses, such as MTM, REFA, or Key Indicator Method, are performed manually. These methods of efficiency and ergonomics analyses are thus extremely time-consuming, specific and require a deeper understanding of the process. Traditionally, these efficiency and ergonomics analyses are recorded, for example, and then evaluated by a trained process engineer using a stopwatch and clipboard. Since the process engineer accompanies an individual employee throughout the efficiency and ergonomics analyses and uses photo or video analyses, among others, for documentation, such efficiency and ergonomics analyses are fundamentally not anonymous. In contrast, efficiency and ergonomics analyses with Motion-MIning® are anonymous throughout the entire recording period and the subsequent analysis. When evaluating an ergonomics analysis, only average values are used, i.e. at least two data tracks are evaluated.

Motion-mining® at a glance

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