Manufacturers and assemblers are spending millions of dollars in new technologies to help keep employees healthy and safe, and with good reason. Many of the jobs on assembly lines physically wear on assemblers, resulting in increased accidents and repetitive motion injuries.
For example, the automotive industry involves a lot of underbody shot work to tighten bolts or drive screws on the underside of vehicles. Performing these tasks manually, especially on an assembly line, means an operator can be holding a fairly heavy (and expensive) tool above shoulder level for most of the work day. Often they must contort their body while holding these heavy tools to work on hard-to-reach places.
Even so-called lighter tasks, such as sitting at a table and affixing fasteners to an electronic assembly, can result in shoulder, neck and arm strains as well as carpal tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries.
Manufacturing workplace safety: The negative ramifications of assembly work on assemblers
Performing assembly work without ergonomic aid has many negative ramifications on employee safety:
- Reduced safety. Operator fatigue can result in accidents and injuries to employees. Inattention to tool placement or misplacement of tools can result damage to expensive tools and the products they are working on.
- Long-term injuries. Assemblers can develop physical damage over time due to the repetitive motions and the associated torque from driving fasteners into assemblies.
- Increased costs. Employee injuries, damaged tools and products, and inefficient processes result in additional workers’ compensation claims.
- Employee Turnover. Employees who are exposed to injuries and safety issues will eventually leave to find better employment, taking industry knowledge with them.
Ergonomic tools for manufacturing
With the use of 3arm ergonomic lift assist devices and pick and place manipulators, manufacturers gain many benefits. Along with increased safety for the employees and a reduction in repetitive injuries, there are also the added benefits of increased consistency and quality of work, improved production, and reduced costs.
3arm industrial lift assist and “pick and place” devices can help increase employee health and safety in several ways:
Improved Safety. 3arm lift assist devices carry the weight of the tool, essentially rendering it weightless for assemblers. This alleviates the strain of holding the tool from the operator, especially when working on hard-to-reach places or underbody assemblies where the tool must be held above shoulder height for the entire shift.
Assemblers and peripheral surroundings are kept safe as the tool is held by the 3arm device and has a limited range of motion. An assembler working with a 20 lb tool could potentially hit a passing employee, damage a piece of expensive equipment with the tool or damage the tool itself. Atlas Copco and ESTIK, two of the biggest torque driving tool manufacturers on the market, carry high-quality tools running from five thousand to fifteen thousand dollars, and damaging one of these is very expensive. If the tool is attached to a 3arm device, it’s limited in motion and cannot be dropped, preventing potential accidents and equipment damage.
3arm solutions can be integrated with the DC control unit of the tool itself, so when assemblers activate the tool, it triggers the pneumatic brakes on the arm to automatically lock so the tool is securely attached to the arm, even if there’s a power failure.
3arm “pick and place” manipulators allow operators to lift and move heavy parts without the potential of injury or repetitive strain. This is especially helpful for assemblers who need to move or place heavy or awkwardly shaped parts, such as windshields, onto an assembly.
Better ergonomics. OSHA reports that work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2018, MSD cases accounted for 30% of all worker injury and illness cases. Examples include pinched nerves, carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome, and other connective tissue disorders, resulting from overexertion or bodily reaction.
Reducing weight and stress on the operator prevents MSDs and other injuries. Tools that are held weightless, such as a 10 to 20 lb pneumatic nutrunner in a 3arm industrial tool holding arm, ensure assemblers are less fatigued not only during their shift, but over their careers. Preventing long-term injuries like carpal tunnel and shoulder, neck and back injuries from musculoskeletal strain benefits a company’s bottom line by reducing worker’s compensation claims.
OSHA estimates that just one carpal tunnel claim can cost a company almost thirty-one thousand dollars in direct expenses and another thirty-four thousand in indirect expenses. That’s an easy justification for investing in an industrial lift assist device by 3arm.
Torque Absorption. Assemblers who drive bolts and fasteners must deal with torque and the possibility of torque reaction. If the assembler is driving a bolt that requires a 50 ft lb torque and doesn’t let go of the trigger in time, the tool will continue to drive the bolt and the torque will transfer to the assemblers’ arm, causing muscle strain or injury. Ergonomic lift assist solutions by 3arm absorb the torque, eliminating this issue and as well as ensuring consistency in the fastening process.
Employee Retention. Employees who work for a company that values their safety and long-term health are more likely to remain with that company. A business that invests in ergonomic devices to improve employee health lets their employees know they are valuable assets. Improving workplace safety and ergonomics reduces turnover and increases retention into the future.
Employee turnover also results in an increase in accidents and injuries due to process and industry knowledge walking out the door. Replacing an employee is costly, according to Gallup, and conservatively costs a business between one half and twice their annual salary. This doesn’t include the costs of recruiting, training and the time it takes for an employee to get up to speed on their job, typically six months or more.
Lift assist devices for manufacturing: The benefits of 3arm for assembly line workers
Ergonomic lift assist devices by 3arm America provide substantial benefits to companies that handle large, unwieldy tools, parts and equipment. Ergonomic assistance arms can substantially reduce worker injuries by eliminating the heavy weight of tools and/or parts from the operator. Aside from improving the workflow process and safety for employees, the company’s bottom line is improved by increased consistency, productivity and quality and reduced scrap, takt time and expenses.
Contact 3arm America for more information on how we can design an ergonomic solution for your assembly needs.