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Archive for the month “March, 2012”

OM Exam Question

Define Ergonomics and give an example

Current Issues regarding Design of Work Systems

Topic: Improving Organizational Efficiency through arranging Employee Health Maintenance Programmes and Adopting Ergonomic Work System Design Changes


Technological advancements in the work place are having a negative impact on employees’ physical environment, resulting in decreased organizational effectiveness (Naidu & Ramesh, 2011 p.28). Many companies today maintain their competitive by using the most up to date technology or newest form of automation. This trend has created an entirely different working environment seen 20 years before. The use of these technologies, while improving speed and complexity of products, has led to work systems being designed around the technology rather than the employee using it. In an article titled Achieving Organizational Effectiveness through Health Management and Ergonomics published in the journal of Advances in Mangement, the idea of the employees being the focused of the organization and their core competencies is revisited (Naidu & Ramesh, 2011 p.28). This article argues that the shift from human capital to technical automation has created a work environment that contains a number of new hazards for the employee. These hazards in include chemical, environmental and psychological issues. These hazards are a result of the use of chemical processes, increase in noise/vibrations from equipment and increase stress and anxiety. While the increase chemical use and noise/vibrations result from the use of new technology, the increase in stress and anxiety stems from employees feeling their job has been dehumanized and becoming alienated and frustrated as a result (Naidu & Ramesh, 2011 p.28). This increase of hazards decreases the efficiency of the organization by the increase turn over due to health issues, absenteeism due to injury or skilled employees moving to companies with better facilities (Naidu & Ramesh, 2011 p.31).


The articles proposed solution is arranging Employee Health Maintenance programmes in the company while adopting ergonomic changes to the working environment. This dual approach would integrate all elements to decrease amount of injuries at the work place (Naidu & Ramesh, 2011 p.31). A Health Maintenance programme is designed to prevent occupational disease or injury rather than curing it after the fact (Naidu & Ramesh, 2011 p.29). Ergonomics is a discipline involving deigning a work environment that’s purpose is to fit the people in it. In other words it is “the science of balancing between employees and they work they do” (Naidu & Ramesh, 2011 p.30).For example the height of a chair can be adjusted to the height of a work bench allowing the employee to sit comfortably  rather than crouching down putting stress on the lower back and shoulders while working. Both of these methods take a preventative approach rather than a lagging repair approach. These changes can improve the overall efficiency of an organization through improving the working environment of the employees. “Success of an enterprise depends on its workforce. Hence, ensuring physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of employees is an inevitable task of employers” (Naidu & Ramesh, 2011 p.31).


This idea a relationship between the ergonomic design of work environments is tested and confirmed in an article titled Providing External Validity of Ergonomics and Quality Relationship through review of Real-world Case Studies published in the International Journal of Product Research in 2011. This article describes five case studies performed in three manufacturing industries including an assembly plant, metal manufacturing plant and printed circuit assembly plant. All studies provided favourable results. For example, an assembly plant study was done in 2000 by Axelsson relieved that by addressing the issue of awkward postures and providing an ergonomic solution, the percentage of rejected parts was reduced from 8.9% to 5% (Erdinc & Yeow, 2011, p.953). Another case reviewed was a study done by Gonzalez and colleagues in 2003 at a metal manufacturing plant also addressing awkward postures. The result of an ergonomic change in job design was a drop of rejected parts from 1.62% to 0.87% and percentage of reprocessed parts dropped 1.51% overall (Erdinc & Yeow, 2011, p.953). The completion of these studies not only demonstrates a cause and effect relationship between ergonomic intervention, but also provides conclusive proof that “ergonomics is effective for quality improvement” ( Erdinc & Yeow, 2011, p.958).

Additional Benefits

The use of ergonomics to design work systems can also been used as a tool for lean manufacturing comparable to TQM and Six Sigma. The Internal Labour Organization estimates “40% of all costs are related to work related injuries” (Eswaramoorth et al, 2010, p.231). The relationship between lean manufacturing and ergonomics in this instance are concerning profits, rather than employee wellbeing or quality of output. The idea is for the employee to work more efficiently by using ergonomically designed work systems to cut done on waste generated by errors stemming from physical/mental stresses (Eswaramoorth et al, 2010, p.232). For example, referring back to the pervious example of Erdinc and Yeow’s case study of an assembly plant, the reduction in rejected parts from 8.9% to 5% translated into an annual saving of $20,000 US (Erdinc & Yeow, 2011, p.953).


The use of ergonomics for designing work systems can benefit an organization two-fold. The first benefit being that the employee health is supported and maintained both physically and mentally. The second benefit is a reduction of employee errors due poorly designed work systems. This reduction in errors translates into lower costs and a higher profit. This use of ergonomics can be comparable to lean manufacturing tool used. The use of ergonomics is often overlooked by companies who strive to become automated and technologically advances, but it is essential to maintain an efficient workforce and quality.


Erdinc, O., & Yeow, H.P.P., (2011)Providing External Validity of Ergonomics and Quality relationships through review of Real-world Case Studies, International Journal of Production Research,Vol.49(4),949-962.Retrieved from

Eswaramoorthi, M., Mervyn, J., Arjun Rajagopal C., Prasad P.S.S., & Mohanram P.V.(2010) Redesigning Assembly Stations using Ergonomic Methods as a Lean Tool, IOS Press, Vol.35, 231-240. Retrieved from

Naidu, M.T. & Ramesh G.(2011) Achieving Organizational Effectivness through Health Managament and Ergonomics, Advances In Managament, Vol4(4),  28-31. Retrieved from

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