Historically, employees in work environments were trained on proper lifting techniques in order to reduce the cost of work-related injuries involving heavy lifting. However, there has been little evidence to prove that this solution offers any real benefits. Accidents due to lifting can result in a loss of productivity and profits. Ergonomic lifting systems fill the gap between the type of lifting devices that have been used traditionally and robotic ones. They are designed to minimize the risk of injury to workers while lifting. Another benefit is many of these systems are also designed to enable a single operator to do the work of multiple operators, which saves on manufacturing costs. As for the cost, investment in them will end up paying for itself because of the savings gained from reductions in worker’s injuries and increased worker productivity. These devices allow operators to move and lift in a natural way. Some devices enable operators to maneuver as if it is an extension of their own hands.
Ergonomic lifting systems can be designed to fit the individual needs a customer may be facing. They can be designed to be used for any type of industry. Products that lifting systems can be designed to handle include boxes, building material bags, automotive parts, wood panels and much more. Systems can be designed to provide solutions for the following:
- Ergonomic cranes
- Ergonomic Design
- Zero gravity lifters and balances
- Ergonomic lift tables and lifts
- Lift design and build
- Lift assist hoists
- Material handling vertical lifts
- Vacuum lift assist devices and industrial manipulator arms
- Ergonomic jibs crane system
- Pick and place applications end effectors
- Workstation design and build
Many new advances have been made in the design of ergonomic lifting systems. New features like comfort-grip handles and articulating arms. Comfort grips allow the operator to have a comfortable, ergonomic grip and an integrated control lever that allows a single operator to lift and lower loads in one smooth motion. This approach is ideal for customers who unload heavy lifting.
Articulating arms have a second arm that can be used to fasten tools and for handling operations. They feature a second axis pivot at the end of the parallel tubes along with an extension that allows the operator to reach the entire work area.
Keeping workers safe is the most important value of any ergonomics lifting system. Ergonomics is becoming important to ensure that people working with these systems can safely achieve top performance in their work. In meeting challenges brought forth with an aging and diminishing workforce, ergonomics is crucial in reducing strain and stress on operational efficiency. The trend is where ergonomic lift devices will pair the strengths of technology and robotics with the intuition and adaptability of human operators.
Intelligence is also being added to many devices. Old pneumatic balancer technology is being replaced with servo drive/PLC controlled lifters for applications that cannot be automated due to the requirement of needing operator’s intelligence. Crane systems such as these provide the customer with feedback capabilities. The lifter is able to tell the operator what is happening and can assist in detecting loads, such as detecting and notifying an operator not to release a load when it detects that the load is not properly seated. Technology such as this in ergonomic lifting comes at a much higher cost. However, the return on investment can be had immediately if it prevents certain common incidents such as an operator blowing out his rotator cuff or dropping and damaging a valuable part.
The impact of ergonomics on work progress improvement should be mandatory to the equipment selection and specification process in selecting a system. Worker feedback will generate initial buy-in and ownership from the worker who will be tasked with using it, which will increase productivity. There is a quantitative guideline for ergonomic impacts but many employers are taking a more subjective assessment to impact. The person actually using the equipment should be considered.