Improving Ergonomics with Industrial Robots
The goal of ergonomics is to design or modify a work environment for employees in order to eliminate hazards and the risk of injury. In some workplace settings eliminating ergonomic hazards is relatively simple, however, for those in manufacturing it has posed as a constant challenge.
Industrial manufacturing often involves dangerous, dirty, and dull work that can be quite strenuous on workers. Workers compensation, disability claims, and lost production time are common problems manufacturers face. These issues can significantly decrease the productivity and efficiency of an operation while also increasing costs. This is why many manufacturers are implementing robotic automation.
Industrial robots can improve ergonomics by taking over the dangerous jobs in manufacturing from humans. Improving ergonomics is often cited as one of the main reasons for automating with the FANUC R-2000ib and other industrial robots. Many factories are evaluating their operations and automating the processes in which they believe pose the biggest ergonomic hazards to workers. Tasks involving reaching or the lifting of heavy weights tend to be the biggest threats to worker safety. Such tasks can put serious stress on workers bodies with repetitive bending, reaching overhead, or twisting. These often lead to muscle strains or back injuries. Heavy objects can be accidently dropped and potentially land on a worker. These types of injuries cost companies time and money with worker shortages and workers compensation claims. Productions are temporarily halted to deal with accidents while labor shortages due to injuries can significantly slow operations, decreasing productivity.
Automating strenuous and repetitive processes eliminates ergonomic hazards for workers. Instead of employees performing back-breaking tasks, articulated robots are used. Robots are powerful and durable machines that can automate hazardous tasks with ease. Repetitive heavy lifting is no problem for the Motoman MH250 with its high payload capacity.
Applications that tend to have the highest ergonomic risks include welding, material handling, grinding, polishing, cutting, painting, and palletizing. It is no coincidence that these applications also happen to be the most common for robotic automation. There can be many hazards associated with these applications such as carpal tunnel, burns, fume inhalation, UV light exposure, cuts, breaks, and muscle strains. Manufacturers are automating these processes to improve the ergonomics of their factories. Automating arc welding with the FANUC Arcmate 120ic eliminates risks to workers such as arc glare and burns.
Improving ergonomics provides other benefits to productions besides a safer work environment. Preventing worker injuries will reduce workers compensation and disability claims which will help reduce labor costs. Labor shortages due to worker injuries and downtime are eliminated which will keep productions running consistently and increase productivity. Damaged parts due to dropping, scraping, or bumping are also prevented. Scrapped parts are significantly reduced, helping to conserver materials and cut down costs associated with them. Rework is decreased with fewer damaged parts helping to save time and resources.
As products become more advanced, the complexity to manufacture them increases along with ergonomic hazards for workers. Automating with industrial robots is one of the best ways to combat these hazards for a safer factory environment.