Collaborative Robots reduce Ergonomic Problems
Posted on Jul 10, 2014 8:00 AM
Ok, so you're tired of hearing the complaints at the end of the day from your employees about sore wrists, arms, backs and you have decided that instead of repeatedly hiring and training new people all the time you are going to evaluate your work process and install a collaborative robot to handle the problem inducing tasks. In an up and coming blog you can read about Improving Workstations Ergonomically with Collaborative Robots, which talks about how and what to look for to improve your workflow ergonomically. Here we will talk about what are the most common strains and injuries that can be eliminated or reduced with collaborative robots.
From the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) report on the “Solutions for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Foundries” publication 3465, we have a list of movements that can be problematic for humans, but which can be done repeatedly by a collaborative robot without end. Some of the motions include:
- Repetitive hand or arm motions
- Awkward positioning of arms or hands, especially movements that require odd angles
- Arm, wrist and shoulder movements or reaching, especially above the shoulder reaching
- Physical exertion and fatigue
- Forceful human hand pinching grips
- Manual lifting and tossing of material
- Hand contusions, fractures, musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs
If you have looked at your work processes and found repetitive movements commonly carried out by your employees, especially if they are movements that require using your hands or arms from odd angles or positions, then this is the time to consider a collaborative robot. Especially when robot arms today can come with varying lengths including 6 or 7 axes of freedom and robot grippers can be adapted to whatever part geometry you have. There is no reason to keep paying out in new hires, training, absenteeism and workers compensation claims, when separating the tasks between the humans and the robots will eliminate the risk of injury to your employees and perhaps even improve the workflow of your production line.
In the OSHA report there were other benefits which resulted from the ergonomic changes that were implemented. These benefits could also apply if collaborative robots were substituted for the difficult tasks that cause human employees injuries or strains. The improvements can include:
- Overall worker comfort and this mean less turnover and less absenteeism
- Minimizing the chance of dropping, breaking or spilling thereby reducing waste
- Shortening a task time including increased precision and reduced fatigue
- Increasing productivity via smoother workflow
Mixing your production to include collaborative robots that work alongside human employees, who preform the difficult repetitive tasks is starting to be seen in many industries asides from the automotive industry as a solution to reducing ergonomic problems and injuries at work.
With the difficulties of finding the right employees along with the aging of our workforce, collaborative robots are a great way to value your employees at the same time as you implement more efficient production processes. Ask your local robot integrator and see what they can do for you.