Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Publication Date: 05/1/2011
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Integrated Ergonomics Can Reduce Worker Downtime
Vertical lift storage system presents pick items at ergonomically correct level.

With 3,277,700 work related injuries and illness recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009, organizations are looking for ways to keep employees safe and reduce worker compensation costs. Of these cases, for private industry, state and local government, 1,238,490 cases required days away from work to recuperate.

The use of ergonomically designed equipment from Kardex Remstar in electronic operations is the most effective way to reduce work site injuries and the monetary costs that come with them.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes approximately one third of all recordable worker injuries each year result from ergonomic hazards. OSHA estimates the cost of ergonomic injuries at several billion dollars per year, with about $1 of every $3 in workers' comp claims is paid for ergonomic related injuries. This doesn't include the additional costs to the company when an employee is out due to injury, such as lost time, lower productivity and hiring and training temporary labor.

Making ergonomic changes can reduce these costs. Ergonomic design has progressed beyond the single goal of improving employee health and safety. Good design not only reduces the incidence of employee injury and worker compensation liabilities; it can also improve the overall efficiency of many systems in operations.

Evaluating the Risk
The main risk factors associated with injuries in material handling tasks include bending and twisting; frequent reaching; lifting and carrying; lifting and grasping heavy loads; leaning against sharp edges and maintaining fixed positions for extended periods of time. Over time, injury to the back, shoulders, hands and wrists can occur. Injuries may include damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels. These types of injuries are known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) or ergonomic injuries.

Ergonomic injuries, accounted for 28 percent of all workplace injuries requiring time away from work in 2009. MSDs involving the shoulder accounted for 13 percent of the cases and required a median of 21 days before the worker returned to the job. The back was injured in nearly half of the MSD cases and required a median of seven days to recuperate. The most severe MSD cases involved injuries to the abdomen, requiring a median of 22 days of recuperation.

Ergonomically Designed
The simple way to reduce ergonomic work site injuries is to reduce the need for workers to bend, reach, lift and stretch to complete their job tasks. Automated storage and retrieval systems from Kardex Remstar can significantly improve the workers' ergonomics in the workplace.

According to the Americans with Disability Act, for all workers to have ergonomic accessibility, work areas must be accessible at a minimum of 15-in. (381mm) from the ground to a maximum of 48-in. (1.2m) from the ground. Kardex Remstar calls this zone the "Green Stripe of Accessibility". Accessing all stored items within this 33-in. (838mm) Green Stripe of Accessibility reduces worker injury by eliminating benching, reaching and stretching for items.

The Kardex Remstar Shuttle VLM is an enclosed system of vertically arranged trays, an extraction platform and a series of controls that delivers items to an ergonomically positioned workstation in the Green Stripe of Accessibility. For handling heavier parts; carts, vacuum lifts or hoists can be easily integrated into the workstation to reduce worker fatigue and the eliminate the risk of injury. Megamat vertical carousels consist of shelves that rotate up or down via the shortest path, delivering items to an ergonomically positioned pick window within the Green Stripe of Accessibility. If drawers are required, optional rollout drawers can be added to the Megamat vertical carousel to provide quick and easy access within this same zone.

Improving Efficiency
Not only can improved ergonomics reduce worker comp liability, it can improve the overall efficiency of the system by increasing productivity. Delivering items to the operator eliminates walking up and down aisles of shelving or drawers to find the item that is needed. The worker remains at one central location while the equipment rotates and brings the items to the worker, increasing productivity by 67 percent.

FastPic inventory management software can be combined with simple automated storage and retrieval systems to introduce batch picking into operations for improved throughput. Instead of picking one order at a time, batch picking is the process of picking multiple orders with little to no travel time required.

In batch picking, each order is assigned a tote or carton and is placed on a batch station. The software then directs the picking activities using pick-to-light technology. The Shuttle VLM or Megamat Vertical Carousel presents the first item for picking along with the quantity to pick. The worker picks the quantity and turns to the batch station to distribute that item among the batch of orders. The Put light located on the batch station directs the operator to the location and the quantity to put in each tote or carton, representing an order. While the worker is distributing the items to the orders on the batch station, the Shuttle VLM or Megamat Vertical Carousel is already positioning the next item to be picked. Batch picking can increase throughput up to 500 percent when compared to manually picking single orders.

Calculating ROI
With reductions in worker compensation costs and improvements in productivity, the typical return on investment (ROI) of an automated storage and retrieval system is 12 to 18 months. An ROI calculator is available on the company's website.

Contact: Kardex Remstar, Inc., 41 Eisenhower Drive, Westbrook, ME 04092 800-639-5805 fax: 207-854-1610 Web:

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