Toyota Superhero Ergoman Fights Bad Posture
Superhero movies often feature a cast of supporting automotive characters. Take the Batmobile for instance, or even Audi’s involvement in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But that’s not the only way in which the worlds of designing automobiles and saving the human race collide. Toyota’s own Ergoman is proof of that.
How Ergoman Got Started
Ergoman is your everyday Toyota employee—except for when he does battle with the Ergomaniacs who threaten Toyota’s American facilities. It was back in 2011 that Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama (TMMAL) first recognized the growing threat of the Ergomaniacs—er, bad posture, that is.
The back story: workplace improvement experts Humantech had identified 10 examples of bad posture (each of those examples is represented by one of the Ergomaniacs) that can lead to a number of first-aid incidents and potential injuries. When TMMAL was considering how to address these bad postures and their effects (by ultimately improving its ergonomic refresher training test scores and decreasing ergonomic-related incidents and injuries), the idea for a motivational superhero came to life.
Now TMMAL just need the right guy to develop said superhero. Enter Bernard Berry.
Bernard Berry: The Man Behind Ergoman
In 2011, Bernard Berry worked on the line at TMMAL. He had served in that capacity for nine years, but he’d held a couple other greater passions even longer. At the age of 6, Berry became obsessed with comic books—Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, you name it, and he read it. It was his passion for superheroes that led Berry to a second passion—being fit.
As a child, Berry was skinny, but he instead wanted to look like his favorite heroes from the comic books. “I would draw them,” he says, “but then I wanted to model myself after them. That’s how I got into weight lifting.”
Berry’s adolescent passion for weight lifting turned into a spot on Alabama A&M’s football team as a defensive tackle. A car accident ended his football career just a few years later, but even at 43, Berry still manages to work out for 10 hours a week. He stands at an impressive 6 feet and weighs in at 290 pounds with just 7% body fat. In short, he looks like a real-life superhero. He might not be able to fly or shoot webbing from his hands, but I still wouldn’t want to cross him on a bad day.
So when TMMAL decided to develop a comic book-style superhero to improve the posture of its employees, Bernard Berry was the obvious choice. Not only was he jacked like Hugh Jackman, but he also had a passion for drawing comic book superheroes.
The result: Berry came up with Ergoman (like Ergonomics Man, not Therefore Man, for you Latin lovers out there) and his team of poor posture-fighting sidekicks (the TPS—Toyota Production Society) to do battle with the Ergomaniacs. Much cooler than a memo that advises against poor posture, amirite?
Ergoman: The Success Story
It became clear very quickly just how effective the Ergoman character was at improving posture (and probably morale) throughout the company. The year after Ergoman was implemented, TMMAL experienced a 41% increase in ergonomic refresher training test scores and a whopping 85% drop in ergonomic-related first-aid incidents.
At the beginning of the Ergoman project, Toyota stuck with serialized story compilations. In the last four years, however, Ergoman’s popularity has exploded, which has led Toyota to create posters around the workplace featuring Ergoman and the now 30+ characters related to the Ergoman saga. Ergoman has even been utilized outside of TMMAL, at Bodine Aluminum and Toyota Manufacturing, Mississippi. Berry hopes to see the superhero expand to other Toyota locations.
Berry now works as a trainer at Toyota, which allows him to flex his creativity on a daily basis.
“I love doing it,” he says. “I’ve gotten a lot of recognition for it. And as long as people are enjoying it, I’ll do it. You hear people around the plant talking about how the comics helped them. If it can help someone out, that’s a great thing.”
But, like most superheroes, Berry is pretty modest about what he does. “People ask if I see myself as a superhero,” he says. “No, but it’s flattering. I just enjoy drawing, and if my drawing can keep someone safe, that’s enough for me.”
Spoken like a true superhero.
Timothy Moore takes his leadership inspiration from Michael Scott, his writing inspiration from Mark Twain, and his dancing inspiration from every drunk white guy at a wedding. When Tim is not writing about cars, he’s working on his novel or reading someone else’s, geeking out over strategy board games, hiking with his pooch, or channeling his inner Linda Belcher over beers with his friends. See more articles by Timothy.