Ford Cuts Production Line Injuries By 70 Percent
Ford says that it has cut the injury rate among assembly line employees by 70% since 2003, a statistic it attributes to a combination of ergonomics research, lift-assist technology, and constant improvement to the assembly process. Ford apparently also refers to its more than 50,000 assembly line employees as “industrial athletes.” You learn something new every day.
“We refer to our assembly line employees as ‘industrial athletes’, due to the physical nature of the job,” said Allison Stephens, technical leader for assembly ergonomics at Ford. “We have made data-driven decisions through ergonomics testing that has led to safer vehicle production processes and resulted in greater protection for our employees.”
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Ford’s ergonomic process involves pre-determining the physical impact of manufacturing new vehicles in a two-to-three-year window prior to a model’s launch. Data including fatigue, strain, and injury is taken into account, and the resulting solutions are used in divvying up tasks during the production process.
Ford also uses full-body motion capture to determine how employees use their bodies to complete tasks. This allows Ford to better fight against employee injury by optimizing processes. 3D printing is also used to determine how much hand clearance employees need in the vehicle assembly, taking into account various different hand sizes.
These two processes, as well as an extensive virtual reality system, has helped reduce injuries significantly over the course of 100+ new vehicle launches in the last 12 years.
“Our goal is to provide a healthy, safe and productive work environment at our Ford manufacturing facilities worldwide,” said Michael Torolski, Ford executive director, Vehicle Operations Manufacturing Engineering. “The ergonomics and virtual manufacturing processes support our injury reduction strategy and enable early validation of production-technology changes.”
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