Monday, July 27, 2015


Ford has managed to reduce the injury rate for its more than 50,000 “industrial athletes” by 70 percent since 2003. They have achieved this through new ergonomics technology, lift-assist devices, workstation redesign and data-driven process changes.

“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.”

Ford virtual manufacturing experts focus on two key areas – design feasibility and the safety of employees on the production line. Ford ergonomists virtually simulate the build process using both human and virtual test two to three years in advance of a new-vehicle launch. The compiled data is used to guide engineering solutions to reduce and prevent employee fatigue, strain and injury.

Ford ergonomists use three core technologies to provide data that can be evaluated to determine the well-being of assembly process employees. They run, on average, more than 900 virtual assembly assessments per new-vehicle launch.

The three core technologies utilised are:

Full-body motion capture

Over 52 motion-capture markers are placed on an employee’s arms, back, legs and torso, providing data on how an employee uses his or her body to move and complete tasks. Ergonomists can record more than 5,000 data points to evaluate muscle strength and weakness, joint strain and body imbalance. This kind of technology is used by professional sports athletes to improve their technique and help them avoid injuries.

Immersive virtual reality

Employee’s movements are monitored using a 23-camera motion-capture system while a head-mounted display virtually immerses an employee in a future workstation. Then, the data is evaluated to determine task feasibility and proficiency

3D printing

In the instances where virtual vehicle assembly simulations yield unclear results prototyped parts are used to validate hand clearance. Employees with different hand sizes use the 3D-printed model to test how tight the space will be in vehicle assembly, which helps ergonomists to make more informed decisions regarding production procedures.

Through significant investments in the program, not only has Ford achieved a reduction in employee injury rates, it has seen a 90 percent reduction in such ergonomic issues as overextended movements, difficult hand clearance and tasks involving hard-to-install parts.

“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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