Industrial Engineer Engineering and Management Solutions at Work

March 2012    |    Volume: 44    |    Number: 3

The member magazine of the Institute of Industrial and Engineers

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Emerging Technologies

Innovative tools of the trade

Ergo, healthier employees

Work environments pose various dangers that can affect employees’ physical health, costing a company money in sick days or workers’ compensation. From strenuous manufacturing facilities to sedentary office cubicles, organizations have a vested interest in keeping employees healthy. Products that take into account ergonomics for your employees are available for both ends of the working spectrum.

The TrekDesk is designed for the less active population, people in office jobs who sit in front of a computer most of their day. The TrekDesk is essentially a desk designed to fit over a treadmill and allow a person to work comfortably while walking in place.

The TrekDesk fits over a third-party treadmill, which not only lowers the cost of the desk but lets customers use their treadmill or buy one within their price range and with their preferred features. Once assembled, the TrekDesk offers approximately 17 square feet of workspace and adjusts to fit almost any size person.

Although the concept of walking while working at a desk may seem novel, the science behind it is anything but. Studies have shown that people with sedentary jobs are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as people with more active professions. The Mayo Clinic reports that walking 30 minutes or more on a daily basis can reduce the risk of health problems like diabetes and improve your mood and alertness.

On the other side of the ergonomic coin is the Famatec Friendly line of ergonomic manipulators by HAECO. These devices are as agile as human arms but capable of safely lifting, moving and manipulating up to 1,100 pounds. Operators most often use the manipulators in manufacturing environments where production can be variable and automated robot arms will not suffice.

The Famatec Friendly machines help the operator lift heavy objects repetitively throughout the work day. Rather than pushing activity on a sedentary employee, this machine ensures that already active workers don’t overexert themselves.

In addition to reducing the risk of injury, the Famatec manipulators offer highly accurate placement of heavy parts or objects. This is notable because many “jib and crane” systems swing the parts or the operator manually guides the parts into place. Famatec’s machines offer rigid controls for precision movement and fitting.

The TrekDesk could be added to a basement treadmill for people who work out of their homes, or a group of them could be installed in an office conference room so that employees can take 15 minutes to get their hearts going throughout the day. The Famatec manipulators would be a great alternative to crane handlers and keep operators out from under the hoisted parts in the event of a fall. Both products are testaments to how ergonomics and smart engineering can make employee health a priority without sacrificing quality or efficiency.

Alex Bohn is a transformation engineer with Care Logistics and the Great Lakes representative of the IIE Young Professionals group. He has a B.S. in industrial engineering from Kettering University.