Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

A different path to ergonomic victory

In a nutshell, the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game, tells how a professional sports organization embraced statistical modeling, data-driven decision-making and analytics – in other words, industrial engineering.

So it's no surprise that the concepts used by Major League Baseball's Oakland A's, popularized in the 2011 movie Moneyball, have been embraced in business publications ranging from ISE magazine to Forbes to Wharton Magazine.

Noted ergonomist Davana Pilczuk extends the theory to the realm of workplace human factors with "Ergo Moneyball," which you can read here.

Pilczuk details the three major problems ergo programs face: lack of buy-in, minimal budgets and overwhelming workload. Ergonomics often has trouble gaining traction in the C-suite – after all, it is a big word that can encompass a range of activities and programs.

Applying the Moneyball concept of getting on base instead of swinging for home runs can help. Complex problems take time to fix, and eager participants could lose interest while waiting for results. Quick ergo wins often help a large part of your workforce, proving to management that ergonomics is doable.

Second, while technical specialists and engineers, like the home run hitters the Oakland A's couldn't afford, are important, real culture change can happen through undervalued players. Your administrative assistants, interns, co-ops and the shop technician often have inordinate influence on whether the overall workforce accepts new ideas from management. Recruit them and see how they put a charge into your ergo program.

And third, talk like a business person, not an ergonomist. Management speaks the language of ROI, overtime and rework. Show how your programs have saved money by reducing rework and scrap. Explain how fewer labor hours are needed to do a job.

So instead of lamenting limited budgets, partner with your sustainability program to use old benches, pallets and scrap leather for seats and risers for workbenches. Old foam can soften table edges and hard chairs.

As Pilczuk shows, where there's an ergo will, there's a Moneyball way.

Michael Hughes is managing editor for IISE. Reach him at mhughes@iise.org or (770) 349-1110.