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An IISE member shares his observations on cognitive ergonomics in manufacturing, and we share a Twitter pic from the Healthcare Systems Process Improvement Conference held in March. 


Cognitive underload and overload

The article "Going Cognitive with Manufacturing Ergonomics" (January) is insightful and engaging. It occurs to me, however, that besides cognitive overload, there can be and too often is cognitive underload. I'm thinking of manufacturing jobs in which the operator does the same task over and over, day after day – the terribly boring and depriving-of-mental stimulation jobs that are so common in factories in emerging economies.

For example, in apparel plants a person at a sewing machine frequently has a task that takes only 10 seconds or less – e.g., stitch a hem – which equates to more than 3,000 repeats per shift. The pressure to maintain pace is severe, and sitting all day doing this carries with it extensive physical ergonomic penalties: repetitive-motion injuries to hands, backs and other body areas.

Similar to that are many highly repetitive jobs of loading, startup and unloading of a machine. In these cases, course correction, which is common now in the industrialized West, is cellular manufacturing: a cut-and-sew cell in which every team member is cross-trained and rotates jobs frequently or a machining, assembly and pack cell – same thing.

The physical ergonomics become rather ideal. As for the cognitive ergonomic aspects, these cells would seem to be about right: little cognitive overload or underload.

Richard J. Schonberger
Independent researcher/author/speaker
Bellevue, Washington

Twitter - SHS

SHS Board dinner at #SHS2017

Amanda Mewborn @amandame1101
"SHS Board dinner at #SHS2017 sponsored by @SHSinfo – at Emeril's Tchoup Chop"

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