Warehousing & Distribution Success Stories
SUCCESS STORY #1 - DECREASING INJURIES IN GROCERY DISTRIBUTION
SRI-Ergonomics partnered with a large East Coast grocery chain, to help decrease the rates of strain & sprain injuries particularly among their warehouse Order Selectors. These injuries were due to the:
- Highly repetitive handling of cases and other grocery items;
- Heavy weights of many of these cases; and
- Awkward postures required to remove cases from slots and position them on outbound pallets.
Our ergonomics efforts included:
- Providing in-depth ergonomics training to groups of managers, safety & health personnel, and production employees;
- Conducting ergonomics assessments of production jobs and providing recommendations for process improvement; and
- Developing corporate- and facility-level ergonomics teams and an overall macroergonomics process for the company.
The result of these collective efforts resulted in a 50% reduction in injuries the year after all work was completed.
Download our manual, A Best Practices Guide for the Reduction of Musculoskeletal Disorders in Food Distribution Centers (free).
SUCCESS STORY #2 - ORDER PICKING OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES
Medical supplies were stored in a warehouse that used a traditional racking system. A large percentage of these were packaged in 50-pound containers and stored in slots. Employees would move a “walkie” pallet jack down the rack aisles, picking customer orders. The rate of low-back injuries sustained by employees doing this job was unacceptably high, but the facility had no budget to change its racking system, and it could not dictate how suppliers packaged their case goods.
The only option for improvement was to look at case pick methods. Employees experienced at this job provided several opinions regarding how they believed case-picking could be made safer, but there was no data to show that one particular method was substantially better than another.
The Lumbar Motion Monitor (LMM) was used to determine how employees’ trunk motions, and the job’s injury risk, was impacted by the position of the pallet jack during order picking and, subsequently, how this influenced movement. Three locations were selected, based on work practices:
- The “standard” method, in which the pallet jack was positioned directly in front of, and as close as possible to, the slot where the item to be picked was stored;
- The first alternative pallet jack position, which was close to the rack but moved forward from the slot where cases were being picked; and
- The second alternative position, which was in front of the rack where the picking occurred but spaced further out from the slot compared to the standard method.
Outcome and Impact
The results calculated by the LMM and its low-back injury risk model were very telling.
- As expected, the standard pick method produced a low back injury risk value of 65%. (Risk is considered to be high if above 60%). This was due not only to the weight of the cases being handled but by the extreme amount of forward bending required when cases were lifted from or to low pallet layers. This work method also resulted in moderate trunk twisting speeds and high side-bending speeds.
- Alternative pick method 1 was only slightly improved, as it produced a risk value of 61% (still considered to be high risk for injury). Although this work method reduced side-bending trunk speeds, it actually increased trunk twisting speeds.
- Alternative pick method 2 considerably improved the risk score, lowering it to 50% (considered to be moderate risk for injury). This work practice drastically reduced back side-bending speed when cases were handled.
The analysis provided the company with objective information that was used to train employees on how to position their walkies that would lower the injury risk associated with this physically demanding activity.
SUCCESS STORY #3 - DEVELOPMENT OF QUANTITATIVE DATA FOR EMPLOYEE VIDEO TRAINING
A company that provides a wide range of raw materials, equipment, and supplies to industry wanted to develop a set of training videos focusing on safe working practices for employees who work in their distribution centers. One goal of this effort was to demonstrate how the use of improved work techniques creates jobs that are easier, safer, and more efficient to perform, and to present this information in an understandable way.
As a result, the company developed a series of training modules that addressed ergonomics concepts important in manual materials handling, such as:
- Handling items closer to the body, to reduce the physical effort to perform the task;
- Properly positioning oneself relative to the work, to increase physical capability; and
- Using work practices that reduce unnecessary and repetitive activities.
These were supplemented with video segments showing employees performing actual warehouse tasks, explained using everyday language.
The novel aspect of this training was the integration of quantitative, biomechanical information to supplement the impact on the body of using different work practices. A team from SRI-Ergonomics worked with the company to collect this data using ergonomics assessment equipment, including wireless electromyography and the Lumbar Motion Monitor. Examples of how this information was integrated into the video training modules, showing riskier versus safer work practices, are shown below.
The response to these videos has been very positive. Employees appreciated the dynamic approach to training, which included:
- An introduction to ergonomics principles;
- The application of those principles to relatable tasks; and
- Visual contrasting of alternative approaches using ergonomic assessment equipment.
In addition, company health & safety personnel have seen that safer work practices continue to be used by employees, long after they attended the video training.
While the partnership with the SRI-Ergonomics team was intended for training, it also identified several best-practices for common movements. Benefits have been seen not only through behavioral observations but also through company health & safety data.