Ergonomics Play Major Role With Equipment Productivity

September 2011, Vol. 66 No. 9

“Ergonomic input into the design process starts with a careful and systematic analysis of equipment requirements, considers the functions to be performed, and the form of the design elements that might best achieve those functions,” says Hedge.

Equipment design is an iterative process, he continues. That is, it involves repeating a process with each repetition or iteration becoming the starting point for the next iteration.

“At each stage,” he explains, “the impact of introducing a new design feature or making any design modification to an existing feature needs to be reviewed in light of these ergonomic analysis requirements, and the impact of the changes on the operator and the whole vehicle as a system. When undertaken in this way, ergonomic design and analysis involves more than simply commenting on an existing design.”

For buyers and users of equipment, ergonomic analysis involves carefully considering the requirements of all parties involved in the purchasing and operation of the vehicle.

“A comprehensive ergonomic analysis,” concludes Hedge, “can often reveal new marketing opportunities and equipment features that can help to differentiate a machine from the competition so that it truly stands out from the crowd.”

The types of underground construction equipment in widest use today incorporated many of the ergonomic factors discussed by Hedge. Three leading manufacturers discuss ergonomics and ergonomic features of their products.

Excavation equipment
Case Construction Equipment, Tim O’Brien, marketing manager: The Case concept of ergonomics includes features that reduce operator fatigue and stress by enhancing operator comfort, safety and productivity.

The newest loader-backhoes have floor-to-ceiling windows that provide superior visibility. Near-quarter windows provide easy communication to the back of the machine and improve cross-ventilation comfort. A side lighting package helps illuminate the entire perimeter of the machine, greatly enhancing operator and job-site safety, and boosting productivity. New models include comfortable, adjustable operator seats and ergonomically placed controls along with all-season heating and air conditioning systems for increased operator comfort. At 72 decibels, the cabs are also among the industry’s quietest.

The newest compact and full-size excavators incorporate many of the same features. Compact machine cabs are larger with large front and rear windows and a slide-up front window for improved air flow and to facilitate communications with workers near the machine.