Ergonomics Play Major Role With Equipment Productivity

September 2011, Vol. 66 No. 9

Vermeer, Jon Kuyers, product manager for utility products: Ergonomics specifically has to do with the operator’s function and control of the equipment. This means controls and the operator station should be designed to be intuitive and easy to use without stress. The goal is operator comfort, whether it is reducing the amount of repetitive operations or making the overall controls more comfortable, it needs to be easy for the operator to perform.

An example is a walk-behind trencher, which in the past was very difficult to maneuver -- operators had to physically push their bodies into the machine to make it move. It wasn’t very comfortable. We improved the ergonomics of the machine by re-engineering the system to make it steerable with its handlebars without unnecessary physical effort. Most manufacturers now offer steerable walk-behind trenchers. Newer technologies offer steering capabilities without complexity or additional cost which makes these machines simpler and easier to operate. Also, there has been overall improvement in controls.

For riding trenchers, we have tried to improve the ergonomics by offering rotating operator platforms. These platforms pivot to allow for expanded visibility. The operator can see while he’s trenching without looking over his shoulder. Also control stations have improved by providing an open operating platform and utilizing electronic controls minimizing the amount of controls to engage.

However, the biggest improvement to both walk-behind and riding trenchers and vibratory plows is the transition from mechanical to hydrostatic drive systems, and it has significantly affected equipment ergonomics.

For walk-behind trenchers, it has improved controllability while providing steerable platforms that are simple to operate without the need for physical force, greatly simplifying operation.

For ride-on trenchers, new electronic controls can do much of the operator’s work. For example, a push of a button can replace a complicated shifting procedure. Open operator platforms and reduced sound level continue to be refined and improved.