Ergonomics and Industry 4.0: Man is central

faentia consulting

Ergonomics and Industry 4.0: Man is central

In the fourth industrial revolution's scenario, the necessity of a Human Factor centered approach as a key element in the production cycle is leading more and more companies to apply both physical and cognitive Ergonomics principles during assessement and design stages.

There is a strong bond between Ergonomics and Industry 4.0, and its declinations equally embrace both cultural and technical aspects: and Man is, indeed, the bond.

In order to understand Ergonomic's involvements, its application and advantages regarding Insutry 4.0, we would like to quote Dr Paola Cenni, European Ergonomist, member of UNI's Ergonomics Committee and Chairman of the section Emilia-Romagna region in SIE (Società Italiana di Ergonomia, Italian Ergonomics Company). Dr Paola Cenni is nonetheless a reference point for Faentia Consulting's Ergonomics B.U. In an interview given to Innovation Post, Dr Paola Cenni thus defined Ergonomics:

“The word Ergonomics comes from the Greek (ergon, work and nomos, law) and it literally means science or governance of work: it refers to a culture and a technique useful to design a man-centered working system which aims to psychophysical wellbeing, safety and quality of performance. Governance means a correct distribution of the activities, taking into consideration what a worker can be asked, in terms of proficiency and expertise, within a context of both technical-physical and organisational variables”.

Dr Cenni's words represent and essential frame to understand the meaning of Ergonomic's implications for companies, as well as the advantages that could stem from it.

Desing in stages: workers' expertise is fundamental

Regarding machines' reliability and safety, the ergonomic approach takes into account both anthropometric and biomechanical principles in the human-machine interface. Design in stages, performed by technicians, engineers and designers, has to necessarily avail itself of workers' expertise within the company.

For each stage of the process, Dr Cenni remids us to acknowledge:

  • the usefulness of feedback and of potential improving adjustments;
  • the appropriateness of documented ergonomic actions to verify how good practice's standards have been fulfilled.

Cognitive Ergonomics

What is the role of cognitive Ergonomics and why is it so important when designing interfaces? When facing an interface, several cognitive processes activate, starting with a sensory input which could be visual, auditory or tactile. Man processes information through short-term memory in order to understand the environment, then he infers other pieces of information from long-term memory; based on these processes, the worker then makes a decision on how to behave safely.

Considering this context, it becomes clear how important it is to have an Ergonomist involved in interfaces' design: clear and user-friendly inputs, designed to be compatible with man's neural structure, can indeed minimise the risk of failures and thus ensure greater safety.

Corporate Culture and psychophysical wellbeing

There are advantages on several levels when Ergonomics supports design, first of all higher psychophysical wellbeing and job satisfaction, which undoubtedly result in increased productivity.

Ergonomic knowledge also has a role in preventing risks to the health resulting from biomechanical overload, posture and mental workload.

The ergonomic approach, supported by an appropriate training (intended for engineers and designers), also contributes to the process of overcoming a certain corporate culture, which still has doubts about Ergonomic's added value, merely considering it an additional cost.

Ergonomics, whithin the context of innovation brought about by the fourth industrial revolution, generates a real added value in each stage of design and development. Man and his physical and mental wellbeing are central in this approach. Nonetheless, this is the only way to optimise performances of the production system, in which the worker is a fundamental and integral component.

Read here the complete interview to Dr Paola Cenni.