About three years ago, Navistar launched a large-scale initiative to improve ergonomics across all its manufacturing plants. The goal was to make employees’ jobs safer and easier by reducing the likelihood of strains, sprains and other injuries.

“The manufacturing facilities were tasked with identifying and improving their top ten ergonomic issues associated with production,” said Rick Sherrer, engineering manager, Springfield Assembly Plant. “In Springfield, we immediately discussed the strap lock installation and cutting process because data showed it was a need and caused a high number of hand injuries.”

Today, the Springfield Assembly Plant has implemented new standards and tools for strap lock installation and cutting that have proven to be successful. There were 41 first aid reports and 14 recordable injuries in 2015-16 related to this work. Since the new standards and tools have been implemented, there have been just nine first aid reports and zero recordable injuries.

This was one of the most challenging ergonomic opportunities in Springfield because of the volume per operation, the quantity of operations effected and the variation of installation area. Some employees were required to install more than 1,000 strap locks per day.

“Reducing this high risk ergonomic issue throughout the plant was a team effort,” said Christine Rollins, senior manufacturing engineer, Springfield Assembly Plant. “The industrial engineering team identified and evaluated all the strap-lock operations, multiple plier-type cutters were trialed, and operator Nick Mun researched and suggested an automatic strap lock cutter.”

The final solution included three main actions:

  1. A force measurement study was conducted on commercially available plier-type hand cutters and the tool with the minimum cutting force was standardized plant-wide on all strap lock cutting applications.
  2. Six operations began using a battery powered strap lock cutter. The remaining operations required the use of the plier-type cutter because of space limitations.
  3. A standard of 500 strap locks per 8-hour shift was defined. There were 15 operations that required re-balance of work to reduce the number of strap locks.

“Ergonomics has become a key part of the manufacturing process, and the strap lock cutting project is a great example of the progress we’ve made,” said Mike Hom, vice president, Manufacturing. “It’s part of our culture at the plant and helps make sure Navistar employees return home, every evening, in the same condition they began their day.”