My machineering

Three steps to an ergonomic workplace


Optimised working environments are very important for man and machine. The optimum design of the workplace and processes as well as their holistic classification in the work system are the bases of efficient work processes. Modern visualisation systems can be very helpful in supporting process, machines and the ergonomics of the workstations in advance. The iPhysics software, for example, can be used for the simple design of workplaces so as to make trouble-free working possible at all times.

1. Making the machine run virtually

The setup of a workplace primarily depends on the plant at the respective workstation. The definition of the steps for the personnel is then derived from that. To match the two ideally to each other in advance, however, and in so doing to optimally design the ergonomics of the workplace, the machine and the process should be illustrated – ideally digitally in the form of a simulation model.

But why a simulation model? Many of today’s tools for workplace design focus exclusively on the workplace. The workstation – i.e. the real plant and its functional principle – is thereby mostly a model or a black box on the basis of which steps are determined and the ideal workplace design is thus derived. It would be much better if the complete plant including the workstation were to be available as a virtual image of the real machine with all process steps. The added value of such an approach is that every single step is or must be carried out as it would be in reality. Only in this way can work on the machine be realistically simulated over a lengthy period of time.

The machine simulationhas further advantages, however. Above all, complicated mechatronic plants, robot clusters, feeding systems or workstations can be virtually commissioned as part of the complete plant, possible collisions, jams, jostling and machine failures can be tested and the company can thus save high costs, because simulation models, e.g. with industrialPhysics, are based on real machine data that are already varied, tested, optimised and finalised during the development.

2. Showing realistic working environments

The human working environment should be arranged such that it is ideally designed for the respective work step. An important aspect of this is the cooperation between man and machine – i.e. work safety. It must be absolutely ensured at all times that the employees are not hindered or even injured by moving machine parts. This can be guaranteed through collision protection in the simulation. A further aspect concerning the human working environment is the design of the individual workplaces – i.e. the ergonomics of the workplace for protecting the health of the employees. Here too, the environment can be simulated in advance and designed so that people can work optimally.

3. Virtually testing the workplace

It may thereby be helpful to use a VR & AR system. This allows employees to experience their later working environment close at hand and to run through work cycles several times – perhaps even with realistic workpieces – before the real commissioning of a machine or plant.

Small example: We at machineering accompanied a customer project that was exclusively concerned with the machine simulation. The plant, with ten workstations, appeared to be optimally planned and was quickly virtually commissioned. On running fully through the simulation, however, it quickly transpired that the operation or loading of the machine by the employee was impossible in the long run, because he would have to continuously perform a rotary motion that would have led to him becoming dizzy in a very short time. Fortunately the real plant had not been manufactured at that point in time. The virtual plant was re-planned accordingly and the final real commissioning took place such that it was ideal for man and machine. It doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened if this had only been discovered after the construction of the real machine.

Conclusion: Modern visualisation technologies such as simulation with VR and AR can make work spaces accessible and realistically display objects such as load carriers, tools or machines. The classic workbench is replaced by workplaces that are designed as assistance systems. The goal is a real-time-capable illustration of process and machine in order to design the ideal workplace with maximum process stability in advance. Moreover, the visualisation enables the long-term protection of the health of the employees, a reduction in induction times and ultimately an increase in employee flexibility.

Would you like to optimise the ergonomics of your workplaces? Contact us and learn more about it.

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