MTM – Work design productive and safe

Saxon regional group tests ergonomics course at VW in Zwickau

The meeting of the Saxon MTM/IE regional group on 18 May 2017 at the Zwickau factory of Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH focused fully on ergonomics. More than 20 IE experts from different corporations and sectors obtained information on the role of work design that takes ergonomics into account at the host enterprise, VW, and on specific measures aimed at developing ergonomics and productivity to the same degree.

Ronny Zschirpe, Director of Production Control at VW in Zwickau and the Head of the Saxon MTM/IE Regional Group, had invited Dr. Ricardo Schönherr, Director of D Class Industrial Engineering at the Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH factory in Zwickau, to talk about the subject of “optimizing ergonomics efficiently and innovatively.” His most important message to those attending was: Ergonomics is a success factor!

“In the light of the increasing digital networking of production, ergonomics is not only concerned with designing the work station or handling loads, but also the wealth of information or data that the employee has to manage,” he said. The measures introduced at VW are geared towards the changes in these requirements. They include supporting the employees by using analog and digital assistance systems, providing ongoing qualifications, establishing work stations that match the worker’s skills, at which an employee can be deployed to create value added despite various restrictions, equally distributing workloads by means of rotation and training movement sequences. “However, all these measures will only be successful if the company becomes involved in intense communications with its employees,” Schönherr emphasized.

Initial projects involving human-robot collaboration (HRC) have already been introduced. “The motivation and goal is to combine the strengths of humans and robots and achieve something both in terms of ergonomics and productivity too,” the IE Director explained. Humans and robots already work side by side in one department at the factory in Chemnitz. Special equipment in the robot prevents any collision between the human being and machine in the area of collaboration. The application has been certified by the German Social Accident Insurance Scheme (DGUV) and may therefore be officially used. Schönherr added that the next HRC project designed to improve ergonomics – specifically handling loads – is already in the planning stage.

Theory and practice were closely related at this regional group meeting. The participants had the opportunity of testing the ergonomics course set up on the upper floor of one of the production facilities at the factory in Zwickau. The course is part of the training center, where new employees or those needing to be reintegrated can acquire or train the skills required at their workplace – and can be introduced to the subject of ergonomics or behavior ergonomics. By the way, the same applies to the trainees too. There are sections on matters like handling loads, working with one or both hands, being right-handed and left-handed (including suitable tools), the working environment (lighting etc.) and different installation heights for assembly work. There are also facilities for health protection, like advice on the workplace, “breaks with plenty of movement,” back courses, fitness or physiotherapy training on machines – and all these are supported by the factory’s own physiotherapists.

The feedback from those attending the meeting was entirely positive. Particular thanks went to the host company, VW. Somebody suggested that an MTM/IE topic should be treated in greater detail at a workshop at one of the next meetings. Participants were particularly keen to hear more about the new MTM-HWD® process building block system, which MTM regional director Roland Stopp had briefly introduced to the group. The participants all agreed that there should be a second regional meeting this year – the date and host corporation will be published on our website at in good time.

Photo credits:
Ronny Zschirpe, VW Sachsen GmbH

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