The common stereotype of engineers is that they’re cold and calculating. But the truth is that engineering requires a great deal of human interaction. There’s even an entire field known as human factors engineering, which focuses on the unique role that humans play within larger systems. In a manufacturing environment, the human factor will play a major role in every part of successful engineering.
Prioritizing the Human Element
The first step for any manufacturing engineer is to break down each job into its component tasks. They’ll look carefully at each small part of the larger whole. The goal is to analyze how the human affects the task, and how the task affects the human.
Physical and Skill-Based Demands
Next, the engineer will want to understand exactly what each task demands. Does it involve heavy lifting or repetitive motion? What skills does a person need to safely and accurately perform that task?
Some tasks are physically easy but mentally demanding. An extreme example of this is air traffic control, where the controllers sit at a desk all day, but must carefully focus on each plane’s flight path. Manufacturing environments typically aren’t that extreme, but your engineers will still want to determine how mentally taxing each job task is.
Interactions with coworkers can play a major role in how each task affects the human who performs it. Is there an assembly line, in which each person must fulfill their role on an always-moving conveyor belt? Is the team strong and cohesive, with a good spirit of trust and collaboration? Can workers trust their teammates to help them with difficult tasks?
Overall Work Environment
No task exists in a vacuum. The entire environment of your manufacturing facility ultimately impacts the human factor in each task. How is the lighting? Is the space cluttered? Do you have ergonomically designed seating? Is the environment noisy or otherwise distracting?
Your engineers’ ultimate goal with all this is to design workstations and devices that will help ease the human factor. Supporting the people who work in your manufacturing facility with smarter, better designs will boost productivity, improve morale, and contribute to a safer and more successful work environment.
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