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Quality improvement in manufacturing through

human performance enhancement

Majorkumar Govindaraju
Technical Information Management Services, Inc., Ohio, USA
Arunkumar Pennathur
University of Texas at El Paso, Texas, USA
Anil Mital
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Keywords changed frequently because of user needs,

Quality, Performance, Introduction costs, or engineering improvements (Bessant
Manufacturing, Productivity,
Ergonomics The quality movement in product and Haywood, 1985; Hartley, 1984).
manufacturing and delivery of service has Furthermore, there is the need to provide
Abstract undergone change from its initial emphasis flexibility as well as capability. Automated
In the increasingly competitive equipment often provides the flexibility but
on quality through inspection, to the present-
global economy, survival of an
industry depends on catering to day emphasis on quality through the not the capability. Essential capability
customer needs by quickly development of robust processes capable of requirements include intelligence; ability to
producing quality products and performing consistently in developing sense, see, touch, and feel; acquire knowledge
providing quality service at an and judgement to carry out complex tasks,
products and services that meet and exceed
affordable price. In production, or
user needs and expectations (Drury, 1997; and act according to the know-how of the
in service, ergonomic
considerations have manifested Eklund, 1997). Since humans are known to skilled worker; perform tasks reliably to
themselves in two distinct, yet increase process variability by being less impart the necessary 3-D motions to the
related, domains. Focuses on the product; communicate with the operator by
reliable and less consistent compared to
humans who contribute to product
machines (Bullinger and Warnecke, 1985; voice, written sentences, and other
manufacture/ service. It is
frequently advocated that since Orpana and Lukka, 1993; Sata, 1986), it is appropriate forms of communication; and
humans are unreliable and less frequently advocated that machines are learning on the job (Brady et al., 1984;
consistent, compared to Sheridan, 1995; Yamashita, 1987). Economic
preferable in situations characterized by
machines, they are primarily
design accuracy and tight tolerancing viability is also necessary if complete
responsible for lowering product
and service quality. Ergonomic requirements. During the 1980s, it was automation is to become feasible. It has been
considerations, which, ironically, believed that the demand for manufactured clearly demonstrated that the economic
can improve human performance, disincentives of the automated option are
goods would be met by a small workforce
are paid lip service during
operating in a modern automated primarily due to low equipment reliability,
manufacturing system design.
Compounding the problem is the environment employing advanced high interest rates, and declining low wages
current inability of most manufacturing technologies (O’Brien, 1991). (Brodner, 1986, 1990; Mital and George, 1989;
ergonomists to make ergonomic
Automatic identification systems Mital, 1991, 1992). From a cybernetics
recommendations that do not run
(transponders, barcodes, radio frequency, viewpoint also, complete automation is a sub-
counter to the productivity and
quality goals of system designers. speech input), automated storage and optimal solution for manufacturing
Addresses these two issues by retrieval systems, conveyor and automated organizations (Ashby, 1962; Brehmer, 1988;
illustrating, through four case
guided vehicle systems, machine assembly Mital et al., 1994).
studies, the relationship between It is evident that people will be necessary
quality and variables that affect and test systems, robotics workstation,
human performance. flexible manufacturing cells, and automated in manufacturing plants for a long time to
packaging are all examples of such advanced come. Therefore, manufacturing
manufacturing technology. It is being organizations should aim at increasing the
realized, however, that an effective efficiency and effectiveness of an enterprise
integration of modern manufacturing through the integration of technology and
technologies and information, and therefore humans. Given that humans will remain an
Received: August 1998 integral part of the industrial system, and
Revised: July 1999 complete automation, is difficult to achieve,
Accepted: July 2000 at least in the foreseeable future, without given that it is difficult at the present time to
human input, for technical, economic and exclusively rely on various tools of computer
cybernetic reasons. integrated manufacturing (CIM), such as
Hard automation does not lend itself to computer aided design (CAD), computer
situations where products have to be aided manufacturing (CAM), computer aided
Integrated Manufacturing
Systems process planning (CAPP), and computer
12/5 [2001] 360±367 aided quality (CAQ) systems, neglecting the
The current issue andfull text archive of this journal is available at
# MCB University Press human element will only result in sub-
[ISSN 0957-6061] http://w ww /ft
optimal system performance. To optimize
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Majorkumar Govindaraju, manufacturing system performance, volume, production rate, product design, etc.,
Arunkumar Pennathur and researchers have advocated many different they will have little or no impact on
Anil Mital approaches at different levels of analysis of engineering and system design.
Quality improvement in
manufacturing through human system design, ranging from focus on the
performance enhancement design of individual tasks, to macro
Integrated Manufacturing ergonomics and participatory ergonomics at Case studies
12/5 [2001] 360±367 the organizational level. Thus, while
There is a scarcity of literature on
improvement of a manual material handling
experimental investigations clearly
task (Mital et al., 1997) is considered analysis
demonstrating how different human
at the micro level, supervisory control
performance variables (summarized in
systems based on cognitive engineering
Figure 1), directly affect the quality of
principles (Norman, 1986; Rasmussen, 1992;
products and services. When the demands
Sheridan, 1994; Woods and Roth, 1988),
due to these variables exceed the physical,
sociotechnical systems theory-based
mental, and sensory abilities of an
optimization of social and technical systems
individual, it results in the deterioration of
(Gerwin and Kolodny, 1992; Taylor and
human performance and a resultant decline
Felten, 1993), and, more recently, computer
in quality (Figure 2). This section presents
supported cooperative work (Rosenbrock,
four case studies which attempt to relate how
1985; Schmidt and Bannon, 1992; Sinclair,
work conditions affect human performance,
1992), are examples of macro-level analysis of
and hence output quality. These studies also
human-machine systems. Whatever the level
suggest the ergonomic interventions needed
of analysis of human-machine systems, the
in each case to improve the quality of
goal is still to optimize overall system
product, or service, rendered.
performance through consideration of
human performance at the design stage.
Case study 1: ergonomic work conditions
The focus of this paper is at the micro-level and product quality in auto assembly
of analysis of system performance. This case study evaluated quality as affected
Specifically, this paper is intended to show by work conditions. The study was conducted
how quality improvements are possible in several phases in a Swedish car assembly
through improvements in human plant (Eklund, 1995). The assembly line
performance. This is achieved through a studied was of the mini-line type consisting
collection of four case studies, presented in of eight shorter lines in a serial flow, with
the next section, clearly demonstrating the buffers in between. Each of these eight lines
relationship between quality and different formed the basis for one department. Painted
variables affecting human performance. car bodies entered the first department and
The overall purpose of this paper is two- fully assembled cars left the eighth
fold, and is based on the two different department, after which all cars were
audiences this paper targets: inspected in a separate (ninth) department,
1 To demonstrate to a manufacturing where final adjustment was also carried out.
engineering audience (including The first phase of the study was aimed at
manufacturing engineers and managers, developing an inventory of ergonomically
manufacturing system designers, shop demanding tasks. This inventory covered all
floor personnel, and manufacturing eight departments where cars were
researchers), the importance of assembled. Three major categories of tasks
ergonomics considerations in were identified:
manufacturing systems design, and to 1 physically demanding tasks;
alleviate fears in such an audience that a 2 tasks with design that made assembly
human in the system will always difficult; and
contribute to a lowering of product or 3 psychologically demanding tasks.
process quality.
2 To demonstrate to ergonomists the need Interviews were conducted with the most
for them to temper their ergonomics experienced workers. They were asked to
recommendations by considering the identify at least five, and at most ten, tasks
impact of such recommendations on with ergonomic problems. Several of such
problematic tasks were video recorded and
product manufacturing considerations
were assessed by two experts: an ergonomist
such as product quality, choice of
and a company physiotherapist.
manufacturing processes and materials,
The second phase consisted of analyzing
and productivity.
quality statistics pertaining to all production
Unless ergonomists can learn to evaluate the departments except the first department. The
effect of their recommendations on statistics consisted of a number of recorded
production factors such as production deficiencies from each department and the
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Majorkumar Govindaraju, Figure 1
Arunkumar Pennathur and Performance shaping factors
Anil Mital
Quality improvement in
manufacturing through human
performance enhancement
Integrated Manufacturing
12/5 [2001] 360±367

remarks pertaining to them. A ``quality different group of persons using different

deficiency rating’’ was calculated based on criteria.
these statistics. The quality statistics from The third phase consisted of analyzing
the first department were treated separately quality statistics of finished cars which
as the different aspects were measured by passed through the final adjustment. A
random sample of completed cars were
selected, and disassembled. The number of
Figure 2 deficiencies and the quality deficiency points
Relationship between human performance and quality were then recorded. The quality deficiencies
were ranked on a scale of 1 to 50, where a
score of 1 indicated an insignificant,
superficial, deficiency, and a score of 50
indicated a very serious deficiency.
In the fourth phase, department internal
quality statistics were acquired from the first
department that was not included in the
second phase. The data comprised the total
number of recorded deficiencies and the
deficiency types.
A total of 58 tasks with ergonomic
problems based on one or more of the three
categories mentioned earlier were identified.
Of these, 43 tasks had problems in the form of
physical demands. Product designs made the
components difficult to assemble in 25 tasks,
and ten other tasks were identified as
psychologically demanding. Table I shows
that the quality deficiency rating for tasks
with ergonomic problems was 4,088 and that
for tasks without ergonomic problems it was
4,154. The assembly time for the tasks with
ergonomic problems was 25 per cent of the
total assembly time. The relative risk for
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Majorkumar Govindaraju, quality deficiencies among the ergonomically the adjusters was the perception of ``fair
Arunkumar Pennathur and demanding tasks was 2.95 [(4,088/0.25)/(4,154/ play’’. The assemblers had lower status and
Anil Mital 0.75)], indicating a noticeable over wages than the adjusters. The assemblers felt
Quality improvement in
manufacturing through human representation of quality deficiencies for they were under pressure and that the
performance enhancement ergonomically demanding tasks (p < 0.05) adjuster had little or no work to do. The
Integrated Manufacturing from final adjustment statistics. The quality assemblers reacted to this situation by
Systems passing on more work to the adjusters. The
12/5 [2001] 360±367 deficiency points from the random
disassembly inspection also showed a workers also pointed out that some of the
statistically significant over representation quality problems had existed for years, and
for the ergonomically demanding tasks (p < that there was no response or even feedback
0.05) and the relative risk for this category whenever they reported such problems to the
was 1.94. Table I also shows that the number management. As a result, they lost the desire
of quality deficiencies for the ergonomically to make an effort in other areas and stopped
demanding tasks constituted 30 per cent of all trying to compensate for the fault.
quality deficiencies. With the relative risk This study clearly demonstrates that
being 1.85 they were also over represented ergonomics problems lead to the
(p < 0.05). deterioration of worker performance, which
Several workers in the final interview ultimately leads to quality deficiencies. Poor
complained that tasks with ergonomics work design, a product which was difficult to
problems caused fatigue and pain in various assemble, and organizational shortcomings
parts of their body. The workers avoided were the reasons for such performance and
exposing their bodies to more discomfort. quality problems. Using the results from this
They made less effort in performing the task study, the plant management now has
correctly and were contented with slightly initiated a participatory change project.
imperfect results When they became tired or Work tasks with ergonomics and quality
disturbed due to an ergonomic problem they problems are given higher priority of change.
tended to view that problem as being too
difficult to solve in the time available. Rather Case study 2: ergonomic workplace and
than deal with it personally, the workers quality of inspection in manufacture
considered it better to pass on the This case study analyzed the manufacture of
uncompleted work to the adjusters. consistently high quality products (Klatte et
In the assembly line where a group of al., 1997). It strengthens the argument that a
assemblers worked on a stationary car, the process capable of producing quality
task had to be completed by all the workers products should take into account not only
before the car moved to the next location. If machine-specific parameters, but also factors
any worker finished last he or she became related to work design and work
the subject of heavy group pressure. To avoid organization. In instances where even the
such pressure the worker performed as fast best efforts to control product quality result
only in partially capable processes,
as possible, and thereby took chances or
deliberately passed on rectification tasks to inspection of the outgoing products will
eliminate those with faults. This study is an
the adjusters when problems occurred.
examination of the effect of machine- and
There were also organizational reasons for
material-specific factors, and the effect of
the observed quality deficiencies. Many
work design measures on the quality
workers pointed out that the reason for
capability of industrial processes in the
deliberately passing on uncompleted work to
production of inside door panels in the
pressing department of the Wolfsburg auto
Table I
works in Germany.
Assembly time and quality deficiencies during various phases
Preliminary examination revealed that the
Tasks w ith Tasks w itho ut main problem of variance in quality of the
ergono m ic ergono m ic inside door panel was due to possible
Assem bly tim e p ro portion (% ) problem s proble m s differences between the two types of metal
P has e 25 75 sheets that are processed, and the setting
Se cond p hase Q ua lity deficiency ra tings 4,088 (5 0) 4154 (50 ) parameters of the drawing press. The sheet
R ela tive risk 2.95 1.00 metal came from two coil suppliers, A and B.
Third pha se Q ua lity deficie ncy points 221 (39) 3 41 (61) The three levels of settings for the pressure
R ela tive risk 1.94 1.00 exerted by the sheet metal retainer on the
Fou rth phase Assem b ly tim e pro portio n (% ) 19 81 drawing press (minimum, medium, and
N um b er o f qua lity deficienc ies 342 (30) 7 94 (70) maximum setting), were intended to cover
R ela tive risk 1.85 1.00 the whole range of settings of the drawing
press. The assessment of the process
N ote: N um bers in pa re ntheses are pe rcenta ge s capability of the stamping process was based
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Majorkumar Govindaraju, on a sample comprising 60 inside door sought to be improved by optimizing the
Arunkumar Pennathur and panels, 24 of which were examined for illumination, and switching to a cycle-
Anil Mital surface quality, and all 60 for dimensional independent examination. It was decided to
Quality improvement in
manufacturing through human accuracy. The compliance of the door panels replace the 100 per cent inspection at the
performance enhancement with the required dimensions, was, in each conveyor belt with a sample testing at a
Integrated Manufacturing case, examined at 13 measurement points special inspection workplace close to the
Systems distributed throughout the entire contour of conveyor belt. This was expected to facilitate
12/5 [2001] 360±367
the door. cycle-independent examination of a
The results showed that surface quality of stationary object under conditions of optimal
the inside door panels was influenced by both illumination, and extension of cycle time for
the press setting and the coil supplier (p < inspection of the individual panels. Such an
0.05). More surface faults occurred with the ergonomic redesign of the workplace lead to
parts produced from supplier B coil than an improvement in quality while reducing
with those from the coil from supplier A. the cycle time for inspection.
This could be due to the differences in the According to a recent experimental study
characteristic values for the material, as well (Mital et al., 1998), comparing manual
as in thickness of the steel sheet. Also, inspection with hybrid inspection in a
increasing pressure level of the drawing- general manufacturing scenario, it was
press retainer resulted in improvement of concluded that hybrid inspection led to
surface quality. superior performance compared to manual
Examination of the inside door panels for inspection, as indicated by improved
dimensional accuracy revealed significant accuracy and improved speed of inspection.
differences (p < 0.05) between the three press Manual inspection activities are entirely
settings at four out of 13 locations. Significant carried out by a human inspector, whereas
differences between the coil suppliers were hybrid inspection is semi-automated and the
observed at five of the 13 measurement points inspectors are assisted by equipment such as
(p < 0.05). The press line produced a process vision systems, coordinate measuring
capability index Cp greater than 1.33 for all machines, etc. (Kopardekar et al., 1995). It can
measurement points except at point 2, for be expected that by employing hybrid
which the Cp was 1.07. Therefore, the process inspection using special imaging and
was considered as only partially capable in measurement equipment to measure surface
the case of measurement point 2. quality and dimensional accuracy, further
Production processes which are partially enhancement in inspection performance and
capable necessitate inspection of outgoing the resultant quality of outgoing door panels
parts for quality. At Wolfsburg, the workers can be achieved at Wolfsburg auto works.
carried out a cycle-related, visual, 100 per
cent inspection of the surface quality. The Case 3: workplace illumination and
workers at the end of the press line manually product quality in circuit board
removed the finished inside door panel from manufacturing
the conveyor belt and placed it in This case study illustrates the ergonomic
transportation containers. Both front and improvements undertaken at the circuit
rear sides of the panel were inspected for board manufacturing unit of IBM located at
surface quality by turning the door panels. Austin where automatic machines were used
As the production rate of the installation was for insertion of components into circuit
12 parts per minute, a cycle time of 20 seconds boards (Helander and Burri, 1995). Besides
resulted for the handling and examination of process monitoring, machine operators also
the part when four workers were employed. performed visual inspection and quality
Within that period it was only possible to control of the inserted components. On
turn and inspect the entire inside door panel. interviewing the operators it was found that
The examination was performed at the the illumination level was inadequate for
conveyor belt while the parts were in motion. visual inspection. While some of the areas
The overall levels of illumination and had an illumination level of approximately
contrast were relatively poor. The 1,000 lux, several work areas were as low as
examination, thus, was of low reliability due 120 lux. As 1,000 lux was generally considered
to these factors. a minimal requirement for visual inspection
On account of the fact that detection of small parts, the illumination level was
performance is better during a cycle increased to 1,000 lux throughout.
independent procedure (McFarling and The increased illumination was achieved
Heimstra, 1975), and since the level of by implementing the following changes:
illumination has a significant impact on the . Fluorescent tubes were installed.
reliability in industrial quality testing . Lights, which had been turned off to
(Ferguson et al., 1974), the inspection was conserve energy, were switched on.
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Majorkumar Govindaraju,
. Light fixtures were lowered from the picked up from the table by a suction
Arunkumar Pennathur and ceiling. mechanism and positioned on a tube which
Anil Mital was delivered to the riveting station by a
Quality improvement in
. Windows were installed in the wall for
manufacturing through human outside light. conveyor mechanism. The label was then
performance enhancement automatically riveted to the tube at both ends.
Integrated Manufacturing The outside windows were beneficial for The plant was experiencing many rejects
Systems several reasons. Besides improving the
from this operation and most of the rejects
12/5 [2001] 360±367 illumination level, they also created an had the label missing. It could be that either
aesthetic and friendly environment. The the suction mechanism did not work
outside view also served as a landmark for properly, or the worker could not keep up
operators to orient themselves in the plant, with the speed of the rotating table. Visual
and created better awareness of the time of observations led to the conclusion that the
day, which is specially important for shift problem was due to the operator. It was found
work. Because of this, outside windows are that it was very difficult for the operator to
required by law in several European keep up with the speed of the rotating table.
countries. Three adjustments helped change what was
The detection rate of faulty items improved an expensive operation into a profitable one:
with the increased illumination, even in areas 1 The angular speed of the turntable was
for routine handling of products and supplies, reduced.
and as a result, the process yield also 2 The job was assigned to an operator who
improved dramatically. Operator productivity possessed better finger dexterity.
and process yield improved by 23 per cent and 3 The vendor was contracted to deliver
18 per cent, respectively, while the injury rate labels packaged in proper alignment,
reduced by 19 per cent. The beneficial effects reducing many finger movements for
of the improved illumination were orientation.
acknowledged by the operators.
In a field study, it is often difficult to After these changes, the operation achieved a
quantify the effect of ergonomic significant reduction in the reject rate and
improvements on quality, as opposed to other almost a 50 per cent increase in output.
engineering changes, and this case study
suffers from a lack of control of several such
variables which could have contributed to Conclusions
the quality improvements. However, at the This paper illustrates, through four case
end of the study, 26 managers and engineers studies, how ergonomic work conditions
were interviewed. They all agreed that affect human performance and quality.
approximately half the quality Presently, quality improvements are
improvements could be due to ergonomic primarily sought by improved process
changes while the other half were attributed techniques and materials. However, a
to other engineering and production changes. holistic approach toward quality assurance
The manufacturing management was requires that due consideration be given to
extremely positive about the ergonomic improving operator efficiency. Paucity of
improvements and reported that several experimental investigations in clearly
other manufacturing areas also claimed demonstrating the link between ergonomics
benefits from the ergonomic redesigns since and quality suggests that more systematic
it improved the quality of the product coming research needs to be performed to investigate
to their area. how quality is affected by ergonomic
variables such as work area, job design,
Case study 4: ergonomic changes and equipment design, man/machine design,
quality improvement in flashlight and personal interaction, organizational
lantern plant structure, and work environment.
This case study involved the riveting Eventually, quality products can only be
operation at a flashlight and lantern plant created by making a process possible by
and showed how ergonomic modifications optimizing all the variables related to
resulted in better productivity and quality of production such as workers, material, and
system functioning (Pulat, 1992). An machines. Further, experimental
expensive machine was designed and custom investigations demonstrating clear linkages
built to automate the label-riveting operation between ergonomics, quality, and cost are
on flashlight tubes. The task involved the needed. Variables that affect human
placing of oval-shaped plastic labels of size performance, variables that affect quality,
1in. major axis length and 0.25in. minor axis and variables that affect cost must be
length on a rotating table of 1ft diameter with considered systematically in such
very close fit requirements. Labels were investigations.
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Majorkumar Govindaraju, Pridham, M. and O’Brien, C. (Eds),
Arunkumar Pennathur and
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