Ergonomics: Using Digital Twins for Safety and Productivity
The field of ergonomics has evolved in the last few decades to include more simulation. With advancements in simulation speed and intuitive interfaces, the time required to develop simulations has dropped dramatically and made them more practical. Traditional ergonomic analysis involved the use of MTM tables and generic rules-of-thumb to incorporate safety factors and heuristics to ensure job safety. This approach often made it difficult to assess unique tasks or forced engineers to error on the side of expensive solutions to ensure safety.
Assessing the physical ergonomic environment entails looking at operator reach, assessing the stresses and strains on the body, measuring kilocalories expended to determine fatigue, and analyzing posture using tooling like RULA (Rapid Upper Limb Assessment).
When assessing reach, simulations make it easy to change the size and gender of the manikin in the simulation to make sure that the smallest female or largest male can both accomplish a task easily. The image below shows the interface for swapping different percentile human models without having to reprogram the simulated tasks.
Based on a specific chosen standard or weight, the simulation can be configured to color code the manikin to assess a body position during a task. The image below shows an adjustable set of ranges that can be used to configure a simulation to reflect safe and unsafe positions for the worker. Once these are set, the manikin’s arms (in this case) will change color based on their level of safety.
Simulations can also be used to assess accessibility for specific task. In the image below, a worker is installing a steering wheel. The simulation can be used to determine cycle time and to check that the worker’s posture remains in an acceptable state during the entirety of the task.
Cognitive Ergonomics analyzes the mental side of a task. Often this refers to the visual cues provided to a worker to help them do their tasks and minimize the mental stress related to their job. This could be as simple as color coding parts and bins to make their selection easy or as involved as augmented reality to overlay visual cues to assist in assembling a complex part. The field of cognitive ergonomics is embracing the concept of a digital twin to allow workers to experience a work environment before it is built. This allows for feedback to the design engineers prior to installation.
Ergonomics is changing. Digital Twin environments allow for system designs that are creative, safe and productive. Let's continue this discussion and start a conversation today at Contact | Forward Vision. We can't wait to move forward with you.