Injuries and Illness

The Risk of MSDs from Tasks That Add No Value to the Product

Yesterday, we looked at the potential ergonomic pitfalls of lean manufacturing. Today, we look at the flip side: “non-value-added tasks.”

What if you could reduce your manufacturing costs, improve productivity, and prevent ergonomic injuries all at once? Sound too good to be true? It may not be, according to Chris Shulenberger, Certified Professional Ergonomist with Bureau Veritas North America. There’s an area in which the intersection of ergonomics and lean manufacturing has the potential to provide excellent return on investment.

Identifying Non-Value-Added Tasks

What is a non-value-added task, anyway? “A non-value-added task is one that a worker completes that does not improve the quality or add value to the product,” Shulenberger says. “For example, carrying a part across the warehouse doesn’t make the part any better; it just gets it from point A to Point B.”

These non-value-added tasks, too, can be reduced or done away with in a lean manufacturing environment but are often overlooked. “In the scope of lean manufacturing, you don’t want to do things that don’t make your product better, or allow you to make it more consistently or make more of it,” Shulenberger says.

The good news for your ergonomics program is that many non-value- added tasks are ones that create risk for employees—and eliminating or improving as many as you can is better both for ergonomic safety and worker efficiency. For example, many materials handling tasks involve lifting, pushing, pulling, twisting, and carrying—heavy-duty ergonomic risks that don’t benefit the product or the worker in any way. “If you can look at the process involved in the development of goods and services, and take out some of those non-value- added tasks, you are also becoming more lean,” he says.


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How can you identify non-value-added tasks that are ripe for alteration or elimination?

Look at the Whole Process

Sometimes employers miss an opportunity because their lean manufacturing focus is too narrow. For example, materials-handling tasks are often targeted as part of ergonomics programs, but may be missed during the implementation of lean manufacturing programs because the employer is thinking only about the worker’s primary task, and not about the things that come before and after that task.

Consider pharmaceutical, biotech, or even bakery employees involved in batch mixing. The task you might be looking at—the one that seems to cause injuries—involves workers unloading materials from a cart and pouring them into a tank for mixing. But when you back away from that task, you’ll see other tasks are increasing ergonomic loads and exacerbating risks: somebody had to push that cart to the tank; somewhere up the line even further, those materials had to be bagged or scooped and weighed for the batch mix.

“In some of these cases, from the time the ingredients are received until they are put into the tank, there might be 8, 10, or 12 steps,” says Shulenberger. Yet the only steps that add value are the measuring and the mixing. All the rest are ways of handling material.

An investment in automatic weighing machines reduces the risk of handling heavy quantities. Vacuuming materials out of bulk containers eliminates the risk to workers of scooping ingredients out of the bottom of 50-gallon barrels. Putting the bags on conveyors rather than carts eliminates pushing and pulling.

“The concept is to eliminate as best you can those steps that don’t make your product more consistent or better in some way, and to reduce injuries in the process,” Shulenberger says.


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Training for Consistent Compliance

If you’ve been looking for quality ergonomics training or training for a wide range of other safety concerns, look no farther. Safety Training Presentations gets you off to a good start with 25 core PowerPoint® safety presentations, each one responsive to either an OSHA training requirement or to common causes of workplace accidents. All are customizable, so you can add your specific hazards or safety policies.

Each lesson also includes completion certificates, sign-in sheets, evaluation forms, and training records. In short, it contains everything you need to motivate, reinforce, retain, and transfer new knowledge—and document that you did so.

In addition to ergonomics, Safety Training Presentation topics covered include:

—Bloodborne Pathogens

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—Scaffolds

—Lockout/Tagout

—Forklift Operator Safety

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—and more!

Of course, training needs change as OSHA introduces new requirements or as new work practices and technologies bring new hazards. To cover this, you receive a new CD every 90 days you’re in the program, each containing five additional or updated topics.

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We’ve arranged for Advisor subscribers to get a no-cost, no-obligation look at Safety Training Presentations for 30 days. Feel free to try a few lessons with your own trainees. Please let us know, and we’ll be glad to set it up.