The Right Arms for Ergonomics

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Sometimes technicians at the GE Aviation facility in Durham, N.C., expected to go home with numb fingers, strained muscles and sore backs. But creativity changed that for good. They are tasked with producing the GE90 aircraft engine. A significant piece of the engine is made of the low pressure turbine (LPT) bladed discs, which have been difficult to store in the past, the disc had been stored in a traditional, sliding, six-drawer storage rack, a cumbersome storage space that brings out complaints from some technicians that it was very difficult to open and close.

With the ergonomic risk factors rising, the self-directed workforce at the Durham facility determined that they need to shelve its shelving system for a more creative solution. To review options, the workforce put together a team and resulted in the development of the GE90 Swing Arms Storage systems. It has a simple design, six weight-bearing arms pivot off each side of the system frame, eliminating many of ergonomic risk.

The development of the new system was a highly engaging venture for the Durham team. When it first started, the technicians engaged in what they call a lean and safety action workout. The Durham facility has been using the GE90 Swing Arm Storage System daily since early 2010. Besides the drop in necessary push-pull force, the plant has seen many ergonomic and economic improvements. After spending only $7,000 in developing the solution, the plant has saved $20,000 in annual operation savings and $35,000 in cost avoidance over the more traditional-style rack.

Technicians now have almost 360-degree access to the LPT discs, making it easier to get fixtures on and off storage. The systems allows one technicians stack the discs together while another can press the next discs. The systems have removed the ladder which is use to reaching discs on the top shelf, so the technicians don’t has to reach across and get dirty from grease on the ball bearings. In March, the plant won the Ergo Cup in the Engineering/Ergonomist – Driven Workplace Solutions category for storage system.