Skip to content

Integrating Ergonomics with Lean Manufacturing Processes

Lean Ergonomics and Lean Manufacturing Process

The goal of ergonomics is to improve performance and eliminate the risk of discomfort and injury in the workplace. The goal of Lean manufacturing is to eliminate waste and maximize productivity.

Ergonomics and Lean manufacturing have different goals but complement each other. Both strategies originate in the manufacturing world, but the idea of combining lean manufacturing processes with ergonomic design has spread to offices, warehouses, and fulfillment facilities. Workplace improvement and continuous improvement reduce quantifiable risk and make the work environment more efficient, productive, and safe.

The Lean manufacturing process minimizes waste within eight areas of the enterprise: Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Over-Processing, Defects, and Skills. Reducing waste in these areas also saves time and money.

However, some employers have reported implementing Lean processes creates repetitive movement within a job and eliminates rest time for workers; many employees suffer injuries. The injuries are a result of the repetitive nature of high forces and stressful postures.

What can a warehouser or manufacturer do?

Embedding Ergonomic Design into the Lean Manufacturing Process

Embedding ergonomic design into the Lean manufacturing process enables you to create workflows that minimize risks for employees.

To ensure ergonomics is an effective component of the Lean manufacturing process, the operations planning team must make ergonomics and safety, just like waste reduction and value creation, core values of the process. Ergonomic metrics must be included in the Lean method to assess improvements.

When creating value stream maps, ergonomic risk assessments, and quality metrics must be added. You can use a scored risk assessment that looks at specific risk factors within assembly lines or workflows, and then prioritize the changes needed to improve safety while eliminating waste.

Learn lean manufacturing storage principles. Download the Lean Manufacturing Storage Guidebook!


Four ways to implement Lean Ergonomics into your warehousing or manufacturing operation:

1. Design

When designing industrial workstations or workflow, incorporating ergonomics into the designs can improve safety factors. The focus should be on how the worker interacts with the workstation, ensuring they use correct posture, and the workstations are kept neat and organized to eliminate the need to search for a part, wasting time.

Utilizing carton flow and pick trays in workstations keeps the workstation neat and orderly- it keeps important parts and products at the point of pick, eliminating excessive reaching that can result in strain or injury.

2. Organization

Look at the layout of the materials needed on the lean modular workstation – like tools and monitors, for example- and arrange them close to the worker to reduce reach distances. Organize materials so that the worker doesn't have to twist around to reach something, potentially injuring his/her spine.

These slight adjustments to the lean manufacturing workstation layout eliminate extraneous steps and movements for your workers, improving ergonomics, and boosting productivity.

3. Training

Train your workers on the lean manufacturing process, basic ergonomic concepts, and design factors to better recognize risk factors and safety issues. In the end, the ergonomic design should complement the lean manufacturing process goals, helping manufacturers reduce risk when trying to remove waste throughout your organization.

4. Scale

The Lean philosophy is not limited to assembly or packing workstations. Implement Lean ergonomics in multiple areas of your office, warehouse, or manufacturing facility. Improve lineside storage, build manufacturing supermarkets, and pick modules by keeping parts and products in the "golden zone," reducing the strain involved in a pick while improving pick speed and accuracy.

Implementing Lean Ergonomics With UNEX

UNEX space optimization and order picking solutions can help improve lean manufacturing processes with ergonomics in mind. Contact our space optimization experts and find out how we can help you bring this winning combination to your operation!

Build a space-saving flow rack solution in minutes with our FREE design tools