Chapter 19: Human Factors and Ergonomics Practice in Manufacturing: Integration into the Engineering Design Processes

by Caroline Sayce and Fiona Bird

Practitioner summary

Human factors and ergonomics (HF/E) in manufacturing is employed across many industries. Whilst the techniques and methods we apply are consistent, the unique requirements and constraints of each industry drive the manner with which HF/E is applied. Within both the rail and defence sectors, HF/E is part of a multi-disciplinary design process within a requirements-driven engineering environment, involved with the design and integration of numerous sub-systems in the development of the end product. Detailed processes are followed to enable effective HF/E input through each design phase of a project, requiring both an organised and flexible approach by the HF/E practitioner. Whilst safety and operability are the key considerations for HF/E in the development of a submarine, the development of rolling stock also considers comfort and minimising the risk of injury for a wide range of end users. The challenges experienced across the industries can be both common and unique, ranging from managing scope and incorporating legacy design, to understanding complex nuclear systems, or managing the political influence of Unions.

Chapter quotes

“Throughout the design for manufacture of a complex product or system, HF/E input is applied by a number of organisations throughout the supply chain, each with differing requirements and constraints. For example, HF/E may be required during:

  • the design and manufacture of a component part;
  • the integration of components to create a subsystem; and,
  • the integration of a series of sub-systems in preparation for the manufacture of a larger system.”

“Whilst human centred design is a noble aspiration, in highly automated systems humans are less involved in the operation of the system. As reliability targets and penalties for failing to achieve them are set ever higher, there tends to be a greater reliance on automated systems. Therefore HF/E is recognised as a critical discipline to be integrated within the design process, though it receives no positive discrimination over other disciplines.”

“The rail industry designs for comfort as well as reduction of injury, with an extensive anthropometric dataset being applied throughout the design process. The defence industry, however, is primarily concerned with safety and reliability. Due to the spatial and environmental limitations on board a submarine, the application of anthropometric data for comfort and injury reduction is more limited and operators will be expected to work in less comfortable environments than drivers of a passenger train would expect.”

“There are many challenges inherent in the integration and management of HF in the manufacture of engineered systems and HF/E practitioners tailor their approach and methods applied to ensure that HF/E adds value whilst ensuring requirements compliance and the mitigation of risks that are relevant to that industry.”

Practitioner reflections (scroll down to add your own reflection)


About drclairewilliams

I am a senior consultant at Human Applications and Visiting Research Fellow in Human Factors and Behaviour Change at the University of Derby. Most of my work just now deals with leadership and culture in the health and safety realm; trying to support organisations to take a systems approach to understanding behaviour. I blog in a personal capacity. Views expressed here are mine and not those of any affiliated organisation, unless stated otherwise. You can find me on twitter at @claire_dr
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