Human Work Design: All-Round Work Design with MTM

New building block system combines ergonomics and methodology
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Human Work Design: all-round work design with MTM
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Science & Research (5) > work design (20) > Human Work Design: All-Round Work Design with MTM
The Human Work Design development project is a completely new kind of MTM building block system for describing human work from both an ergonomic and methodological point of view. This article describes the course of the project from the initial situation to the development goal.

The central topic at the spring conference of the Society for Ergonomics held in Munich on 12 – 14 March 2014 was designing the working world of the future. MTM presented the development project known as Human Work Design to the public for the first time on this occasion; this is a completely new kind of MTM building block system for describing human work from an ergonomic and methodological point of view. The joint approach adopted by the academic partners involved, the German MTM Association, the Institute of Ergonomics at Darmstadt University of Technology (IAD) and the Institute of Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics at RWTH Aachen University (IAW), can be described as follows: All-round work design using the process chain can only succeed if work is considered from a human point of view. MTMaktuell continues the series of articles on Human Work Design in this issue with an academic paper*.


The initial situation

Conceptually, MTM represents an end-to-end productivity management scheme covering the complete product creation process and, in methodological terms, it stands for modelling human movements so that it is possible to plan and design productive and healthy work. Using defined process building blocks, models mapping human movements are drawn up to cover the work in production and indirect departments. The core of MTM involves registering or anticipating individual movements and designing them to optimize procedures. The process description is therefore not the means to an end, but the real focus of MTM work with a view to reproducing the results of the analysis work.  Work processes are currently being drawn up both to assess bio-mechanical movements and create performance targets. However, the description of the sequence of movements only takes place during the process planning (e.g. in industrial engineering). When it comes to assessing the ergonomics (e.g. with the Ergonomic Assessment Worksheet or EAWS), only the relevant key data based on observations or a film are extracted by means of worksheets. A description of the target process has not been the subject of ergonomic assessment processes in the past. 

The goal

The declared aim of the project is to provide greater quality for describing and designing manual work procedures. Human Work Design supplies a standardized process description both for the methodological and the bio-mechanical assessment. This is being developed on the basis of the globally established MTM-1 building block system and the bio-mechanical assessment processes used at companies (e.g. EAWS, APSA and EAB).

The course of action

The project is broken down into the development, validation and internationalization phases and several working groups are working on these elements. A start has been made to register the initial situation at partner corporations and draw up development principles (e.g. chronology), which will serve as the guidelines for the development work. The meetings of the working groups concentrate on drawing up the individual process building blocks; academic partners support this work and focus on pragmatic applications. Tests and statistical backups take place at corporate workstations.

The development of the description language

The process building blocks in Human Work Design enable a description of the complete work process. In addition to the individual movements of the body, head and limbs, the system also describes the posture of operators during and after a work process (assembly line or complete production cycle). The description contains all the influencing factors that are necessary from the point of view of the bio-mechanical assessment procedures and the time analysis. When developing the Human Work Design description language, the ergonomics specialists at the IAD ensured that the language was compatible with the EAWS methodology, as the procedures used by the corporations are not identical to EAWS in every case, but use its methodology as their basis. For this purpose, the individual elements in the description language were tested to see whether they were compatible with the assessment criteria in the EAWS process, because it is only possible to derive the ergonomic assessment from the description language if it is fundamentally possible to formulate the same circumstances. The next step involved optimizing the description language in order to eliminate any redundant elements, for example, or adapt the granularity to a practical application. Among other things, this led to a breakdown of the person being described into four body zones, although a difference is made between the left and right halves of the body when describing the extremities.

One major aspect when developing a new building block system involves verification, i.e. the statement on whether the system meets the specification and intended degree of precision. The Institute of Industrial Engineering and Ergonomics at RWTH Aachen University (IAW) has contributed its expertise in the field of statistical analysis here. The data analyzed from the video analyses using MTM-1 and Human Work Design is initially examined in isolation with regard to the frequency of individual building blocks in order to determine the scope of the analysis under consideration and therefore the extent of its validity. In a second step, any systematic discrepancies in the individual Human Work Design building blocks, which arise through the MTM-1 building block aggregation and internal weighting factors, are checked. The final stage involves an actual comparison between MTM-1 and Human Work Design. This includes the use of statistical inference processes for analyzing variances (ANOVA) in order to obtain a statement about the accuracy of the building block system that has been developed.  

The conclusion

Good work and product design helps to maintain and develop human efficiency, even when workers become older, and it is a major criterion for long-term and sustainable corporate success. The development of this new building block system is therefore a logical step for the German MTM Association with its focus on “Productive and healthy work.”

FinsterbuschT.,WagnerT., MayerM.Ph., Kille K., Bruder R., Schlick C. M., Jasker K., Hantke U., Härtel J.: Human Work Design – Ganzheitliche Arbeitsgestaltung mit MTM, in: GfA-Tagungsband, Gestaltung der Arbeitswelt der Zukunft, published by the Society for Ergonomics (Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft), Dortmund 2014, p. 324 - 326.

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