An Investment in the Future

Matthias Wartig, Miele & Cie. KG, on Human Work Design
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The article illustrates how Miele & Cie. KG is involved in the “Human Work Design” development project and the significance that the new building block system has for industrial engineering at Miele.

One of the partner companies in the Human Work Design development project is Miele & Cie. KG.  Matthias Wartig, Head of Batch Production Preparatory Work at the Gütersloh factory, outlined the benefits of the new MTM building block system in a tandem lecture with Thomas Finsterbusch, research assistant at the MTM Institute, at the MTM Users Conference in Heilbronn on 9 May 2014 – and talked about the associated opportunities for maintaining production work in Germany. We spoke to him before the lecture.

MTMaktuell: Mr. Wartig, what persuaded Miele as a company to get involved in the Human Work Design development project?

Matthias Wartig: The introduction of the Miele value creation system, which forms part of the Miele success system (see graphics) partly specified the corporate principles of work that guarantee healthy working conditions, the involvement of the employees, an all-round improvement process, sustainability and communications.  One goal of the corporate health management scheme is to create the conditions for employees to be able to operate in an effective and healthy way throughout their working lives.

MTMaktuell: What benefits do you see in the new building block system?

Matthias Wartig: By using MTM methods, we’re already in a very good position in terms of describing and assessing working stages. But an all-round monitoring system also includes the description and assessment of ergonomics. We’re achieved excellent results using the MTMergonomics® tool to assess the ergonomic risk in a working task. So selecting and introducing an international standard to assess biomechanical stresses was a logical consequence. As a member company in the MTM Association, Miele was able to make use of the methodical and specialist expertise in the field of ergonomics, test the “EAWS” procedure, newly developed by the IMD and the IAD, and make it our standard tool. We’re using it in line with our needs and it’s created significant improvements. However, there has not been any dovetailing with the end-to-end description of methods for manual work. It’s only possible to quantify the description and assessment of design options to a certain degree with the current building block system. The level of granularity in the assessment is also much higher in EAWS than in UAS, so that it is desirable to harmonize the design parameters when describing and assessing manual work. We need a standard that can do both; assess the working procedure from methodical and biomechanical points of view. Human Work Design takes both into account.

MTMaktuell: The partner companies in the development project mainly come from the automobile industry, but Miele is a white goods firm. Do you believe that the new building block system is restricted to just a few sectors?

Matthias Wartig: Not at all. The pressure to guarantee process and product quality and the efficiency of production in the light of demographic developments and longer working lives is a factor in every sector in Germany. Human Work Design will particularly be of interest where manual activities are clocked because the nature of the work often changes during the course of a shift. 

MTMaktuell: What is the significance of the development of the new building block for industrial engineering at Miele?

Matthias Wartig: By dovetailing ergonomics and methods, we have the option of moving away from a one-sided discussion of “time.” We’re now in a position to achieve the best possible ratio between ergonomics/prevention and efficiency when designing work. This represents an increase in our expertise and proves to be an advantage for the standing of industrial engineering at the company.

MTMaktuell: With the works council too?

Matthias Wartig: Definitely. The works council has been involved from the outset since we’ve been using MTM methods. The works council is supporting us now in testing Human Work Design as a preliminary stage in the pilot phase – both constructively and critically. We want to show the employees how it is possible to treat ergonomics and work design together and what benefits this can provide them and the whole company. By the way, the works council has contributed a great deal towards ensuring a joint understanding by participating in the MTM Practitioner training and EAWS training courses.

MTMaktuell: Innovations are always investments. What does any integrated ergonomic and work planning look like from an economic point of view?

Matthias Wartig: That is the next question that we need to answer as part of the development project. The fact is that we need to guarantee cost-efficiency at our companies in order to maintain industrial production in Germany. In terms of Human Work Design, that means for me that ergonomics or prevention and efficiency have to be brought into an ideal ratio with the help of the process at individual companies so that we are able to make statements on cost-efficiency on the basis of numbers and facts. When designing people-friendly work, the issues of motivation and qualification are also factors. The employee, who is still standing at an assembly work station today, may perhaps work as a plant operator tomorrow. He or she needs to be able and willing to prepare for this. So I believe that Human Work Design will also help with work design that promotes learning, it opens up new opportunities for employees and not least contributes to an identification with corporate goals – so it’s an investment in the future in my view.

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