Adapted from an article in Facility Safety Management.
The numbers are in, and they don’t look good. Businesses and their employees are feeling the pain of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in both physical injuries and financial blows. According to Liberty Mutual, the largest workers’ compensation insurance provider in the United States, employers lose $13.4 billion to MSDs annually. These expensive and debilitating injuries often occur during routine, repetitive, and essential material handling processes.
Though no business can afford to ignore workplace MSDs, not all of them are capable of investing the time and resources into complex automated solutions designed to solve the problem. On the bright side, more cost effective, easy-to-operate ergonomic equipment is often exactly what’s needed to protect employees working in a wide range of industries and applications.
Why Technological Overhauls Don’t Work for Everyone
Not only do fully automated storage systems and sorting bots typically come with a multi-million dollar upfront investment, their implementation can disrupt business beyond what some employers can tolerate. The initial set up of large-scale solutions can complicate existing workflow and require months of training and testing once everything is up and running. Keeping automated material handling systems in operation also calls for an additional investment in teams of software-savvy talent. Even when current staff is reeducated for this purpose, the time and expense involved can make major automated solutions unattainable.
Even certain operator-assisted material handling systems can be problematic in certain workplaces. For example, forklifts and overhead cranes require extensive operational and safety training before they can be used to move materials and avoid MSDs. This can be an issue for businesses with fewer available resources and less time to mitigate pressing MSD risks. The last thing anyone wants is to invest in a complicated solution that causes more problems than it solves.
The companies served at Electro Kinetic Technologies seek us out because they need some type of cost effective ergonomic technology that will protect employees without exposing the business to serious financial risk, or drastically changing the way things operate. In the world of ergonomic equipment engineering, sometimes the simplest solution is also the safest and most cost effective.
Easily Deployed Material Handling Equipment is Quick & Cost Effective
For material handling applications where a quickly deployed solution is the most viable method for minimizing MSD risk, motorized carts and tuggers make great candidates. Their price point and range of features makes them a functional solution everywhere from hospitals to fabrication shops. For this reason, motorized carts and tuggers are some of the most effective and versatile types of ergonomic material handling equipment on the market.
Another reason for the popularity of motorized equipment is its ease of use. Employees need very little training in order to safely operate a motorized cart or tugger. Easy and intuitive controls are either mounted to the frame or operated wirelessly from a safe distance. While motorized carts are designed to entirely replace manual carts, a tugger operates alongside them like a truck pulling a trailer. With a universal hitch, an operator can easily attach a motorized tugger to one or more loads and tow them safely to their destination.
Among the different categories of motorized carts, cost effective standard models abound. Standard platform carts can be used in a variety of material handling contexts, while utility carts, tool carts, and locked security carts can be tailored for more specific applications. For material handling work that also requires ergonomic lifting assistance, standard scissor lift carts are often ideal. Not only do scissor lift carts safely transport materials from point A to point B, they help employees heft materials onto a work surface or shelf without risking injury.
Generous payload capacities are another convenient feature of motorized carts and tuggers. Standard cart models can handle materials weighing up to 4,000 lbs., while the highest capacity tuggers can tow loads up to 7,500 lbs. Their powerful, sturdy construction allows them to protect employees while transporting heavy metal piping, machine parts, dies, and even robotic equipment. The compact size and maneuverability of standard motorized carts and tuggers also allows them to access areas that larger equipment cannot.
One of the most important benefits of a smaller scale material handling solution is the ROI. Both motorized carts and tuggers immediately eliminate the push/pull forces that cause MSDs and improve workplace efficiency at the same time. Increased productivity, lower insurance premiums, and fewer medical bills all add up to serious savings that start the first day of implementation. However, there are additional ways beyond a simple equipment purchase to make the most of any budget.
Maximize ROI With the Help of Equipment Engineers
It’s common for customers at Electro Kinetic Technologies start out with a request for a specific equipment model they found in a catalog or on our website. However, after digging deeper into the application, our engineers may find that going with the customer’s first impulse would be a waste of their resources. Communicating with the customer and conducting facility walk-throughs gives us the opportunity to identify more effective solutions and generate better ROI.
Particularly for more complex material handling problems and processes, an extra set of eyes makes all the difference for a company’s bottom line. Choosing equipment that doesn’t quite fit the application or fully prevent injury can be more expensive in the long run than investing in smart, cost effective customizations. Custom solutions don’t necessarily have to be complicated, either. Equipment engineers can even modify a pre-built standard model to keep costs down and expedite turnaround. For select applications, our engineers may also augment the customer’s existing manual equipment with a Retrofit Kit to avoid throwing out still-viable manual carts or trolleys.
Being open to some custom engineering and outside guidance also allows businesses to achieve transformative results without having to invest the time and resources into an automation overhaul. For example, engineers can offer to tweak storage systems and workcells to maximize workflow and compliment material handling processes. Additional improvements like these not only increase ROI, they enhance the overall competitiveness of an operation.
Combatting MSDs with cost effective, quickly deployable solutions does more than create safer workplaces for employees. It helps American businesses spend fewer resources on workers’ compensation and more on growing their potential and providing fulfilling careers to thousands of people. With the right ergonomic technology, safer, more sustainable material handling is just around the corner.