By Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Manual, repetitive pick-and-place responsibilities present challenges when it comes to finding solutions that work for all shapes and sizes, weights and dimensions—both for workers and the products. Solutions do exist, however—ones that have been researched and tested by the members of MHI’s Ergonomic Assist Systems and Equipment (EASE).
EASE members provide equipment that tilts, hoists and lifts materials out of containers, either by raising the underside with a tilt table or from overhead, said Jim Galante, EASE chairman and director, business development at MHI member Southworth Products Corp.
“For example, if the materials are parts or components weighing 15 pounds or more, customers may want to use a balancer, hoist or vacuum lifter to lift and not change the attitude of the container at all—just let it sit on the floor,” Galante said. “However, most things in containers tend to be small things, like tennis balls or ears of corn in a food processing plant. In those cases, the hoist may not be a good solution.”
Wire baskets or containers with lightweight materials also represent an ergonomic issue—repetition. Workers might have to pick thousands of pieces during an eight-hour shift, so tilting the containers would put them at the most advantage to do the work.
“Different tilter hinge heights affect the attitude of the container to the worker, so the equipment has to be controlled by the worker,” Galante said. “When the container is full, the worker starts taking layers off the top. As they work their way through the material in the container, the equipment jogs it up until the worker gets to the very bottom.”