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Research Themes

Firm Strategy

Managers usually associate ergonomics with occupational health and safety, not with core business performance. Actually, there are key ways in which ergonomics analysis and strategy can contribute directly to company direction and business goals such as productivity and quality. In fact, the financial benefits from these are often much greater than gains from improved health alone. For these benefits to be realized, managers must understand that applying ergonomics is much more than just a health and safety matter. The HFE lab runs projects to demonstrate how managers can use ergonomics to achieve higher performance, while securing safer work conditions for employees.

Ergonomists must realize how good design supports good productivity, good quality, and good health. The Human Factors community needs to move from a health ergonomics paradigm to a business ergonomics paradigm - without of course sacrificing the health and safety side of the discipline.

Firm strategy

Indicator Tools and Methods

Analyzing and evaluating complex human interactions can be difficult, but various traditional tools and methodologies are available to allow scientific investigation of systems and designs from an ergonomic point of view, and indicate how these systems and designs can be improved or enhanced. In the Human Factors Lab at Ryerson, we are both evaluating existing tools and developing new ones for the ergonomic analysis of systems and designs.Tools may be very simple paper checklists for designers, or more sophisticated models and modelling approaches suitable for analyzing complex system issues.  The HFE lab aims to support a full range of design decisions – from high level tools that quantify the level of HF integration of the whole organisation, to detailed layout tools that can help optimize a workstation for minimum workload with reliable assembly times.

Apart from these traditional tools, there is also a growing array of computer-based virtual simulation and modelling methodologies and tools.

Simulation and Virtual Modelling

How can we evaluate the human factors side of a system that does not yet exist? There are no real people to observe, no actual systems to measure and evaluate. 'Virtual Human Factors' tools help analyze and evaluate system design in terms of human performance and risks before real-world observation are possible. VHF tools let you explore a scenario, layout, or work process when you still have only design parameters (such as reach distances, line speeds, and force demands) with which to work.

The HFE lab is developing new approaches to modelling planned workplaces that allow designers to understand just how the proposed operations will function in practice. These tools can provide designers with critical information in early design stages to identify better designs, with minimal risks for employees, in less time than was previously possible. Aspects of work that can be modelled virtually include such factors as learning, fatigue, and physical workload.  

Simulation and Virtual Modelling
Simulation and Virtual Modelling

Operations System Design

Engineers designing new workplaces must consider a range of strategies for the operations they design. This may include facility layouts, materials flows, information flow and IT systems, work task allocation and equipment, among many aspects. Designers must be constantly aware of human factors to ensure their systems are safe, effective and provide high quality goods and services to customers. The choice of operational design strategy sets the stage for all of these - a bad choice will severely limit the resulting design. The HFE lab conducts detailed assessments of the advantages, disadvantages and limitations in specific design strategies to provide designers with the best advice for their particular design challenge.

Operations System Design

Organisational Design and Change Management

How can an organisation best adopt and implement new ergonomic approaches? What needs to change? Since human factors influence every aspect of a system, all those making design decisions or implementing organisational changes must understand their roles, big or small. This demands structured learning for individuals and change management for the organisation. The Human Factors Lab at Ryerson is working to evaluate and develop approaches for helping organisations make such change possible, and to make the transition as smooth and comprehensible as possible for all involved.

Organizational Design and Change Management