A robotic system for product handling has reduced carpel tunnel risks and improved both product quality and employee morale.
During the filter inspection process, roved filter elements approached inspectors via a lower chain conveyor. The inspectors picked up the filter elements from the lower conveyor, inspected them, and then placed them into the Tube Setting Machine. This process required workers to use an expanded pinch grip and to turn their wrists towards the end range of motion (See Picture #1 below of "Tube Setting Process - Old Method"). Several employees who had engaged in this inspection process were diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome, and two required surgery.
Robots now remove filter elements from carrier pallets, rotate them from horizontal to vertical alignment, and then place them on a link conveyor (See Pictures #2 and #3 below of "Tube Setting Process – New Method"). The filter elements are then automatically conveyed to the Tube Setting Machine (See Picture #3 below). The inspectors examine the filter elements as they are conveyed and manually remove only those elements that are of defective quality. What was formerly an entirely manual process is now 95% automated.
Now that manual product handling has been minimized, the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) has greatly decreased, and no carpel tunnel cases have been reported since the new equipment was installed. In addition, the company has achieved a lower product defect rate and experienced an increase in employee morale since implementing the new process.
The company has also received recognition and publicity as a result of the project. After winning an award from the Director of OSHA’s Region V Office, the company was the subject of favorable articles in both the Champaign News Gazette and the Peoria Journal Star.
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