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Determinants of business sustainability: An ergonomics perspective

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There is a need to integrate both macro- and micro-ergonomic approaches for the effective implementation of interventions designed to improve the root causes of problems such as work safety, quality and productivity in the enterprise system. The objective of this study was to explore from an ergonomics perspective the concept of business sustainability through optimising the worker-work environment interface. The specific aims were: (a) to assess the working conditions of a production department work process with the goal to jointly optimise work safety, quality and quantity; (b) to evaluate the enterprise-wide work process at the system level as a social entity in an attempt to trace the root causes of ergonomic issues impacting employees throughout the work process. The Work Compatibility Model was deployed to examine the experiences of workers (that is, effort, perceived risk/benefit, performance and satisfaction/dissatisfaction or psychological impact) and their associations with the complex domains of the work environment (task content, physical and non-physical work environment and conditions for learning/growth/development). This was followed by assessment of the enterprise system through detailed interviews with department managers and lead workers. A system diagnostic instrument was also constructed from information derived from the published literature to evaluate the enterprise system performance. The investigation of the production department indicated that the stress and musculoskeletal pain experienced by workers (particularly on the day shift) were derived from sources elsewhere in the work process. The enterprise system evaluation and detailed interviews allowed the research team to chart the feed-forward and feedback stress propagation loops in the work system. System improvement strategies were extracted on the basis of tacit/explicit knowledge obtained from department managers and lead workers. In certain situations concerning workplace human performance issues, a combined macro-micro ergonomic methodology is essential to solve the productivity, quality and safety issues impacting employees along the trajectory or path of the enterprise-wide work process. In this study, the symptoms associated with human performance issues in one production department work process had root causes originating in the customer service department work process. In fact, the issues found in the customer service department caused performance problems elsewhere in the enterprise-wide work process such as the traffic department. Sustainable enterprise solutions for workplace human performance require the integration of macro- and micro-ergonomic approaches.
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Keywords: business sustainability; human and enterprise performance; improvement; process health and safety; work performance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA,WorldTek Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, USA 2: University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA 3: WorldTek Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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