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Foot motions in manual material handling transfer tasks: A taxonomy and data from an automotive assembly plant

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Ergonomic job analysis commonly applies static postural and biomechanical analysis tools to particular postures observed during manual material handling (MMH) tasks, usually focusing on the most extreme postures or those involving the highest loads. When these analyses are conducted prospectively using digital human models, accurate prediction of the foot placements is critical to realistic postural analyses. In automotive assembly jobs, workers frequently take several steps between task elements, for example, picking up a part at one location and moving to another location to place it on the vehicle. A detailed understanding of the influence of task type and task sequence on the stepping pattern is necessary to accurately predict the foot placements associated with MMH tasks. The current study examined the patterns of foot motions observed during automotive assembly tasks. Video data for 529 pickup and delivery tasks from 32 automotive assembly jobs were analysed. A minimum of five cycles was analysed for each task. The approach angle, departure angle, hand(s) used, manipulation height and patterns of footsteps were coded from the video. Object mass was identified from the job information sheet provided by the assembly plant. Three independent raters coded each video and demonstrated an intraclass correlation coefficient of 0.54 for identification of the configuration of the lower extremities during terminal stance. Based on an analysis of the distribution of stepping behaviours during object transitions (pickups or deliveries), a transition classification system (TRACS) was developed. TRACS uses a compact notation to quantify the sequence of steps associated with a MMH transition. Five TRACS behaviour groups accounted for over 90% of the transition stepping behaviours observed in the assembly plant. Approximately two-thirds (68.4%) of the object transfers observed were performed with only one foot in contact with the ground during the terminal posture. The results from this paper suggest that a predictive model for choosing a transition stepping behaviour, coupled with a model to scale the selected foot behaviours, is needed to facilitate accurate prospective ergonomic analyses. This study proposes a method for categorising the stepping patterns associated with MMH tasks. The influence of task type and task sequence on the stepping patterns observed during several automotive assembly tasks is discussed. For prospective postural analyses conducted using digital human models, accurate prediction of the foot placements is critical to realistic postural analyses.
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Keywords: lifting; manual material handling; step; taxonomy; transfer

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Industrial and Operations Engineering Department, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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