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Case Study Workplace design for a warehouse clerk at a mechanical engineering company


The company is a vehicle and mechanical engineering group with several locations worldwide. It develops and produces compressors, extruders and gas and steam turbines at a site with 2,000 employees in Germany.

Disability and impairment of the employee:

The woman has a spinal disease with back pain and is severely disabled. She has limited ability to perform manual load handling tasks such as lifting and carrying. This applies in particular to working in a stooped as well as bent posture and with the arms stretched out in front of the body. In the past, there was a lot of downtime due to illness, but this has been greatly reduced after the suitable for disabled people design was introduced.

Training and job:

The woman has been working as a warehouse clerk in the company for several years. She was appropriately trained when she took up the job.

Work organisation:

The warehousewoman used to work in the large parts warehouse, where she assembled parts for outgoing goods and stored new parts. Due to her disability, she could not continue to work there because, despite assistive products, heavier loads had to be lifted and carried manually for storage and retrieval. She was therefore transferred to the small parts warehouse. In the small parts warehouse she works in shifts with other colleagues.

Workplace and work task:

The warehouse clerk works in the small parts and spare parts warehouse in the company's production department. There, smaller parts such as screws, nuts, gaskets, flanges etc. with a low weight were stored in a shelf system for production and for dispatch to the customer. The respective shelves had seven compartments, of which the woman could only use three compartments at hip height due to her disability. At the same time, the company continued to modernise its storage processes and therefore also wanted to change the type of storage and to the so-called pick-by-vision principle.
In cooperation with the Technical Advisory Service of the Integration Office, a workplace inspection was carried out with inspection and consultation. Afterwards, two nine-meter high carousels (paternoster shelves) with ergonomic removal and storage heights and two table trolleys, which are adapted to the body dimensions for working in an ergonomic posture, were purchased (Fig. 1). All small parts and spare parts are now stored in bins within the two carousels, which are directly linked to the computer-aided storage system. Together, the two carousels have approximately 6,000 storage locations. If, for example, an order is started for picking, the warehouse worker receives the corresponding information via the data glasses integrated into the storage system and the pick-by-vision principle or via their display. By tapping a sensor on the frame of the glasses, the part or article to be picked is displayed and the carousel automatically moves the corresponding shelf level to the pick position and places the totes with the articles at the pick point (Figure 2). The warehouse worker removes the respective articles and places them, for example, in a cardboard box on one of the table trolleys. The individual picking processes are acknowledged by a data glove with scanner and transmitted to the storage system. The process continues for each item to be picked until the order is complete and a printed order slip is placed in the carton and the carton is sealed.
In order to avoid physical strain caused by lifting articles in a bent upper body posture and with arms stretched out in front, articles are stored according to a "traffic light system" in such a way that heavier small parts are placed further forward and lighter small parts are placed in the rear area of a shelf level or gripping space of the storekeeper (Fig. 3). A table trolley has integrated scales for this purpose, so that the items can be weighed before weight-oriented storage.
The warehouse staff quickly got to grips with the new technology and did not require any special training. Since the company tested the new technology at the beginning and participated in the development, the warehouse clerk was also able to contribute her own suggestions for improvement and ideas to the process. However, the warehouse clerk finds working with the data glasses exhausting for an entire workday because it requires a high level of concentration. After two hours or when the battery is empty, she therefore switches to the conventional method of working using a hand scanner and PC terminal (Fig. 4). In addition, there is another ergonomically equipped computer workstation with an office chair and height-adjustable desk in the warehouse, which is rarely used by the woman.

Assistive products used:

Further Information

The work design suitable for disabled people, through the use of the carousels and table trolleys, was supported proportionally by the local specialist office for disabled people at work and by the Inclusion Office. Advice was provided by the Technical Advisory Service of the Inclusion Office of the Rhineland Regional Association (LVR).

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Last Update: 7 Dec 2020