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Manufacturers must do more to tackle poor ergonomic design

16 April 2014

A new report from Bosch Rexroth calls on manufacturers to do more to protect workers through better design of work areas.

The report, ‘Factory Ergonomics - A study into the impact of ergonomics on productivity, quality and employee health’, highlights Health and Safety Executive statistics that reveal more than 7.5 million days are lost every year as a result of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

The report also shines a light on the one million plus people throughout the UK suffering from MSD each year - with poorly designed work areas often cited as a key cause.

The impact on the bottom line of lost working days is also significant, with the latest statistics revealing a cost of £5.7 billion to the British economy per year as a result of workplace injuries.

Authored by Ross Townshend, an expert in manual production systems at Bosch Rexroth, the report goes on to discuss the key principals of good ergonomic design and how - implemented properly - it can not only dramatically reduce the risk of MSD, but also increase productivity and efficiency.

Mr Townshend said: “While industry is increasingly becoming more automated, humans remain the most versatile component in a manufacturing process," says Mr Townshend. "For the sake of workers and British business ergonomics must be taken seriously.

“With our latest report we’re looking to offer production engineers and those responsible for employee health in manufacturing environments, an overview of the key factors that must be taken into account when incorporating an ergonomic solution into the workplace.”

Factory Ergonomics - A study into the impact of ergonomics on productivity, quality and employee health’ can be downloaded here.

SME's lacking proper business planning
The importance of having a business plan is highlighted in new research showing that over a third of the UK’s 4.8 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are failing to reach their full profit potential.

Independent research, commissioned by business and finance software provider Exact, shows SMEs, including companies in the manufacturing sector, that had a business plan in place last year were consistently more profitable (70 percent) than those that did not (52 percent).

Put into the context of the £2.8 million average annual profit made by the 453 SMEs who took part in the survey, this shortfall equates to a significant amount of extra funds many are potentially missing out on.

The research set out to provide a better understanding of some of the challenges SMEs face in achieving their business goals, with ‘increasing profits’, ‘increasing revenue growth’ and ‘attracting new customers’ cited as the top three goals.

The results also showed that those who had a business plan in place were more than twice as successful in achieving these goals than those who did not (achieving a 69 percent success rate versus 31 percent).

Despite these compelling statistics, 34 percent of SMEs said they do not have a business plan in place. The top reasons given by SMEs in the manufacturing sector for not having business plans included ‘I don’t see the need to have one’ (74 percent), ‘I’m too busy’ (32 percent) and ‘I don’t have anyone to help’ (12 percent). 

Lucy Fox, general manager UK Cloud Solutions for Exact, says the findings clearly show there are many SMEs in the manufacturing sector who are missing out on the added value a business plan can offer, the consequence being that many may be failing to reach their full growth and business potential as a result.

“While the results should serve as a bit of a wake-up call, they also highlight that more needs to be done to address some of the misconceptions over what is involved in the planning process," she says. "Many don’t seem to realize that with the help of a trusted financial advisor, like an accountant, creating a plan can be done easily and the benefits, as the research suggests, can be enormous.” 

The research revealed that among those who did not have a business plan, many believed it would take up too much of their time to do one (‘I’m too busy’ 23 percent). Others appeared unaware that there were people available to help them create one, with 8 percent saying, 'I don't have anyone to help me' and 5 percent saying they did not do one because, 'I'm not comfortable with numbers'. 

Howard Jackson, managing director of FD Solutions, one of the UK’s leading providers of interim and part time Finance Directors, says a business plan helps identify long-term objectives; provides a blueprint of how you go about achieving those goals and provides metrics to help with checking your progress on that journey. 

“A business plan joins up the dots between sales, HR and finance and provides a holistic analysis of a company as well as its market place," he says. "The fact that so many SMEs do not appear to have a plan is worrying, not least in light of the fact that much of the UK economy depends on their success, representing over 99 percent of all private sector businesses.

“As the green shoots of recovery grow, there are real opportunities for SMEs to be at the forefront of that trend and to benefit from that growth. Having a business plan in place to address opportunities, as well as some of the challenges, is a great place to start. I would advise any SME to bear in mind the old adage from Benjamin Franklin ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’”. 


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