Integrating ergonomics into production system development--the Volvo Powertrain case.Appl Ergon. 2009 May; 40(3):527-37.AE
Understanding the barriers and assists to integrating ergonomics into production system design remains a research issue. An action research case study at Volvo Powertrain/Sweden was conducted. Researchers worked collaboratively with the firm in efforts to improve the company's ability to handle ergonomics in their daily work of improving and developing production systems. Researchers observed and reflected collectively on the change process using field notes and recordings to support their observations. Observed integration barriers included both individual level issues like life events, and organisational aspects such as communication barriers between groups or assignment of tasks to people not involved in decision-making. Observed assists included the 'political reflective navigation' (c.f. Broberg, O., Hermund, I., 2004. The OHS consultant as a 'political reflective navigator' in technological change processes. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics 33 (4), 315-326) by the project owner to find new ways to overcome barriers and anchor ergonomics into the organisation. While special 'ergonomics' groups did not survive long, progress was observed in including ergonomics in regular design groups. A cross-functional workshop that fostered discussion across organisational boundaries helped shift focus from retrofitting systems to future production systems and improve engagement of engineering teams. Progress was marked by both success and setbacks and full integration appears to require more than 2 years time. It is concluded that support by senior managers should include succession planning for personnel that are key to the change effort.