Evaluation Of The Motoman Robotics Manufacturing Site Construction Essay

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Since 1915, Yaskawa Electric Corporation of Japan, has grown into a worldwide leader in industrial robot manufacturing. Yaskawa Electric is made up of two subdivisions: Motoman Robotics and Yaskawa America, Inc. The Motoman Robotics division is headquartered in Miamisburg, OH, and has nearly 450 employees. Motoman Robotics delivers innovative robotic automation solutions for virtually every industry and robotic application, including arc welding, assembly, coating, dispensing, material cutting, material handling, material removal and spot welding. Since its founding in August of 1989, Motoman Robotics has grown to become the second largest robotics company in North and South America, with more than 30,000 robots installed.

The survey was performed at the Motoman Robotics site with students in the identification of potential workplace exposure class, and Professor Jay Jones. The class visited the facility on September 20, 2012 to identify potential occupational exposures and describe methods to evaluate the potential exposures. Prior to the walkthrough, a joint meeting between the AIHA - Ohio Valley Section and ASSE - Kittyhawk Chapter was attended. During the tour, documentation of potential hazards were identified in the Motoman facility. Health and safety recommendations were listed in priority order.

Health and safety observations that needed additional attention were welding fume inhalation due to inefficient ventilation. Ergonomic measurements using videotaping to calculated load would be necessary to reduce injuries in assembly workers. Lower back pain and injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis in assembly workers may result from exposures to awkward positions, reaches, and repetitive motion. Exposures to noise was present throughout the robotics facility. The sampling strategy for noise would be designed to identify employees for inclusion in a hearing conservation program and to enable the proper selection of hearing protectors. Personal dosimetry would be used to sample each worker in the assembly area.

Visual methods to evaluate include hand-arm stress injuries from manual material handling; machine guarding programs, and lock-out/tag-out procedures. Interview the workers to assess the scope of near-miss accidents. Review the injury records and the following written programs: workers compensation program, training programs, personal protective equipment (PPE) program, and hearing conservation program.

Further consideration was made regarding the health and safety benefits resulting from robotic systems being used in end user applications. The application of robotics has been heavily spread in areas where human operators are at a high risk of injury as well as tasks that are overly repetitive. Many of these hazards were diminished or eliminated by the assistance or substitution of a robot. Moreover, consideration was made towards hazardous jobs that were once performed by humans but are now performed by robots.

Background

Since 1915, Yaskawa Electric Corporation of Japan, has grown into a worldwide leader in industrial robot manufacturing. Yaskawa Electric is made up of two subdivisions: Motoman Robotics and Yaskawa America, Inc. The Motoman Robotics division is headquartered in Miamisburg, OH, and has nearly 450 employees. Motoman Robotics delivers innovative robotic automation solutions for virtually every industry and robotic application, including arc welding, assembly, coating, dispensing, material cutting, material handling, material removal and spot welding. Since its founding in August of 1989, Motoman Robotics has grown to the second largest robotics company in North and South America, with more than 30,000 robots installed.

The survey was performed at the Motoman Robotics site with students in the identification of potential workplace exposure class, and Professor Jay Jones. The class visited the facility on September 20, 2012 to identify potential exposures and describe methods to evaluate the potential exposures. Prior to the walkthrough, a joint meeting between the AIHA - Ohio Valley Section and ASSE - Kittyhawk Chapter was attended.

Description of Process

As one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest custom robotic solution providers, Motoman has the resources and experience to address the most demanding manufacturing challenges. Service groups, including the standard solutions group, research and development team, spare parts and production inventory, product repair, advanced systems group (ASG), customer satisfaction team, technical education training, and corporate sales and marketing, are offered at Motoman Robotics’ headquarters.

The facility is divided into a customer service division and a manufacturing division. The customer service area is made up of three groups: corporate sales and marketing, customer support, and technical education training. The manufacturing area is made up of six groups: standard solutions group, advanced solutions group, research and development, spare parts and product inventory, product repair, and training. A purchase order is first evaluated by application engineers. An optimal robotic system is suggested based on each customer’s automation needs. The project is ultimately allocated to either the general solutions group or advanced solutions group. Standard robot products are serviced by the standard solutions group. Custom fully integrated automation systems are manufactured by the Motoman advanced solutions group. Each custom project is built to Motoman specifications and complies with the ANSI/RIA R15.06-1999 safety standard. All of the mechanical functions (design, build, and implementation) related to a project are assigned to mechanical engineers. To avoid project risk, simulation tools are utilized to verify system function, ergonomics, and form. The electrical hardware designs of a project are assigned to electrical engineers. Software is integrated into a robot system by controls engineers. The procedures of the engineering team, manufacturing group, and programmers are administered by the project manager. The project is reviewed and approval by the project manager. Ultimately, the final product is processed for delivery and shipped to the customer.

Potential Exposures and Hazards

Facility

Noise exposure was not a hazard throughout the facility. Unsafe noise levels were observed near areas which involved robotic system manufacturing, repair, and training. Hearing protection and safety glasses were not required during the tour. Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused to excessive exposure to noise levels above the 85 dBA action limit. Due to the varying levels of noise, earplugs were not worn by the majority of workers.

Spare Parts and Product Inventory Area

Forklifts were observed moving cargo to various locations throughout the facility. Each forklift operator must be certified and approved by the company (CFR 1910.178), provide a daily engine meter log for scheduling maintenance reasons, and only operate a forklift with an affixed data plate. Potential hazards are: the individual is unqualified to operate a forklift, the data plate is missing or not attached in the correct location, and that the scheduled maintenance tasks for the forklift are not met. The potential for injury to the forklift operator and fellow staff can be influenced by the effectiveness of the forklift training program.

The assembly pathways were marked with yellow conspicuous tape and had safety poles installed in high-traffic areas. Very few tripping hazards were revealed on the assembly pathways. Improvements to the spare parts and product inventory area were advisable. Cargo is constantly moved throughout the warehouse. Eventually, each product is inventoried and subsequently shelved in the appropriate area. It is the right and responsibility of each worker to perform job tasks in a safe and healthy workplace (CFR 1910.22). Occupational settings free of falling objects and tripping hazards are included in this standard.

General Assembly Area

Robotic system components are sent to the general manufacturing area for production. The assembly area is made up of a production area and tool shop. The tool shop is cluttered with portable power tools, production materials, and mechanical equipment. Where mechanical equipment is used, engineers must securely store unused materials, follow general housekeeping, and keep walkways clear of obstructions (CFR 1910.176). The employer is responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used by employees (CFR 1910.242). Carpal tunnel syndrome and hand-arm vibration have been associated with prolonged work with vibrating tools. Materials are moved to workstations by workers throughout that day. Potential exposures would be back pain from awkward lifts, twists, and turns.

Robotic automation systems are located throughout the assembly area. Lock-out and tag-out procedures are enforced, but was not assessed. Potential exposure to a worker entering the robot operating work envelope will be injury to the body part that had been impacted by the moving system.

Training Area

On training days, welding is performed in this area. Individual fume hoods were provided for each welding operation. However, the fume hoods were installed too high from the base of the operation. A survey of ventilation efficiency was not performed during the tour. Potential acute exposure to welding fumes can result in shortness of breath; muscle pain; and eye, nose, and throat irritation.

The end user will no longer be required to enter hazardous environments, such as a confined space.

De-mining is a life threatening job. If incorrectly performed, the end user can get killed or receive irreversible bodily damages.

Robots are reprogrammable, multifunctional, mechanical manipulators that typically employ one or more means of power: electromechanical, hydraulic, or pneumatic. Industrial robots have been used chiefly for spray painting, spot-welding, and transfer and assembly tasks. A robot performs its tasks in a physical area known as the robot operating work envelope. This work envelope is the volume swept by all possible programmable robot movements. This includes the area where work is performed by robot tooling.

A robot can have one or more arms which are interconnected sets of links and powered joints. Arms are comprised of manipulators which support or move wrists and end-effectors. An end-effector is an accessory tool specifically designed for attachment to a robot wrist to enable the robot to perform its intended task. Examples of end-effectors include grippers, spot-weld guns, and spray paint guns. The ANSI R15.O6-1986 Standard defines an industrial robot system as that which includes industrial robots, end-effectors, and any equipment, devices and sensors required for the entire robot system to perform its tasks.

Methods to Evaluate

Visual Observations

Ergonomic

Hand-arm stress injuries resulting from awkward and repetitive manual material handling would be assessed

Guarding program

Evaluation of carpal tunnel syndrome and hand-arm vibration resulting from prolonged work with vibrating tools would be completed

Lock-out/tag-out procedures

Employee Interviews

Workers would be interviewed to assess:

Near-miss accidents

Work and emergency procedures

Personal protective equipment program

Sampling Strategy

Ergonomic measurements

Videotaping to measure manual lifting loads would be used to reduce the prevalence of occupational injuries in assembly workers.

Noise sampling

Employees for inclusion in a hearing conservation program would be identified

Proper selection of hearing protection would be selected.

Since the level of noise varied throughout the manufacturing plant, all workers would be sampled over a complete work shift to assess noise exposures.

Records/Written Program Reviews

Injury records

The magnitude and severity of injuries at the plant by examining the injury-records would be assessed.

Training program

The training materials and the effectiveness of the training given at the facility should be evaluated.

Training of employees and customers who are unfamiliar with how to program, operate, maintain, or repair robots or robot systems.

Training of forklift drivers.

Health and safety training for new employees.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) program

For use of hearing protection, hard hats, safety gloves, and safety glasses.

Hearing conservation program (HCP)

Forklift documentation

Daily engine logs and maintenance schedules

Data plate information

Conclusions

The Motoman Robotics division is located in Miamisburg, OH, and has nearly 450 employees. Motoman Robotics delivers innovative robotic automation solutions for general industry and robotic application, including arc welding, assembly, coating, dispensing, material cutting, material handling, material removal and spot welding. Robots can be designed to execute a variety of tasks. Automation systems can handle repetitious bulk manufacturing jobs at levels of speed, accuracy, and reliability that far exceed human abilities. Many of the systems are designed to aid the end user in carrying out every day occupational tasks. In other industries, robots are designed to execute tasks in high temperature environments; handle hazardous materials; and work in confined spaces.

The survey was performed at the Motoman Robotics site with students in the identification of potential workplace exposure class, and Professor Jay Jones. The class visited the facility on September 20, 2012 to identify potential occupational exposures, describe methods to evaluate the potential exposures, and offer recommendations.

Health and safety observations that needed additional attention were welding fume inhalation due to inefficient ventilation. Ergonomic measurements using videotaping to calculated load would be necessary to reduce potential injuries in assembly workers and engineers. Lower back pain and injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis in assembly workers may result from exposures to awkward positions, poor lifting techniques, and repetitive tasks. Hand-arm vibration among engineers may result from prolonged exposure to vibrating hand tool.

Overexposures to noise was identified in remote locations of the robotics facility. The sampling for noise exposure would identify which employees need to be covered by a hearing conservation program and be provided with hearing protection.

Manual lifting of robotic materials was observed. Visual methods would be designed to identify back injuries resulting from unsafe lifting techniques. Workers would be interviewed to assess the occupational accidents, workplace procedures, and safety programs. Injury records and written programs would be reviewed to identify potential occupational safety and health concerns.

Recommendations

Potential health and safety risks are often decreased by following good work practices. Ergonomic-related disorders, such as lower back pain, are often prevented when workers are familiarized with optimal and efficient lifting techniques. Ergonomic measurements using videotaping to calculate load would be necessary to reduce injuries in assembly workers. These process workers have a potential for lower back pain and injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis from awkward positions, reaches, and repetitive motions. The potential hazard of tiredness, distraction or the effects of repetitive and tedious tasks, such as repetitive stain injuries (RSI) and vibration white finger. Poor working conditions can be prevented. End users will no longer have to work in dusty, hot or hazardous environments. The job for the end user can be less physically fatiguing. Being able to handle a wide range of large products, which are often awkward to move for the end user, can prevent occupational injuries, such as lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis.

Occupational noise exposures are often prevented with the inclusion of a hearing conservation program. The exposure to noise varied throughout the facility. The sampling strategy for noise would be designed to identify employees for inclusion in a hearing conservation program and to enable the proper selection of hearing protectors. All workers in the plant would be sampled to assess noise exposures. Noise exposure results would be collected by the personal dosimetry sampling method. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 90 dBA.

Visual methods to evaluate would be: hand-arm stress injuries from manual material handling (repetitive motion); machine guarding program; and lock-out/tag-out procedures. Worker interviews would assess work practices ranging from near-miss accidents, work and emergency procedures, and personal protective equipment. Documentation of occupational injuries and written programs are archived by the employer. Injury records and written programs would be reviewed to determine the effectiveness of occupational health and safety programs. The workers compensation program, training programs, personal protective equipment program, and hearing conservation program would be reviewed. For any written program needed of improvement, appropriate actions would be taken. A review of the workplace training program and materials would identify any areas needed of improvement. Unqualified workers are at a greater risk of potential occupational injuries. Potential hazards would be prevented among workers who receive sufficient training.

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