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Innovative system for real-time ergonomic feedback in industrial manufacturing

Nicolas Vignais; Markus Miezal; Gabriele Bleser-Taetz; Katharina Mura; Dominic Gorecky; Frédéric Marin
In: Applied Ergonomics, Vol. 44, No. 4, Pages 566-574, 7/2013.


This work presents a system that permits a real-time ergonomic assessment of manual tasks in an industrial environment. First, a biomechanical model of the upper body has been developed by using inertial sensors placed at different locations on the upper body. Based on this model, a computerized RULA ergonomic assessment was implemented to permit a global risk assessment of musculoskeletal disorders in real-time. Furthermore, local scores were calculated per segment, e.g. the neck region, and gave information on the local risks for musculoskeletal disorders. Visual information was fed back to the user by using a see-through head mounted display. Additional visual highlighting and auditory warnings were provided when some predefined thresholds were exceeded. In a user study (N = 12 participants) a group with the RULA feedback was compared to a control group. Results demonstrate that the real-time ergonomic feedback significantly decreased the outcome of both globally as well as locally hazardous RULA values that are associated with increased risk for musculoskeletal disorders. Task execution time did not differ between groups. The real-time ergonomic tool introduced in this study has the potential to considerably reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in industrial settings. Implications for ergonomics in manufacturing and user feedback modalities are further discussed.