Ergonomics Steer NACCO and REMA to ZW3D
"Data transfer to ZW3D was much easier."
— NACCO Industries
No longer regarded as a superfluous aspect of workplace design, ergonomics has become a critical element in promoting productivity and profitability on the job. Nowhere is this more evident than among workers who operate forklift trucks in today’s factories, warehouses and distribution centers.
As part of the process of incorporating ergonomics into Hyster and Yale pedestrian pallet forklifts manufactured by NACCO Industries Inc.’s subsidiary, NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc., a series of studies and tests was commissioned in the United States and Europe to develop ergonomic guidelines for design of a new handle.
Complicating the design of manual forklift handles is that all the controls for operating the forklift reside in the handle that’s also used for steering the forklift. This is analogous to incorporating the brake pedal, accelerator, windshield wiper and light controls in addition to the horn in a car steering wheel.
The final shape of the new handles was created in cooperation with an ergonomist at the University of Kiel in Germany and an industrial design company. In addition to the functional requirements provided by NACCO, the manufacturer of the handle, REMA GmbH of Bonn, Germany, provided input based on the capabilities of plastic injection molding technology.
“The research called for a handle that easily interfaces between operator and machine, providing the operator with a comfortable and productive work tool,” said Thomas Minten, support services manager for Encee Systems, the German distributor for ZW3D software. “The research generated a list of explicit ergonomic considerations for a new hand-truck handle that would produce the desired results. Consequently, the design of the handle had to reflect all of the specifications, right down to the size, shape and positioning of the controls.”
Since operators may spend up to eight hours a day operating these forklift trucks, user comfort and ease of operation are every bit as important as reliability and operating cost. Implementing optimal ergonomics into the handle controls contributes to cost savings over time by reducing fatigue and minimizing absences that eventually affect productivity. In the case of the hand-truck handle, the study group examined and recommended criteria for the grip, handle type, controls, traction and general operating performance. It was against this backdrop that Encee Systems was hired by REMA to develop the model, mold design and tooling data for manufacturing the new handle.
In addition to the list of sophisticated and detailed ergonomic properties spelled out for the new handle, the new handle had to be rugged, functional and water-resistant and had to accommodate a mounting bracket to the steering tiller as well as providing an enclosure for the controls, sensors and electronics.
“The basic reason for the new handle was to meet precise ergonomic specifications, yet we wanted to build one that looks more attractive and that would ultimately grow sales for REMA and NACCO Materials Handling Group,” said Minten.
For OEM suppliers jointly involved in the product design, interoperability and clear communication of design intent were crucial. Since one of REMA’s core competencies is plastic injection molding, REMA looked to ZW3D to generate toolpaths that could be easily and precisely translated into machine-ready NC code.
“By all accounts, the data transfer to ZW3D from the other vendors associated with this new design was much easier,” said Dr. Kurt Standke, managing director of REMA. “NACCO was assembling a variety of newly-designed parts from a diverse set of suppliers, so the orderly integration of the parts data became a factor. We weren’t so much concerned about what toolpath we were using as long as it was accurate. ZW3D seemed to meet our expectations in this respect. We were quite pleased with the finished product.”
The distinctive handle on Hyster and Yale brand pedestrian pallet forklift trucks is certainly a clear differentiating factor in the marketplace. Its attractive appearance and ease of use, based on research and operator feedback, is a contributing factor to increased customer satisfaction and a growing market share for the NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc.
Note: VX CAD/CAM software and technology has been acquired by ZWCAD Software Co., Ltd. VX CAD/CAM has been rebranded as ZW3D. All the testimonials of ZW3D refer to its predecessor.