Pneumatic torque multipliers have taken much of the pressure off production workers at Daman Products Company.
A customized, angled nut runner, first installed in August 2011, automatically torques vises used in machining fluid power control parts. More important, the tool replaces a manual operation that had led to a number of repetitive motion injuries.
In keeping with Daman’s philosophy of continuous improvement, a team of production managers began searching for better ways to perform a process that happens repeatedly every day at Daman. The pneumatic tool protects users’ muscles and joints. In addition, it offers better load control, preventing over-torque damage to vises and shifting of machined work pieces in vises without adequate torque.
“After we adapted the torque multiplier for our machining process, we knew almost immediately that it was going to work for us,” Neil Henderson, continuous improvement manager, explained. “It will allow us to eliminate the vise handle from our horizontal machining centers.”
Repetitive motion injuries (RMI) rank among the top five most common work injuries in the manufacturing industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Caused by work activities performed in awkward postures, with high forces, or using repetitive motion, RMIs also are the most costly occupational health problem. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that RMIs cost more than $20 billion a year in workers compensation.
At Daman, work-related injuries rarely occur.
“We had five recordable incidents in 2010,” Krysten Shoulders, Human Resources manager, said. In the past five years, however, the company recorded five significant repetitive motion injuries.
“Even one repetitive motion injury is one too many,” Shoulders said.
Shoulders worked with the continuous improvement team to identify conditions that trigger the injuries. The team asked insurance representatives, medical doctors and ergonomics consultants to help study processes on the shop floor.
As part of the evaluation, the group considered ways to better position workers as they applied necessary force and strength to tighten or loosen vises. But Henderson kept looking for a more proactive solution.
“We wanted to completely eliminate the need for someone to manually operate the vises,” Henderson explained.
Henderson recognizes that the torque multiplier is significantly more expensive than conventional vice handles. However, the payback is invaluable.
“Overall, this is a $100,000 project,” he said. “But we can’t begin to measure the positive responses to the torque multiplier from our employees.”
A culture of continuous improvement based on increasing trust throughout the company has been a hallmark of Daman for nearly 15 years.
Daman does not use a traditional ROI analysis to measure improvements, according to the company’s president, Larry Davis. “No such analysis can measure the value our employees feel when trusted to spend what they need to improve their work environment.”
Henderson expects to add torque multipliers to every cell on the shop floor during 2012. Each installation requires modifications to tailor the system to specific configurations of the machining center.
Beyond relief to muscles and joints, production teams know the tool gives them better control over their machining setup. They can adjust the torque to fit each part. And they can use measurements to maintain consistent torque and tension. Over time, Henderson also expects to see a savings in maintenance of vises.
“Everyone looks forward to the day when the vise handle becomes extinct at Daman,” Henderson said.