Product Design or Redesign
The economic benefit of ergonomic design or redesign of a product can be assessed in several ways for example, by its impact on (a) the value of the company's stock, (b) sales, (c) productivity, or (d) reductions in accidents. Four very different kinds of products are provided here as illustrations of each of these beneficial economic impacts.
Replacement for forklift truck lines. Alan Hedge and his colleagues at the Human Factors Laboratory at Cornell University participated with Pelican Design, a New York industrial design company, and the Raymond Corporation in the design and development of a new generation of forklift trucks to replace Raymond's two existing product lines. Human factors design principles were given prime consideration, and an "inside-out" human-centered approach was taken, with the form of the truck being built around the operator's needs. The goal was to maximize operator comfort, minimize accident risks, and maximize productivity by optimizing task cycle times. At the time the development project was begun, Raymond's market share had eroded from its former position of dominance in the market of over 70% of sales to about 30%, and it was shrinking.
The new narrow isle and swing-reach truck lines were introduced in the United States in 1992, and the swing-reach line was introduced in Europe in 1993. Order books at Raymond are full and the company is once again enjoying success. Raymond stock has risen from around $6 per share at the start of the project to around $21 today (Alan Hedge, personal communication).
TV and VCR remote controls. Thomson Consumer Electronics first developed its highly successful approach to user-centered design when it developed System Link, an ergonomically oriented remote control that can operate var
Contact: Lois Smith
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society