Using the Vaculex TP ergonomic handling solution, TNT was able to increase productivity by 16% while reducing employee health problems by 41%.
Looking for a way to reduce the health risks of its employees without lowering productivity, the Vaxulex TP vacuum-based tube lifter convinced - even before the purchase. To facilitate TNT's decision to invest in these express package handling lifts, Vaculex and TNT jointly commissioned Xdin to conduct an independent comparative study.
For this purpose, a complete ergonomic analysis of the work processes at TNT based on the proven MTM-1 method (Methods-time Measurement) was carried out, in which the working time of the manual processes is analysed and how changes in the process may affect productivity.
With TNT parcel sorting, employees are burdened with frequent knee-to-shoulder height lifting. The majority of the packages, about 75% weigh between 3kg to 12kg. 15% weigh about 20kg and about 10% under 3kg. As a rule, a worker in this area spends two hours a day, five days a week on this activity. It takes 15 seconds to move a package on average.
This burden led to injuries of the employees, especially in the lower spine area and thus to sick leave and rehabilitation measures, i.e significant downtime of employees at TNT. To improve this situation for the benefit of both employees and the company, TNT as part of its global health and safety program was looking for a lifting system that could handle at least 75% of its packages without sacrificing productivity and speed. A criterion was also for it to be user-friendly and operable by both right and left-handers.
As part of the MTM-1 productivity study, it was assumed that parcels would be taken from a conveyor belt at a height of 90 cm and placed 2 m further into a transport cage, on levels 30cm, 95cm and 160cm high. The packages weighed 5kg, 10kg, 15kg, 20kg and 30kg respectively. For packages over 15kg, these are first pulled towards them by the employee to get a better starting position for lifting. Furthermore, the study assumed that the employee is a 1.87m tall man in good physical shape.
The study found that working time for each lift was reduced with the Vaculex TP tube lifter, especially significantly for the heavier packages. Another factor was the optimization of the parcels in the transport cage in order to make the best possible use of the space, which could also be done much faster using the vacuum lifter. The increase in productivity using the Vaculex TP lifting device was estimated to reach a total of 16%.
TNT Sweden operations manager Thomas Engman confirms that the benefits of the Vaculex TP lifter have been proven: "Vaculex was the only supplier to offer a lifting system that did not reduce productivity. The cooperation has proved very successful and afterwards we can certify that the lifting equipment works even better than we had hoped for. The Vaculex TP is very easy to use, and for beginners only a short instruction is required. The ergonomic benefits of the device are also of economic importance at the same time because sick leave is rare, and the rehab costs are lower. This in turn makes it easier to find and retain qualified personnel.”
In addition to the productivity study, an NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) analysis was also conducted to identify a wide range of information on occupational safety and health issues. It focused on analysing the impact of lifting tasks on the lower limb, as it is usually most affected by back pain. This method focuses on the analysis of the combined effects of an activity rather than a single operation. In this method, a so-called CLI (Composite Lifting Index) is determined. It is the sum of the largest single task and the incremental addition by each subsequent task.
As the size of the CLI increases, the risk for a given employee increases and a greater percentage of the workforce is likely to be at risk of developing exercise-related problems, especially lower back pain. As the size of the CLI increases, the risk for a given employee increases and a greater percentage of the workforce is likely to be at risk of developing work-related problems, especially lower back pain. From the point of view of NIOSH, it is likely that lifting tasks with a CLI> 1.0 pose a problem, i.e. an increased risk of lifting-related back pain in some of the workforce. The experts agree that nearly all workers are at increased risk of injury if the CLI exceeds 3.0. Based on this analysis, it could be demonstrated that the use of the vacuum lifter reduces the health risks of TNT parcel sorting personnel by 41%.
In fact, 99% of the packages are handled today with the Vaculex TP lifter. And the productivity and speed could be not only maintained in real use, but even increased, because the packages - regardless of size and shape - are practically weightless and thus easier to handle.