Modeling the Relationship between Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder Risk Exposure and Lean Manufacturing

Research Trainee: Sarah Womack, PhD Student, Dept. of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan

Faculty Researcher: Jeffrey K. Liker, PhD, Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan

This project examines the effects of lean manufacturing practices on work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) risk exposure. Japanese Management Systems have come under scrutiny because some believe that lean production methods increase the prevalence of WMSC injuries compared to traditional management systems.

Two studies will be conducted to:

1. Determine if there is a difference in the organization of work between exemplar lean and quasi-lean work sites.
2. Determine if there is a direct and measurable relationship between lean manufacturing practices and WMSD risk exposure
3. Gain insight into how the exemplar lean organizations manage and integrate productivity, ergonomics, and safety

To investigate the degree of leanness, the lean factors that will be examined at the plant level for both studies include quality, inventory, workforce flexibility and involvement in problem solving. Lean factors at the job level include wasteful motions in the job cycle such as walking, waiting, and unnecessary handling of parts and tools. The WMSD factors that will be evaluated include forceful exertions, repetition, and awkward postures of the wrist, shoulder and trunk.


Research trainee’s current position:
Sarah Womack completed her PhD in 2007 and is currently a Senior Enterprise Improvement Advisor at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.