The Ergonomics of Clumsiness

433px-Schweizerhaus18 wikiA funny thing happened last weekend when my husband and I were out, sans kids, enjoying a nice dinner. A very obnoxious patron was seated nearby, demanding faster service by the already efficient waiter. I watched as the waiter skillfully weaved in and out of tables, taking fast turns around corners, all-the-while balancing a huge try full of plates and water glasses, in order to meet the patron at the table quickly. I’m by nature a clumsy person so his ability to move fluidly without dropping anything off the tray amazed me.

Then it happened.

An unexpected obstacle appeared: another customer, unaware, stretched his legs right in the way of the approaching waiter. I gasped when I realized he was milliseconds away from imminent disaster. I obviously didn’t give the waiter enough credit because he must have caught sight of the foot, stepped over it and appeared at the obnoxious patron’s table with everything intact. “Incredible,” I remarked to my husband, adding that it wouldn’t have been horrible if food landed on that annoying guy.

Then we got talking about how good the waiter was. His structured movement, ability to weave around tables and avoid collisions, keeping all obstacles and people away from any accidents was truly impressive! It got me thinking about how similar a waiter is to a production worker in manufacturing.

Seriously, there are commonalities. Think about it.

In both instances people (industry workers and waiters) move objects, both often use the same muscles (arms) through repetitive use, work directly with physical objects (machinery or dinner plates), need to time their movements (with equipment versus a waiter bringing food to the table).

We then chatted about simulating the waiter’s movements ahead of time. Okay maybe that part is a little out there, but there is no doubt that accidents can be avoided if you simulate a pattern and movements ahead of time.

Our waiter got lucky, but worker safety is indeed an important topic in manufacturing. That thought brings me back to a statistic I heard on a conference call recently where more than 1 million accidents occur each year in the Energy sector alone. How much safer can manufacturing environments be if human movements and machine interactions are simulated ahead of time? 

Worker safety and Virtual Ergonomic in general will be one of the topics my friend and colleague Julie Charland will discuss at an upcoming conference– the AEC (Applied Ergonomics Conference) the week of March 22.

I can’t wait to find out how it goes and will be sure to blog about. Now, if only I could bring Virtual Ergonomics into my own life. Maybe that would make me less clumsy!

Meanwhile, check out this Virtual Ergo showing worker movements.

What do you think about this?



Therese SnowTherese Snow works for Dassault Systèmes’ DELMIA brand.

DELMIA User Advocacy Manager