System design: organisational and social aspects
We will make people before we make products.
(Attributed to a Japanese car manufacturer)
Systems ergonomics is the term for the set of techniques used to apply the knowledge base of ergonomics to the design of systems. Successful design requires that the expertise of different specialists is carefully managed and utilised at appropriate stages in the design process so that ergonomics can be integrated with the engineering and personnel functions.
Systems design methods for ergonomics
According to the recently drafted ISO/DIS 6385 (Ergonomic Principles in the Design of Work Systems), the steps needed for an ergonomic approach to design are
|• Formulation of the system's goals |
|• Analysis and allocation of function |
|• Realisation, implementation and validation |
These are described below.
Formulation of goals and requirements analysis
Deciding what the system has to do is the first stage in design. It takes the form of a specification of the requirements. The focus is on what is needed, not how it is to be achieved. When existing systems are being upgraded, the requirements may already be known and only the parameter values may need to be changed (e.g. the new requirement is to deliver 100 tonnes of product per hour, instead of 50). With new systems, information about the performance requirements of the work process may need to be gathered, including information about the role of human operators. In both cases, design should be regarded as an opportunity to solve any existing ergonomics problems and to avoid generating new ones.