The Economics of Ergonomics: Unlocking the Hidden Benefits

You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel, But You Do Need the Right Caster for the Job!  

When it comes to ergonomics, we often only hear discussions about the value of injury avoidance and prevention. At Darcor, we talk extensively about the importance of ergonomics in the workplace, but we aren’t just talking about injury avoidance… we believe in taking a more proactive approach! 

In terms of transporting heavy loads with manual material handling carts, having the right cart design and caster selection for the specific application doesn’t just reduce the rate of injury. The right cart design can also create a ripple effect that offers benefits for the business in every aspect of operational efficiency and productivity. 

It’s Not Just About Injury Avoidance 

Overexertion injuries, such as those that involve pushing and pulling, are the costliest for employers. According to the 2023 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index (WSI), overexertion costs businesses $12.84 billion in direct costs! That does not include indirect costs that can be anywhere from 4-10x more. We know that workplace injuries can be costly for any business, but a cart that prioritizes ergonomics and ease of use goes beyond injury avoidance. 

A well-designed cart with quality casters makes it easier for the worker to do their job. In fact, a 2019 study of ten workers conducted by Darcor found that doing a repeated task with a well-designed cart was so much easier and more efficient than without, that over time it was like adding an 11th person to the production line. 

A well-designed cart doesn’t just save you the unpredictable and costly consequences of a workplace injury, it can also increase efficiency and productivity, improving the bottom line for your business. 

The Caster’s Hidden Value 

While it may be difficult for a company to justify spending more on their cart program, something as small and simple as casters can make a big difference in productivity. Just like the tires on your car, casters are the only point of contact with the surface you’re on. They impact the ease of movement the cart operator has, how quickly they can stop, and how easily they’re able to turn. Carts that are hard to maneuver can slow down productivity and increase the risk of injury to the worker.  

Type of floor and cart load weight are just two of the key factors that affect caster selection. Simply choosing the right casters can increase operational efficiency by improving operator mobility and decrease production downtime due to less mechanical breakdown resulting from low quality cart components. 

Avoid Breakdowns by Finding the Right Caster

There are several ways that casters can break down, such as exceeding load capacity; environmental conditions, like high workplace temperature or presence of floor debris; and impact loading, which occurs when a caster hits an obstacle. But the most common cause of caster malfunction is that the wrong caster was used in the first place. The reason for caster misuse, most often comes down to price.  

One Darcor client that relies exclusively on cart usage was able to justify purchasing high-quality casters for their carts by looking at the avoided maintenance costs and the resulting operational slowdowns for replacement and fixes. Even one broken cart can have a profound impact on the business by slowing down delivery and putting customer service at risk to the point of losing customers to a competitor. 

Making the Investment 

Choosing the most inexpensive caster may seem like a good way to reduce costs, but it can end up affecting the company’s bottom line when equipment goes down and productivity comes to a halt. Cheap casters can negatively impact your business and competitiveness. It is much more cost-effective to take the long-term view and make a better investment up front. You don’t have to “reinvent the wheel,” but you do need the right caster for the job. 

If you would like to learn more about how cart design can improve the bottom line in your organization or how to tackle the top for your organization, download our Guide to Designing Manual Materials Carts.