Revoz, Slovenia: Ergonomics and job design
Revoz d.d. is the only car manufacturer in Slovenia and the most important Slovenian exporter. A private joint-stock company, it is a member of the Renault International Group. From 1991 to 2003, the majority of its shares were owned by French Renault SA. However, since 22 December 2003, the company has been 100% owned by Renault. In order to improve its performance in the commercial and industrial field, the commercial branch Renault Slovenija was established on 1 July 2002, while Revoz maintained its capacities in the industrial domain.
In August 2005, the company employed 2,722 employees, 81% of whom were men and 19% of whom were women. Some 83.2% of the 1,933 employees directly engaged in production are men. The average age of the workforce involved in production is 35 years (34.8 years for men and 36.3 years for women). This age structure is considered to be optimal: 39.6% of the employees in production are aged between 30 and 39 years, 24.4% are aged between 40 and 49 years, while 7.3% are aged over 50 years.
In August 2005, 46.8% of the workforce had a basic education, 0.4% a lower secondary vocational education (two years), 27.1% a secondary vocational education (three years), 17.2% a secondary education, 3.9% a post-secondary education, 4.9% a higher education, and 0.2% a postgraduate degree.
The company is aware of the problems caused by an ageing population and is increasing the statutory retirement age, particularly as other companies within the Renault International Group in France and Spain have already been confronted by similar problems.
Good practice today
One of the group’s measures aimed at increasing the employability of its workers involves the introduction of ergonomics as part of its health and safety at work policy, which is one of the Renault Group’s priorities. Although this is a non-age specific measure, it indirectly helps to address the ageing workforce issue and the employment of workers with impaired productivity. The measure aims to improve workplace ergonomics; this includes incorporating ergonomics into the design of the new vehicles’ production process, thereby limiting or preventing the occurrence of occupational diseases, addressing the ageing workforce issue, enhancing the employability of workers with lower prospects, and increasing production efficiency.
The first step in improving ergonomics involves an analysis of the existing workplace safety standards (assessing noise, strokes, cuts, falling of objects, etc) and the ergonomics (position of body and upper and lower extremities, effort required, adjustment and complexity). Two methods are used in this process: the ‘simple method’ and the ‘Renault V3 method’. Based on the simple method, the analysts assess the workplace safety standards and ergonomics according to a colour-coded rating system where ‘green’ denotes a satisfactory environment, ‘yellow’ corresponds to a satisfactory environment with minor limitations, and ‘red’ indicates a satisfactory environment with more serious limitations. Accordingly, yellow-marked workplaces should be further evaluated and improved, while red-marked workplaces should be immediately evaluated and improved.
The Renault V3 method is applied to assess repetitive activities and to conduct in-depth evaluations of workplace ergonomics. According to the physical and mental demands of the workplace, the total workload is rated on a scale of one to five based on four criteria – posture, effort, complexity (how taxing the quantity, type and variety of information the employee has to process is) and adjustment (measuring the worker’s flexibility in mastering changing environments such as diversity of products, irregular activities, product changes). Using this method, the most onerous operations are identified. The Renault V3 method classifies workplaces as: appropriate for employees with impaired productivity (levels 1 and 2); appropriate with acceptable limitations for male and female workers aged over 45 years (level 3); potentially threatening to health, appropriate for young workers (level 4); and dangerous for health (level 5). The company’s goal is to better organise workplaces and to ensure that working conditions are acceptable for employees aged over 45 years (target level).
The next step involves the implementation of workplace improvements, namely through the ‘Kaizen method’ and with specially appointed working teams. Members of these teams consist of supervisors, two technology experts, an employee from the maintenance department, an expert in ergonomics, a safety engineer, a random worker and an employee who specialises in occupational health.
The human resources (HR) department is responsible for introducing and implementing the measure. Employees can also take part in the implementation process by offering suggestions on how to improve the safety and ergonomics of their workplace.
As a result of this measure, ergonomics in all units have been considerably improved. In the chassis manufacturing unit, for example, the proportion of red workplaces in the total number of workplaces was lowered from 40% in 2002 to 23.1% in 2005, while the proportion of green and yellow workplaces increased from 10% to 24.6% and from 50% to 52.3%, respectively.
Furthermore, the employability of workers aged over 45 years, especially of women, has improved. Such a development is highly advantageous for the company, particularly in light of the characteristics of the regional labour market, namely the shortage of male workers and the availability of a well-qualified female workforce. For example, in the car-body manufacturing unit, the rearrangement of workplaces in line with the capabilities of the workers aged over 45 years has increased the company’s recruitment possibilities. Moreover, the activity period of employees has been prolonged. At the same time, the internal organisational climate has improved.
It is planned to continue implementing the abovementioned measure in the future; for example, Revoz aims to improve 20% of the workplaces in 2006. In order to achieve this goal, the company will continue to follow the measures already established:
- job rotation – each worker has to master work at three different workplaces;
- workers’ suggestions should be taken into account when rearranging workplaces;
- changes should be introduced gradually;
- employees have to be educated and trained;
- ergonomics and certain efficiency aspects of the workplace (the type of work, quality mistakes and productivity) should not be in conflict with each other.
The successful improvement of ergonomics requires that: ergonomics are included in the management’s work safety policy; tools to evaluate and improve the workplace and financial resources are defined and provided for; targets (level of improvement of workplaces, priority workplaces and dynamics of work) are set; and participants are trained.
Development of the case study
The initiative described in this case study has been applied since 2002 within the framework of preparing for the production of new Renault vehicles. During the preparation phase of this project, special attention was paid to the development of necessary competencies and training for personnel, to help maintain the quality and qualifications of employees. The measure complements and links in well with the Renault International Group’s strategy to increase productivity.
In order to increase the cooperation of employees, 10 years ago the company introduced a system whereby employees are invited to make useful suggestions on workplace improvements and are offered rewards (acknowledgement or material awards) for the most useful suggestions given. Since then, the number of valuable suggestions has been steadily increasing and there are visible improvements in production. Financial resources for improvements are provided by Revoz.
Employees at Revoz have the same opportunities for professional development as other Renault employees worldwide. Mobility is a factor that is accepted by all workers in production (e.g. polyvalence at working posts) as well as technicians and managers (e.g. mobility between particular Renault plants or departments).
The company also pays particular attention to the quality of social dialogue. Two elected employee representatives regularly cooperate in the supervisory board’s work, and the agreements that have been concluded in the areas of flexibility and wage policy have proven to be successful. However, social dialogue between the works council and the three trade unions (SKEI, Neodvisnost and SDR-Sindikat delavcev Revoza) is restricted to issues regarding employment forms, remuneration and working conditions.
Contacts and interviewees from Revoz, Novo mesto:
- Zdravko Slak, Head of HR and member of board of management
- Judita Ledic, Employee Career Development Division
- Danijela Bacar, Safety at Work Department
Website: www.revoz.si (in Slovene and English)
Internal company data:
- Annual Report 2004 (Letno porocilo 2004) (in Slovene), Revoz, Novo mesto, d.d.
- Renome, Journal of the Company Revoz Novo mesto, Vol. VIII, No. 4, May 2004.
- Renome, Journal of the Company Revoz Novo mesto, Vol. VII, No. 9, May 2003.