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Mind over matter


NS ‘Ergo Cup’ highlights employee problem-solving skills

Winning entries in Norfolk Southern’s second annual “Ergo Cup” competition showcase how employees can enhance workplace safety and make the railroad more efficient. The key ingredients are innovation, teamwork, and problem-solving.

Employees’ ingenuity resulted in tools such as the “Snooky pan,” an innovation that reduces shoveling required to empty material from aggregate railcars needing repair. Craft employees at Roanoke Locomotive Shop won two awards, including first place for creating a device making it easier to replace or install battery charger cables on a locomotive.

The caliber of entries pleased Donald Robinson, NS manager safety and workplace design. He helped organize the first Ergo Cup for mechanical employees in 2012, and NS expanded the competition last year to include engineering employees.

“We’ve had good solid ergonomics improvements in our equipment, tools, and vehicles,” Robinson said. “It’s very much employee driven. They have the most knowledge of the job, so they make the best ergonomics improvements.”

The competition evolved from NS’ efforts in workplace ergonomics, a part of safety that seeks to “design the job to fit the employee.” Ergonomic improvements entered in the competition make jobs easier to perform by reducing lifting and forceful exertions.

Operations employees from across the system submitted 40 ergonomic design projects for the 2013 contest - 18 from the Engineering Department and 22 from the Mechanical Department. Mechanical entries were divided into division and system shop categories.

Professional ergonomists from Coca-Cola, Georgia-Pacific, and Liberty Mutual judged the entries and selected winners.

First-place winners received the Ergo Cup trophy engraved with their facility to keep for a year. Second- and third-place winners received plaques with their names and the names of their ergonomic projects.


The winners:

Mechanical System Shops

First place: Roanoke Locomotive Shop - Cody Bryant, boilermaker; Corey Orange, electrician; Jacob Walters, electrician; Brian Lucas, general foreman; and Kevin English, utility clerk. The shop craft employees designed a battery charger receptacle tool that improves arm and shoulder postures while installing or replacing battery charger cables on a locomotive. The shop-made device enhances safety and improves employee efficiencies. This team of employees will represent NS in March at the National Applied Ergonomics Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Second place: Conway Locomotive Shop - boilermakers Cliff Miller and Paul Temoshenka and machinist Giovanni Graziani. They designed and built a locomotive maintenance cart for tools that rolls on rails the length of the locomotive pit, reducing the amount of carrying and lifting required to work on locomotives in the shop.

Third place: Roanoke Locomotive Shop - pipefitter Joe Monaghan. He developed the Monahand pipe holder, a cradle-like device that makes it easier to install or remove a locomotive front-end housing pipe, a 4-foot pipe section on GE locomotives.

Mechanical Division Shops

First place: Bluefield Car Shop - Danny Reed, general foreman; Mark Oliver, carman; Jesse Hicks, carman; and J.B. Taylor III, pipefitter. They developed a procedure to grease an overheated wheel roller bearing so the car can be moved for wheel removal. They modified an automatic grease pump to eliminate manual grease pumping, reducing the amount of force required to do the job.

Second place: 38th Street Car Shop, Norfolk - carmen and car repairers Brandon Snook, Matt Horton, Harvey Barlow, and J.C. Reynolds. They developed the “Snooky Pan,” used to empty material from aggregate hopper cars needing repair, reducing manual shoveling of rock from the hopper.

Third place: Knoxville Locomotive Shop - machinists Brad Duncan and Gregory Duncan. They built a manifold test board allowing air-flow calibration tests on locomotives to be performed inside the cab, saving time and reducing physical effort.

Engineering Department

First place: Charlotte Roadway Shop - Philip Bissette, general shop superintendent; Robert Gannon, engineer equipment and material; Chris Clary, design engineer maintenance; Gerald M. McCarty, shop supervisor; and John Whitaker, senior equipment design engineer. They developed a hydraulic automatic feed rail saw, which makes rail cuts faster while reducing operator effort and enhancing safety.

Second place: Dearborn Division’s Maintenance Equipment Shop in Toledo, Ohio - Brian Eckel, repairman, and Dave Mack, general supervisor work equipment. They installed a rail sweeps on ballast tamper machines to minimize the chance of equipment being derailed by loose stone on rail.

Third place: Charlotte Roadway Shop - Mark Welch, roadway machine repairman, and Ronnie Edge, engine carpenter. They designed a pullout battery tray to ease battery installation on ballast tamper machines.