How to build workstations

Well-thought out workstations are essential for your production lines to run efficiently and for peak employee performance. You’ll want to ensure that your employees’ posture is adapted to the task at hand to lessen the risk of work-related injuries. Read on to learn the basics on designing ergonomic workstations.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

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  1. Define how to manage workstation flow

    Prior to designing your workstations or work cells, you should define your needs in terms of operations and manipulations.

    If you need an assembly station, you should ask yourself, “how would you input parts to the station and how would you output parts for the next operation?’’ For example, you can use gravity flow racks integrated into the station for supplies, hardware, trolleys, or conveyor tracks for WIP.

  2. Define your needed area

    First off, avoid making surfaces too large: only plan the minimum required space needed to complete tasks. Avoid adding extra unnecessary space that will complicate your 5S journey while acting as a dust magnet! Additionally, surfaces such as HDPE or UHMW plastic increase costs and weight unnecessarily.

    Need more space occasionally? The Flexpipe system allows you to use your imagination to create an additional foldable shelf or retractable shelf-like drawer. You can also build a self-standing small toolbox or working platform with casters that will be connected to your workstation as needed.

    The location of frequently used devices (keyboard, phone, and mouse) should remain within the repetitive access (primary work zone). See additional information below.

    Did you know that multiple surface types can be installed on your Flexpipe structures? We suggest at least a half-inch thick surface for a tabletop or for any working surface. You can go thinner for shelves, dividers, or any side panels.

    AO-EMT1 / AO-EMT2 / AI-SUPPORT / AI-CORNER.

    Otherwise, it can be screwed directly into the tube. Watch our Flexpipe 101 channel for tips and tricks on joining your surfaces.

  3. Define which tools you need

    When designing a new workstation, it’s important to sort out all your tools and keep only the ones used on a daily basis. This is actually the 1st step of the 5S program! There are many Flexpipe accessories available for hanging or placing your tools in a very clean, safe, and efficient way. Here are some parts that serve this purpose:

    • AW-HANGER: for hanging small plastic totes
    • AW-HOOK: for hanging tools or organizing hoses
    • AW-ROLLER: for manipulating air tools
    • AW-HOLDER: for storing tools such as screwdrivers, scanners, hammers, etc.

    Make sure that all equipment, tools, supplies and parts have their dedicated place in the workstation. Create drawers, shadow boards, and foam cut-outs for them in your station.

    Tip: Use horizontal surfaces to work and vertical surfaces for storage – including tools and consumables.

  4. Define ergonomic equipment

    Do you need a sitting, a standing work area or both? Any posture becomes fatiguing after a while, and these changes in posture are important.

    Whether it’s an assembly station, quality control station, computer station, or a station for other tasks, you need to decide if the operator will be more effective standing or sitting. It’s a matter of comfort and ergonomics.

    Workstation

    • Tasks at a desk (assembling, packaging, typing, etc.)
    • Tools used for tasks (bifocal lenses, testing equipment, air tools, etc.)
    • Floor matting, shoes or any other clothing.


    Computer station

    The CSA guideline recommends a minimum of 30” (76 cm) for deep computer stations. Plan for sufficient leg room. The CSA guideline calls for 17’’ (43 cm) of horizontal knee space and 23.6’’ (60 cm) of toe space. The vertical clearance at the front edge of the work surface should be at least 26.8’’ (68 cm). The width of the leg space should be at least 19.7’’ (50 cm).

    Refer to this ergonomics tool for ideal heights

    If operators change frequently often you can use this anthropometric table to establish the user average:

    Ergonomic monitor holder

    The monitor should be set at a height so that your neck will be straight. Monitors should be placed so that the top of the screen is at the operator’s eye level. The viewing distance between the operator’s eyes and the screen should be in the range of 20-30 inches.The size of the monitor often dictates viewing distance. Keyboard to monitor relationship: The optimal distance is 21″ in all applications.

    Ergonomic mouse and keyboard stand

    When working at a keyboard, the operator should be sitting with the upper arms hanging naturally from the shoulders. The elbows should be bent at roughly a 90-degree angle when the fingers are in typing position on the home row of the keyboard. This posture allows the arms and wrists to be held in a natural and relaxed position that puts the least amount of physical stress on muscles and joints.

    There should be enough space to use the mouse. Use a wrist rest or armrest so that your wrist is straight and your arm muscles are not overworked. A mouse should be placed as close to the worker’s side as possible at a height that allows the upper arm to hang relaxed from the shoulder with a “neutral” wrist position.

    When work is done with one arm for long periods, the forearm should be supported by a desk surface to the side of the operator or by adjustable armrests on the desk or the chair. This support is necessary to reduce static loading. If work surfaces are too high, users must raise their arms and shoulders. This static effort in the arms and shoulders may be fatiguing, and it may also hinder blood flow, adding to discomfort and increasing the risk of injury. If the work surfaces are too low, the worker must lean forward, placing stresses on the arms and back.

    Other important ergonomic features

    TELEPHONE

    The telephone should be positioned close to the work area to avoid excessive reaches. Generally, within 18 to 20 inches.

    FOOTREST

    A footrest should be provided if the feet are not flat on the floor because the keyboard and monitor do not have sufficient adjustability. Footrests, where they are necessary, should have a stable surface and be large enough to accommodate both feet easily. The footrest angle could be adjustable, though a fixed footrest is suitable if it allows for comfortable ankle angles (roughly 90° between foot and leg). Generally fixed footrest angles are in the range of 0 – 30°.

    DOCUMENT HOLDER

    Use an adjustable document holder to hold frequent documents such as work instructions. The holder should be at the same height, angle, and distance as the monitor.

    CASTERS

    Wheel-mounted workstations are easier to move around when changing the production floor’s configuration or when cleaning the surroundings. Read our article on how to build modular carts with information on the various casters we carry.

    NECESSARY LIGHTING

    Depending on your environment, you may want to add an overhead light to your workstation. The light should be installed at least 30 inches over the work surface, and it should be installed above the central workspace.

  5. Well designed for an increased performance

    While this article is not exhaustive, it should serve as a checklist when rethinking the features of your stations. Any working surface should be evaluated, be it workbench, assembly cells, work table, clocking station, operator desk, and office desk. The more ergonomic your equipment, the more efficient your employees will be!

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Julien-depelteau-profile-picture
Julien Depelteau - Chief Executive Officer

Julien is Flexpipe’s president and co-founder. He came upon lean manufacturing in 2006 and launched Flexpipe in 2010. His mission since then has been to introduce the modular system to new markets by making it affordable and accessible.