When discussing ideas around an empathetic approach to engineering, it’s easy for the concept to come across as redundant, a nice idea that might help employees emotionally, but with little hard data to justify the meeting of engineering with personal needs. However, in our experience, using engineering skills to 3D print accommodations does not merely lead to personal benefits for the individual in question; it also directly improves productivity and efficiency for the company as a whole.
This is proven excellently in the results of an example in which an operator needed an accommodation to support her arthritic pain and difficulty handling her work. Within three hours of a conversation with the employee, a custom-sized fixture was designed, 3D printed, fitted for use on the production floor, and the operator was able to use it immediately. Not only did the fixture make her job physically easier; but she was motivated by the fact that someone took the time to listen intently and provide a custom solution to her problem. This created a cross-departmental relationship which contributed to the company culture as a whole.
This employee also now had the ability to work more effectively, efficiently, and safely, without pain and with lessoned margin for error or injury. As a result, the operator not only met, but was able to exceed her daily quota, and this simple fixture resulted in a 300% increase in productivity for this particular operation.
This situation illustrates the simple fact that approaching engineering from an empathetic approach does not merely reap interpersonal benefits; it also helps a company become more efficient and productive at the bottom line.