Before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 12 million people were employed in the manufacturing sector across the United States. According to a 2017 survey in the journal Applied Ergonomics, around 57 percent of workers in factory settings—who often perform heavy, repetitive tasks—reported feeling fatigued at work, which can lead to reduced output, chronic injury and even fatalities.

Zahra Sedighi Maman, PhD, assistant professor of decision sciences, and her research team approached the problem of diagnosing and managing worker fatigue from a data analytics angle in a research project funded by the American Society of Safety Professionals Foundation. She and her team placed small, nonintrusive wearable sensors on eight volunteers performing simulated manufacturing tasks, with the goal of tracking signs of fatigue such as changes in posture, tremors and jerky movements. The results of the study were published as “a data-driven approach to modeling physical fatigue in the workplace using wearable sensors” in the March 2017 issue of Applied Ergonomics. It has become a leading paper in the field, accumulating 47 citations over the past three years.

Dr. Sedighi Maman and her collaborators recently proposed a practical approach to managing fatigue through data monitoring: the DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) framework, a process management strategy often used in Six Sigma projects. They outlined their recommendations in “A DMAIC Perspective on Physical Fatigue Management,” published in the June 2019 issue of Professional Safety. “Our research can help motivate management to invest in data-driven manufacturing in order to prevent fatal and nonfatal occupational injuries,” she said. “Fatigue in the workplace costs the U.S. economy billions in lost productivity, absenteeism and healthcare expenses.”

Sedighi Maman, Z., A.A. Yazdi, L.A. Cavuoto, and F.M. Megahed. “A data-driven approach to modeling physical fatigue in the workplace using wearable sensors.” Applied Ergonomics, vol. 65, March 2017, pp. 515-529.

Sedighi Maman, Z., L. Lu, F.M. Megahed, and L.A. Cavuoto. “A DMAIC Perspective on Physical Fatigue Management.” Professional Safety, vol. 64, iss. 6, June 2019, pp. 26-27.

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