er·go·nom·ics n.

  • (used with a sing. verb) The applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. Also called biotechnology, human engineering, human factors engineering.
  • (used with a pl. verb) Design factors, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by minimizing operator fatigue and discomfort.
  • —The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

    Check out just about any sales brochure advertising new equipment and tools and you will notice one key word in the product descriptions: “Ergonomically designed.” “Ergonomic fit.” “Ergonomic controls.” “Ergonomically spaced.”

    There's a trend here.

    Ergonomics is the hot new feature in tools and equipment. More and more manufacturers want customers to know that their tools and machines are comfortable for operators to use; workers can get more done with less fatigue.

    Controls and levers are easier to reach without the operator over-extending his reach or twisting his fingers and the rest of his body into a pretzel.

    More comfort and less fatigue is especially important in machines that are being used throughout the workday, from sunrise to sunset, such as wheel loaders.

    “These operators are in their cabs eight to 10 hours a day,” says David Wolf, brand marketing manager for Case Construction Equipment, of Racine, Wis. “The more comfort they have and the more room they have, the more productive they'll be.”

    With that in mind, Case has released its 21-E Series wheel loaders, which are designed to match the operator, no matter his or her shape or size, says Wolf. The cab features ceiling-to-floor windows; an adjustable seat; lumbar support; arm-, wrist-and headrests; and tiltable steering. Other features include loader controls that are all within reach of the operator, and improved hydraulics that provide low-effort bucket controls.