Product Development & Ergonomic Factors in Design

Virtually every product requires some level of human interaction. Human factors and usability considerations should be an integral part of the design process during development, production, or final use.. Omission of ergonomic factors in product design can ultimately result in a product deficiency that adds cost during assembly and difficulty when used by one or more individuals, in-field service repairs, or during installation. Industrial designers and human factors engineers typically identify these parameters to account for product design’s critical user requirements. That’s why human factors must be considered at multiple levels of product design

Identifying critical human factors and ergonomic parameters for optimized product design requires an objective user interface analysis during manufacturing, use, and service. Although human factors in engineering and design are necessary for all products, they are often overlooked or omitted from the design process. Ergonomic design studies in medical device development require a basic understanding of ergonomic principles, demographics of human body size, user operation motion studies, and, most importantly, patient safety.

Implementation of human factors research during the early stages can range from quick informal studies to in-depth, highly intensive studies to optimize safe and practical design solutions. Physical models are often required to verify the logic of overall systems design and optimal human factors in designing the general overall product body shape. Initial product ideas should be thoroughly tested based on a clear understanding of interactions between the user and the device to verify the health and safety of the user. The data is highly dependent on the evaluation procedure, the parameters being evaluated, the population demographics, and the sample size.

Integrated Design Systems is always concerned about product safety, its potential misuse, and designing products that are intuitive for the end-users, especially when performing multiple tasks that can affect the results of a testing device or medical device. We’ve even conducted human factors studies for large floor standing devices, children’s products, handheld devices, benchtop analyzers, seating, and hundreds of other products.

The investment, cost, and scope of work regarding any project related to human factors in medical devices or other critical products is very dependent on the nature of the device and its application. These activities could have a significant effect on the product development process, schedule, and overall budget. Although the investment can be substantial, most medical device designs require a comprehensive user interface to assure user safety and efficient operation.

Ergonomic design considerations apply to many products aside from medical device designs. Examples include power tools, sporting goods, furniture, appliances, transportation, and virtually anything that comes in contact with a person. Let’s review a few product examples based on how human factors and ergonomic studies can affect the design, product configuration and cost.

Example 1 – Industrial Inspection Equipment

Industrial equipment is typically dangerous to operate and often requires special training. Industrial products generally are large, complicated, and require many operational steps during their use. Well-designed products isolate hazardous portions of the equipment from the operator, including electrical current-carrying components, fast-moving parts, blades, high-intensity lasers, etc. Areas of the equipment frequently interacted by the user must be conveniently located and oriented for ease of use and safety. The heights, locations, angles, and organization of user interface areas are critical for worker safety and efficiency. These parameters require industrial design firms to conduct comprehensive ergonomic studies for optimization. Simulated motion studies, operational sequence studies, and studies to optimize ease of accessibility are some types of research necessary for developing a well-designed industrial product.

Example 2 – Medical Devices

Ergonomic considerations for medical devices will depend upon the device. Every medical device requires some level of human factors study. Ergonomic requirements for a handheld device such as an endoscope are very different from a floor-standing blood analyzer or CAT scanner. Ergonomic considerations for the former require extensive anthropomorphic hand studies and optimization of the shape for maximum comfort and maneuverability. However, the latter devices are heavily focused on ease of access to critical controls, handles, and the patient. Full-scale mockups are often helpful during user studies to identify user interface touchpoints’ ideal size, organization, and location.

Example 3- Intimate Contact Devices

Designs of any worn or attached product to the human body require extensive human factors research for maximum comfort or ease of use. Products including shoes, clothing, protective headgear, medical devices, sporting goods, and countless other products require repeated design, prototyping, and testing to maximize comfort and safety. The products previously mentioned are often the most difficult to design and optimize because of the complexities associated with human anatomy, physiology, and variation. Designers and the ergonomic specialist must be prepared to develop multiple designs, which must be evaluated with a vast population sampling for valid information. If the device is a sporting good, appropriate sportspeople must test and evaluate it under well-defined conditions. If the product is a medical device, its size, contours, materials, and overall shape must be ideally designed for the clinician as well as the patient.

IDS has demonstrated its expertise in ergonomics and human factors for numerous product designs. You can view a few of the many projects in this section of our portfolio. Feel free to contact us with any questions or interests you may have. Our contact information is or 516-482-2181.

Human Factors Portfolios