Case study

Ergonomist — Alina Gibb

From running customer and operator user trials to setting up a new ergonomic process within JCB, Alina's day is full of variety

How did you get your job?

I have a BSc Ergonomics (Human Factors Design) from Loughborough University, where I was taught all aspects of ergonomics.

The course included a huge variety of modules from biomechanics and human biology to design and psychology.

During my studies, I also had a year in industry at Aston Martin, where I worked in the manufacturing department, focusing on improving the factory workspace and processes.

After graduating, I was very fortunate that my employer, JCB, offered me a position on the engineering graduate scheme as an ergonomist. They recognised the need to develop an in-house ergonomics department, following the use of external consultants.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My undergraduate course really gave me the skills and knowledge I needed to pursue a full-time career in ergonomics, such as methods of assessment (user trials, interviews, etc) for working with customers and operators.

My year in industry also taught me many transferable skills, giving me the confidence and experience I required when applying for graduate positions.

What are your main work activities?

For the first year at JCB, I worked in several areas of ergonomics: firstly in a department focusing on the design of the cab (the user environment), then moving to a manufacturing facility, and then finally on to a group design facility, working on all machine types (including the cab, access and maintenance of the machine).

Through these three placements, I learnt more about how the company ran and the other department functions and also helped to develop a process for ergonomics.

What do you enjoy about your job and what are the challenges?

I really enjoy seeing the development and rapid improvement of ergonomics within the business and how quickly the field has snowballed.

The difficulty is balancing the workflow whilst continually raising awareness; as people understand the need for ergonomics, the requirement for advice and support increases.

What I particularly like about my job is the ability to influence our next-generation products and seeing these products come to life. These changes are not always easy to implement and compromises must be made to suit the needs of the entire business (manufacturing, purchasing, marketing, etc.).

Ultimately, however, ergonomics has a huge impact and influence on each product that leaves these doors.

How has your role developed?

Since starting at JCB, I have worked on the design of over eight next-generation product types, advised on current design issues and implemented ergonomic solutions for the factory floor.

My other less practical role has been to improve and develop a process for ergonomics at JCB, including becoming part of the 'design sign off ' procedure. This has shown a need to raise awareness of ergonomics and train engineers in the basics of ergonomics.

My career aspirations when joining JCB were to head up ergonomics within the company and to watch it grow and develop across the business. This is already beginning to happen, with two new members of the team due to join this summer.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

My advice to other students and graduates is to get as much experience as you can, for example voluntary or short-term work, in a variety of companies.

These experiences are invaluable and will really help you to develop as an ergonomist, whilst also increasing your network of key 'go-to' contacts who are willing to give you some advice at the start of your career.

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