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Center for Occupational Health in Automotive Manufacturing

The Center for Occupational Health in Automotive Manufacturing (COHAM) is a unique 5,000 ft2 open bay research facility.  COHAM partners university researchers, automotive manufacturers, and automobile part suppliers to aid in the design of automotive assembly processes that minimize occupational health risk while optimizing productivity and quality.


COHAM Main Lab Space

Main Laboratory Area

Ceiling mounted cranes and an automobile rotate carrier conveyor allow researchers to create a mock assembly line in the main lab space where as many as three stations can be evaluated at once.  On this line, researchers can evaluate the effects of changes in car orientation, line speed, tool availability, and associate technique without impeding normal line production.  This area also showcases a variety of industry leading automotive assembly tools that are available to COHAM's partners for line-design brainstorming and testing.

COHAM Subject Preparation Room
Subject Preparation Room

The subject preparation room is a private area where subjects can be instrumented and equipment can be calibrated before experimental trials are performed.

COHAM Offices

The offices at COHAM accomodate staff members, students, or guests and are partially divided into two areas to provide privacy while still encouraging collaboration.

COHAM Conference Room
Conference Room

The conference room is located in a loft above COHAM's offices and subject preparation room.  The inside wall of this room is mostly glass, allowing researchers to oversee the main lab space during meetings.

COHAM Collaboration Area
Collaboration Area

The collaboration area can be used as additional space for small meetings and dining.  This area also features a few desks and workstations for students and staff.


Success Using a Rotational Carrier System in Auto Manufacturing

A unique feature of COHAM is an operational vehicle carrier system, manufactured by Rosenheimer Forderanlagen ROFA.  This equipment allows a vehicle to be raised, lowered, or rotated, with the intent to better position it around assembly operators...NOT the other way around!  Our research found that there were significant biomechanical benefits to using this equipment, compared to standard carrier systems that do not rotate.

But does this translate to actual reductions in injuries or their severity?

According to BMW, the answer is YES!  It has a manufacturing facility in South Carolina, which houses the only known series of rotation carrier systems in North America.  According to BMW personnel familiar with this equipment, injury costs averaged $3,600 before this system was installed.  After implementation, its average cost was just $60 for musculoskeletal disorders developing due to work under the body of the car.  Furthermore, this does not include the productivity and quality improvements also believed to occur with use of these carriers.