Load Carrying Device for Bricks
By: Rohit, Anshuman, Ankit and Ajay
Labors carry load on their head at different places like construction sites, farm, etc to transfer the load from one place to another. We identified the problems of women working at the construction site. They are carrying bricks and MORTAR on their head. The weight of the bricks is around fifty kgs. They are get huge pain in the neck and back which is very dangerous for their health. They get tired very easily. The load is concentrated on the head. The stress developed is very high. Therefore, we have tried to make a device so that the stress can be distributed over the body. Moreover, the energy loss in a day can be reduced.
A lady is carrying bricks on her head
In the first Brainstorming, we have discussed the different aspects of design like the load acting on the body, Balancing problem, Strength of the device and what are the different stakeholders who will be benefited with this device.
We have searched few papers and found some important information.How the stress developed in the body and the amount of energy consumption in a day when the load applied to different parts of the body. According to a paper, The load has applied to three different places of the body.And found out the energy consumption in each case. We should match the center of gravity of the device with the body so that the device will e balanced. There are two different posture of the body, One is when carrying the load and move on the horizontal surface and another is when moving on an inclined surface.
According to this paper, The load should not apply away from the body. The energy consumption is less when the load is closer to the body. The device should be such that It’s easy to carry, Portable, Easy to handle, lightweight, Durable, Efficient, etc.
Carrying load on a back walking on (a) horizontal surface (b) Inclined Surface
To get the better understanding of the problem, we went for the field visit at four different places. First, we went to the construction in Amrapur near Grambharti. Initially, we have observed the living condition and work of the laborers. They have made the tents and preparing the food outside. We have interacted with Khusbu. She is from Rajasthan. She is studying in ninth standard. Because of their low financial condition, She use to work in holidays. She is able to carry twolve-sixteen bricks on her head and transfer from one place to another. The weight of each brick is 3-3.5 kgs. She was able to carry around 50 kg load on her head. She uses a wooden plate to carry the bricks and cloths so that the impact of the load on the head should be less.First, the labourers use to load the bricks on their head one by one and then transfer to another place. During unloading, Either they throw the bricks on the ground one by one or all the bricks simultaneously. We have observed that when they through the bricks simultaneously, sometimes bricks break. But the time consumption is less in this case. However, If they unload the brick one by one then the bricks don’t break but the time consumption is large.
Khusbu is carrying sixteen bricks on her head
Wooden plate to carry the bricks
After all, we have also experienced to carry the bricks. It was very difficult to do. Mainly the balancing problem and pain in the neck. If the bricks won’t be properly kept then The labor can easily be get injured.
Anshuman is carrying the bricks on his head
Measuring the dimensions of a brick
For the next field visit, we went to inside campus of Gujarat University, Ahmedabad. That was the big construction site. People use to lift the bricks and mortar using machine for floor to floor. But for the shorter distance, they use to carry on their head. Here, they were using cement bricks which is more heavier than the clay bricks. The weight of this brick is 5 kg. We have measured the dimensions of the brick.
Then, we have interacted with a girl. She hails from Rajasthan. And she also came here to work in holiday because of poor financial condition. We have asked a lot of questions. He was very happy to answer. She was just 16 years old and able to carry so much weight.
Discussions with the workers
Rohit is experiencing the weight of a 20kg brick
For the third field visit, we went to temporary bricks making factory for flooring. The were making two different types of bricks, one was 5 kg and another was 20 kg.
For making the bricks, first they prepare the Mortar using the mixing machine and then put it onto the mold. After that they vibrate the the mold using a big vibrator. And after some the bricks is ready. So for making the mortar, they put all the raw materials in the machine. For that they have to transfer the raw materials from one place to another. They use a pan to carry the raw materials. Women use to carry the pan on the head.Men use to carry it on the shoulder and giving support with the hand and maintaining some distance between the pan and shoulder. Due to fatigue load, they use to get pain on the arm and hand.
And after making the bricks, they use to carry 4-5 small bricks on their head and big brick(20 kg) in front of them as shown in above figure.
A labour is carrying the load on the shoulder
A coolie is carrying loads on different parts of the body
Initially, we didn’t have any idea that on which type of load carrying, we should work on. Which is more important. So, went to Kalupur Railway Station. We met with Mr. Manoj. He is a coolie. He has given us the idea about the living condition and the working of a coolie.
He wanted to become a clerk in the army. But unfortunately, He became collie. He is happy with his life. Collies are carrying the loads on different parts of the body like head, shoulder, and hand. They don’t have any problem while moving on the horizontal surface because some collie has the trolley offered by the Indian Railway. But when they move on the stairs, then they have the problem of carrying the loads.
After Field visit, We thought about different design parameters. We again reviewed some paper. We thought about the specification of the device. What are the different manufacturing processes to make the prototype. The problems in the design of the previously made prototype. Reason for not implementing into the market product. Then we finalized one design.
A cardboard prototype shown below is not the mimic of actual device. We just made it in starting.
CAD model of proposed Solution
We have designed this model in order to keep in mind that the center of gravity of body should match with the center of gravity of the device. It has three different places where bricks or mortar in a Pan can be kept. The device can be adjusted according to the waist of the person. And the load is distributed to the shoulder. It also has the adjustable stand. If the bricks are kept on the ground. Then the labor can keep the bricks and then they can lift the device. The details specification are given below.
Specification of the prototype
Material Used : Mild Steel
All dimensions are in mm
Each parts of the frame
Dimensions are written on each rod. Moreover, all the dimensions are in cm. All the rods are hollow square pipes. In addition, thickness of all the pipes are 2mm. All the rods are welded together according to the above CAD drawing.
First, (4) is welded to the frame. (1) And (3) are welded together and fixed to (4). (2) can be adjust on (1) through nut and bolt.
The length of all the strips are 1m. And can be adjustable using buckles.
Strips for comfort
All the parts were welded together.Strips were stitched with the frame. Final prototype is ready for the test.
Weight of the prototype = 5.2 kg
User Testing and Feedback
We went to the field in Amrapur near Grambharti for the user test. We talked with the contractor and discussed about the device. One labor working has tried with this device. He was easily able to carry 14 bricks. This was the first time for the user. That’s why he felt little awkward but comfortable. We got some positive feedback. We have also tried with the Mortar and able to carry two pans of Mortar on both sides at a time. Labors use to carry only one pan of mortar on their head.
Anshuman is able to carry 16 bricks and Two pans of mortar
A labour is carrying 14 bricks on the device
Front configuration of the prototype
We have also tried by keeping the back part of the frame in front. It was not comfortable.But loading and unloading is easy in that case.
Finally, we talked with Prof. Anil Gupta. He was happy with the device. He has given many suggestions.
Make the side part of the prototype little incline so that the load will be distributed to both the shoulder and the waist. And the bricks also not fall.
Furthur stress analysis can be done for better understanding of the load acting on the device. For the lightweight and low-cost device, we can change the different parameters like the material.
LOAD CARRYING DEVICE
By - Aniket Singh, Arpit Kabra, Chintan Mehta and Rashi Jain
At construction sites, workers generally carry load like bricks, cement, sand etc. on their heads using plank, which is occasionally placed over a rolled piece of cloth so as to provide support and cushion against the load. The load typically varies from 25-30 Kgs for cement and sand, to around 40 Kgs in case of bricks. The average distance these workers have to travel with the load is generally less than 500 meters. Workers manually lift up the load to their heads and carry it away to further distances. While the loading of bricks is done by a single person, and that of cement/sand requires two persons, unloading is mostly done by a single worker alone. The quality factor for the load being carried at the construction sites is generally not a major issue, and materials such as bricks and sand are mostly handled roughly by the workers, literally thrown on the ground for the purpose of unloading. While the workers are highly accustomed to current construction practices, and have been able to their jobs very efficiently, they have largely been ignoring the harmful consequences of the existing load carrying processes, especially health problems associated with them like head, neck, and joint pains, impairment of body posture, spinal cord injuries etc.
Currently, the workers invariably carry the load only with the help of one part of the body, like head in case of construction workers, and shoulder/back in case of vegetable or grain market workers. This puts tremendous amount of pressure on just one part of the body, and it requires large efforts on the part of construction workers to handle the load. It not only results in reduced efficiency but also causes serious health problems as well as many fatal accidents, the effects of which become even more pronounced with the onset of old age.
To design an efficient Load Carrying Device which aims to ease out the efforts put in by construction workers to transfer load, specifically bricks, from one place to another while at the same time ensuring maximum safety and comfort.
Idea to Preliminary Concept Development:
During our field visits to various construction sites across Ahmedabad, we observed that one feature was common in all load carrying practices. Most of the load was being carried by the workers solely on their heads, and there was no distribution of weight over to any other part of the body. So we decided to come up with a mechanism which distributes weight to other parts of the body as well, while at the same time maintains balance, increases efficiency, safety and comfort.
1. Load Carrying Device by Vikram Panchal:
2. Load Bearing Device with helmet by Neethala Mittu:
3. Improvised Load Bearing Device by Sreenath Mallela and Sai Sidharth:
4. Load Carrier by Bohman G.:
Preliminary Concept Development: Improving the current load carrying practices required us to come up with a prototype with is not only efficient and safe but also cost effective and easy to use. We tried to understand the needs and problems of construction workers so as to be able to address them with our design. The main features that we considered while coming up with a prototype for the load carrying workers were:
Overall mechanism of the device and design features (working as well as comfort)
Safety measures to be taken
Materials required to make the prototype and materials to be carried
Cost benefit analysis of the prototype
Present techniques/devices and their efficiencies
Designs currently in practice and reasons for their acceptance/rejection
Some of the avenues that we explored to better understand the features that would be required of the load carrying device were:
On what basis are you paid? (Amount of work done or fixed wage for a day)
What problems are you presently facing which need to be solved?
How much distance do you travel carrying the load?
Casualties/damage and health problems
Are you willing to use some alternatives to the present system of work?
What methods you have tried to improve your output
How do you walk on the rough surfaces and stairs by carrying the load?
Timings of work
Method of loading and unloading
Price of the product they can buy
Where do you prefer the load to be (head/shoulder)
Problems from existing designs and prototypes
Which system to incorporate in our design/prototype
Revisiting the Concept:
While revising our preliminary model of the load carrier, we realized that apart from considering the mechanism and design features of the prototype, we also need to take into account the kind of load which our prototype would cater to, and also the way of handling the load and its quality factor. For example, carrying bricks would require loading and unloading in a very different fashion as compared to that of sand or cement.
Following are the groups of people that are likely to get affected by the introduction of our load carrying device. They have been arranged in the decreasing order of priority:
1. Workers: Following are the points that construction workers expressed when we expressed our idea of a load carrying device:
They were happy with the idea of a load carrying device that would reduce their physical exertion and improve their efficiency They however didn’t report any problems with current load carrying methods
They suggested that the device should be light weight, non-expensive, and easy to carry around
The capacity of the device should be around 12 bricks or more, matching their current working efficiency
The workers preferred not to change their current loading pattern, that is, they preferred to take on the load on their head which makes the balancing of load easier for them
2. Contractors: The key points that we noted through our conversation with several construction contractors were:
They were cooperative and curious about the idea of making a load carrying device
They suggested that the design should be user centric, and that we should consider the opinions of the workers before going on for making any design
The design should also be adjustable and cater to a wide range of workers, and both men and women
They also suggested that safety measures should be given prime importance.
Understanding the Need to Design: WHY, WHAT, WHO AND HOW?
Preliminary Design and Development:
1. The prior-art research started off with a google search of existing load carrying devices. The most prominent and most successful design so far has been the design proposed by Sir Vikram Panchal. We as a team wanted to test the design on laborers to study why it is not being used in market. Although we didn’t have an access to his prototype, a very similar prototype (shown below) was available for testing. Upon a field investigation, it was found that: The design removed load completely from the laborer’s head and brought the weight on shoulders. Although it may look good at a glance, further investigation showed that workers preferred having load on their head rather than only on their shoulders, which caused them to imbalance. Workers also complained that there was a higher risk of the load falling down, directly in front of them. The wheels in the back also disrupted them in the back. There were also problems with self-loading on the back. We offered some modifications that could be made to the existing design shown above. Some of them were:
>> Have tiny boundary at the top to avoid load falling down and to facilitate balance.
>> Have wheels’ slide inside so that they don’t interrupt the laborer.
>> Shift the head load down such that the load is not only supported on the shoulders but also comes on head.
2. We thought of developing a prototype that could be self-loaded and came up with the following concept. The bag in the back could be self -loaded when no-one’s inside. The pulley’s help in bringing the load up and the process is facilitated with ball bearings on the back. There’s a locking mechanism provided on the back so that the laborer can lock the load at a height comfortable to the laborer. The mechanism looked complex enough to be brought to reality at an affordable cost. Good things about this prototype were that it provided a waist grip for a better weight distribution. It was more prone to imbalance because of the heavy load on the back. This led us to think that modifications needed to be made such that the load is properly balanced only on the head. During field investigation, the laborers advised us to make the device such that the load is carried on head (which is very much the traditional practice of carrying load) but did so at a higher comfort level, efficiency and speed.
3. Further modifications led us to the following design: This design distributes load on head, shoulders and the waist. The weight is brought down below the chest, is loaded and transferred back to the head. Prospected merits of the design include: reduced labor to one man, proper weight distribution – weight on head, shoulders, and waist, better balance, since load is along the lines of center of gravity. However, it suffers from several demerits like: loading requires laborer to have and balance the load directly in front of him/herself – imbalance, struggle on behalf of the laborer to transfer the load over his head. The springs shown above were put in order to reduce the effort of the laborer.
4. Upon conversation with experts in the field, we released that the prototype didn’t need to follow conventions if needs can be better satisfied with a radical prototype. The weight can be better balanced if it’s carried closer to the center of gravity then above it (when placed on his head). Since the center of gravity lies very close to the belly button, some of the further prototype suggestions offered to carry load on either sides of the shoulder close to the waist. The following design carries the load on a circular-platter with surrounding boundaries to carry load and strings that attach it to a ring that comes on the shoulder. The ring has a foam rest on shoulder to stress-release the laborer. The design had rotating constraints though, which we thought could be resolved by providing a rotating platter on the top. On a closer investigation however, it could be noted that the same would complicate the system. To resolve this, we offered to cut the circle into two semi-circles. This portrayed an issue on people of different size though. It would be difficult to increase and decrease the size of semicircles.
5. On further search on Internet, and on a closer study on the last year’s prototype, we realized that the last year’s design used a similar concept of sideways weight distribution around center of gravity. The one flaw persistent on the design in the above structure though was imbalance. Due to sideways placement of the load, the structure would swing back and forth and sideways a lot. We tried to improvise the design for better balance. Starting off with last year’s design, no improvisation on harness could solve the problem to provide a better balance. Some are shown in image below: Upon discussion, we came up with several different ways the harness could be attached: crisscross, overlapping, seat-belt harness: however, none of them offered a proper fixation of the device to the body nor a proper solution for swinging motion.
Continued interaction with experts and lecturers invited to Summer School helped us expand our vision. After some thought we questioned our own research. The goal of the laborer is to transport load from one place to another. The body need not bear the load. This thinking led us to think onto designing a trolley for load transportation: The final design that we came up with then after all these considerations is the one shown in the figure alongside. This design provided load supported on shoulders and balanced on the head, which were thickly foamed to reduce the impact. The whole frame was telescopic such that it could be adjusted when passed from one person to another. The problem with this design though was that: during loading, the whole structure would bend backwards even when the harness was on. This disabled the laborer to self-load the structure with ease. Due to improper balance, the design had the same problem as that of Vikram Panchal’s initial design: the laborer’s felt that the load could fall down any moment. Improvisations and modifications to this design led us to our final design. The V shaped frame provided a strong grip at the torso and a much better balance to the laborer. The structure was riveted on the V that came at back to ensure that it could be adjusted easily when passed from one person to another. The load on this device was again supported both on head and shoulders. The four rods that came from the top plate to the shoulders rather than two not only provided better weight distribution but also facilitated balance. The construction site worker cap was fixed onto the plank on the top to increase safety to the laborer. The design turned out to be pretty successful on testing with laborers. It was reported to have a better balance, and overall light weight on the body.
Screening Ideas (Decision Tree) and SWOT Analysis
Proof of Concept: The load carried by the worker is transferred to both the head through the plate, and to the shoulders through the connecting rods, thus distributing it to multiple parts of the body. This makes the weight on the head feel lighter and thus reduces fatigue. Also, the design of the metal frame makes the prototype attach closely to the body, thus securing the device and improving the balance.
Feedback from Users and Mentors:
Load Carriers feedback on the current design:
The idea of helmet on head greatly increases safety.
Use of safety belts at waist.
Decrease the head to plank distance
Use a plate instead of wooden plank for carrying the load.
Decrease the distance between straps little closer for women.
Make the helmet more comfortable for use.
Feedback from Sir Chintan Vaishnav
There can be other methods of load carrying such as use of backpack and trolley system but try to work on those design that is not different from the current system of load carrying
Try the trolley on different terrains and observe how it works Version 3.0 Version 3.0 Version 2.0
He insisted that the pointed edges should be managed
Will the efficiency improve from the new design? Analyze and compare the ergonomics of the manual process and the devised tool.
He insisted to start with existing design and to replace helmet with cloth.
He also suggested to attach plank with the cloth.
He insisted that users doesn’t want to adapt to a completely new system. They want an incremental change.
Feedback from Shashank Mehta
Our Design should be easy to use and user centered.
In reference to our ideas regarding load carrying device, he suggested to design a product in such a way that it should not completely change the existing process of load carrying and just introduce few improvements so that it can be widely accepted.
He suggested to keep the load on head itself and to do something to increase their efficiency.
Feedback from Dr. Korjan
He insisted that the load carrying device should be comfortable and more safe
He also suggested to use trolley system and see how it works in different terrains
He insisted to shift the distribution of load on other parts of the body
He also suggested that we should use fiberglass plank
He insisted the use of small handle with the plank for better balance.
Redesigning the Device Based on Feedback:
The prototype developed initially (Version 1.0) was successfully able to distribute the load on both the head and the shoulders, and the workers actually expressed that they felt the weight to be lighter than before. However, it suffered from certain drawbacks like:
Balancing of the structure while loading and unloading was a major problem. The structure used to wobble backwards whenever the user would stop holding it
The height of the structure was another issue due to which the workers were not able to place the required number of bricks on the plate which in turn reduced their productivity
There were a lot of movable parts in the structure which made it somewhat unstable and complex to use.
To improve upon the above shortcomings, we came up with a new design for the prototype which could address all these issues. The major features of the design were:
The balancing issue of the structure was resolved by designing a metal frame that closely attaches to the body, making the structure feel like a part of the body. The position of the load carrying tray was also adjusted to balance the center of gravity.
The height of the structure was reduced by removing all the excess material like the base on the top of the helmet and reducing the thickness of the load plate. Workers would now be able to carry a conventional load of 12 bricks using our device.
The number of movable parts was reduced to a bare minimum, and a general device was made to fit a wide class of workers.
Also, the entire structure was cushioned with foam to ensure maximum comfort.
Specifications of the Prototype:
Total Weight: 3.5 Kgs (equivalent to just one brick)
Overall Price: INR 450-500 (plus manufacturing costs)
The current prototype can be fabricated using locally available parts. We can use Bamboo in place of Stainless steel that would significantly reduce the overall cost. The rods can be made adjustable (Telescopic) and the width of the prototype can be adjustable according to the different sizes. Estimated cost of making such a device would be ₹ 500. It can be economically feasible as the contractors can be convinced to take actions regarding the safety issues of the workers and to improve their present condition. Government can also play a leading role by introducing strict laws regarding the safety of the construction workers taking into account the accidents that are happening at the construction sites around the country. Even workers could be encouraged to adapt the improvised mechanisms to do their laborious tasks, and only then a revolutionary change can take place in the lives of construction workers which would be our success.
The device in its current state works well and achieves its intended purpose. However, there were several useful suggestions that we came across when we got to interact with the users and experts. These suggestions can be incorporated in the current design to make it even more useful for a wider set of workers:
Introducing a telescopic rod system for the load carrier plate instead of a rigid one would allow the same device to be adjusted for a much wider set of workers
Considering the use of an alternate material which is both light weight and has high strength
Improving upon the design of the plank so that more bricks can be carried at a time, and designing a better cushioning mechanism against the load would both result in increased productivity
Distribution of the load carrying device developed to construction site workers and contractors, making attempts to ensure its incorporation in the current load carrying practices, and improving upon the problems that might come into picture with its use
The problem taken up by this team is important as it involves a lot of pain and drudgery for people especially women who have to carry the load on their head. Hence it is important to understand the bio-mechanical aspect of this. The construction industry in India is the second largest economic activity after agriculture. Safety consciousness is yet to percolate to these construction sites where majority of the workers work under hazardous conditions. There are many small contractors and firms who are oblivious of this condition and hence the practice of carrying bricks on head continues since ages. The idea thus focuses on developing a device to improve the safety of carrying bricks by focusing on ergonomics.
Carrying bricks on head is the most common practice adopted by the labourers at construction sites in India and the other developing countries. Most of these labourers are women especially in India. Carrying bricks/load on head might cause injuries in brain and neck, pain in muscles and other spinal problems. Bricks on back using a rope, on shoulders using wooden plank, etc. are few others ways of doing the task of transporting bricks on construction sites. However, these solutions may not be safe and comfortable, though they increase the efficiency. Wheel barrows and pulleys are also used at large construction sites but at small scale the brick carrying is done by labourers. There are many prototypes/devices are available which are not in use or well accepted by the labourers. The main reason behind this could be no interest of contractors and other stakeholders due to the cost, efficiency and durability of previous solutions. The other reason could be the labourers did not find these devices useful and comfortable.
Source: Summary of project; Nikhil Gehlot, Krunal Dave, Vishal Chitara.
They had a few conversations with people regarding the problem and the need to design a device for carrying bricks. One of the team members, Nikhil had already worked on a solution for carrying bricks. The problem take up was also because he had the idea in mind. However the device designed had a lot of drawbacks, most important being that it wasn’t suitable for female workers. So he was asked to rethink again as the summer school is the best opportunity. Even though the team worked hard, but the initial design was stuck in their mind. This is something to ponder over. How to get more ideas and think different from the original design in mind? Feedback from mentor at this stage was important to make them think in a different direction before jumping on to the solution.
Professor P V M Rao: The problem is related to bio-mechanical. Define the need- whether to improve the efficiency or ergonomic aspect. Find the existing methods of safety and existing solutions. Capacity Building for the Promotion of Labour Rights for Vulnerable Groups of Workers, The AmbedkarInstitute for Labour Studies, Mumbai
Prof P V M Rao:Try to analyse the reasons for which they can reject it. Try to design the product that is satisfactory for the contractors too. Solutions can be in two forms- designing a device or educating the people
Conversation with Contractors/Builders/Engineers
While interacting with contractors, builders and engineers, we got similar response. They all complained about the carelessness of workers for wearing safety equipment while carrying bricks. When asked, “Are you concerned about the safety of workers?” They said they provide safety equipment like helmets, gloves, belts, glasses, etc. But labourers don not use them. “They use them only when we are monitoring”. They also don’t prefer any carrying devices given to them. Changing their behaviour and approach is quite difficult. We cannot force, else we will have no labour to work”.
Conversation with women workers
We asked the women workers “whether they would use a device for brick carrying?” They replied “hum garib log hai, kaise layenge aisa device. Then we asked them if we give you this device for free, will you use that? They then said “we are quite habituated with the way we carry bricks. It will be difficult for us to use this device. Also we do multiple jobs and hence it will be waste when we are not using that.” Source: problem definition presentation; Nikhil Gehlot, Krunal Dave, Vishal Chitara
Understanding the need to design: Why, what, who and how?
Before starting the process of ideation, the team was asked to understand the whole process so that they can get important insights of the design process. Talk to ‘occupational therapist’, an important stakeholder. Do prior search before designing. Review information. The team reviewed the existing solution that was made in the 2013 summer school. They even tried to use the device to get a feel of how the new solution can accommodate the limitations in this design. An important missing was the involvement of workers at this stage. They could have given the already existing device for use and taken specific feedback for improvements. Reviewing the existing solutions is important to understand the need to design. It was pointed out very clearly by Katherine Johnson that “it is not important to design new solutions every time; one can work on the existing ones and improve upon them”.
Source: PPAR report; Nikhil Gehlot, Krunal Dave, Vishal Chitara
Prof Aguinaldo gave his real life example of carrying bricks and working in construction sites. He said the team should think of a ‘leapfrog’ solution for the problem. He emphasized the use of wheel barrows to make the construction site for people more organized rather than keeping it messy and unsafe for the workers carrying load on head. He gave examples of wheelbarrow for use in brick carrying (see below). He concluded by saying “consider leapfrog to achieve a higher level of innovation”.
I have found a bookchapter on “Construction in industrially developing countries”; it may offer some further insights to your project.
I have to confess that, having transported bricks myself when I was younger, I have a high level of prejudice for manual transport of bricks, which does not uses wheels. People doing such tasks often have back problems late in their life that hinders their prospect of have a better life when comes the later stages of their life. It results of reduce productivity, which affects directly their income. We did assess the effect of such transportation on their first vertebra (first bone on the spine from bottom to top). 50 kg of transportation implies double of the maximum capacity of that vertebra!
Ideation and Proof of concept
Even though a lot of feedback was given on the ergonomics and alternate solutions for brick transportation, the team focussed on their initial idea of having a load carrying device with straps. They made a sketch and described the idea of making this prototype. At this stage, the team lost the track of feedback and the need to design and focused solely on the idea they had in their mind.
As we identify the problem of brick carrying, we analyse the previous solution. The traditional activity of the labourers is the most common. So we thought to provide the solution nearby their practice. We have to transfer the load from head to shoulder.
The idea designed is based on the concept of the equilibrium load transformation on the shoulder and hand supported. The nylon straps are provided on the frame which is used to hold the frame on the shoulder.
In the construction sites there is no lift-pulley/wheel-barrow facilities available we need labourer help to moving bricks and for that make a device can help them to carry load easily. Since we have gone to various sites at Chandkheda, Navrangpura, GIFT City, IET, GTU and KCG Gujarat University etc, we observed the way they carry the load including loading and unloading of bricks. From then to load the bricks are two ways:
When the bricks are height of labourers, they use to put the bricks with their hands maintaining the centre of gravity.
When labourers are not at that height, in that case a second labourer is there to help in loading the bricks.
Most of the labourers do the unloading by just throwing the bundle of bricks at an angle that the bricks didn’t get broken. It is sometimes harmful and also not safer method, and also its cost much if we keep one more labourer for unloading and loading.
Proof of concept
When we observe the activity we realise that to put the load on the shoulder so we have to create a design which easily transform the load and maintaining the equilibrium. So we adopted the concept of equilibrium and designed a frame based device.
Source: Proof of concept report; Nikhil Gehlot, Krunal Dave, Vishal Chitara
Prototyping and feedback from users/mentors
The team designed a device as described in their proof of concept stage. They got it made with the help of a local fabricator and went to test it in the field to get user feedback.
Source: Presentation on prototyping and feedback, Nikhil Gehlot, Krunal Dave, Vishal Chitara
They got feedback from labourers and also demonstrated the use of the device. The important thing missed in the feedback is the use of device by women since 51% of the workers carrying bricks on their heads are women. Thus uniform design of solutions will not work and it is important to have perspective of all the stakeholders.
There was also important feedback given on the prototype by different professors. Prof M P Ranjan said to reduce the frame size for better balancing, resolve the stripping of strap problem, and even think of alternative materials like, plastic. Prof Rao said that you can relook into the entire process of design again and think if the device can be redesigned taking the feedback from all into consideration. Prof Kate said to look at the loading and unloading part of the device.
Professor M P Ranjan” How many bricks can the frame carry?” he advised to explore the safety aspects as the two protruding spokes are dangerous.He asked, “Is it possible to fold this device?”He also asked to explore the idea of making the frame using cycle rim or use rolling shutter material for frame. He advised,” See the available technology resource. Think widely and broadly.”
Redesigning the device based on feedback
The team realised the need to redesign their idea based on the feedback from users and mentors and once again went to the workers to get some more insights before redesigning. Just on the last day of the exhibition and presentations, they were able to make a second improved version which was much easier to carry bricks as compared to their first design. This emphasizes the need to test and iterate the ideas and get feedback at every stage.
Professor P V M Rao : His concern was that lot of free space was needed to move the frame. He suggested them that they can even use large diameter hollow tube and the handle can also be made convenient to use. He even commented that,” You can completely redesign if you want.”
Prof Katherine: Your device looks like it would be hard to load first and then “wear”?
Prof Sanjay E Sarma: Follow the cycle of ethnography, cycle of tests and solutions through multiple experiments.
In the end the team managed to make two prototypes. However a lot of work needs to be done in terms of the material and costing. The important learning from this project was the importance of getting user context at the ideation stage and keeping the ideas open. Getting feedback at every stage and testing with users is the most critical part of design process.