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Meet Dr. Mark Vettraino of TaskGroup in Woodstock

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Mark Vettraino.

Dr. Mark, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was doing a residency at the Scottsdale Baptist Hospital in Scottsdale Arizona when asked by the hospital administrator to take visit to Motorola where the televisions where assembled televisions. As part of a community outreach program I was sent there to determine the cause of the multitude of lacerations and back strains Motorola was sending to the hospital. I was green, had no idea what I was doing and never been in a manufacturing environment before.

I picked the job where most of the injuries were coming from and after a long observation period I decided to write down all the movements of the employee. The I associated the body part used and predicted the type of injury based on the posture and repetition. I wrote it down step by step according to how many times the operator touched the part, twelve times. Afterward I asked the employee what he would do to make the job easier. (That was the smartest thing I did).

Together we developed a new way of moving the part through manufacturing that reduced the handling down to 3x and eliminated the lifting while drastically reducing the exposure to the sharp metal. After this new design was implemented not only where the back strains mitigated and the lacerations greatly reduced, productivity went way up. So much so that the plant manager asked me to assess all the workstations.

That was in Arizona, I moved to Michigan with my young family in the Detroit suburbs and opened a clinic. Within the first year a manufacturing facility called Hawthorne Metal was sending patients with the same problem as I saw in Arizona at Motorola. I offered to come and take a look and was welcomed in on a tour. As we walked through the facility I openly gave suggestions to potential remedies of stress I observed. At the conclusion of the tour the plant manager asked if I would mind attending a meeting that was already in process and I accepted.

I eat quietly at the end of the conference table until the meeting was over. The president of the company pointed at me and then informed the gentlemen he was addressing and stated this is Dr. Vettraino who we hired to solve our ergonomic problems on the plant floor. I just nodded my head in total confusion. When the meeting was adjourned the company informed me they were being fined by Michigan OSHA and wanted to know if I could resolve their ergonomic issues. I said sure and returned to my office and asked Paige my office manager to look up the word ergonomics and tell me what it means. True story.

For me that was the beginning of ergonomics. That project was successful and Michigan OSHA asked me to speak on a platform to discuss the success story at Hawthorne Metal. I did and immediately had quite a few requests to assist other facilities. Soon enough I was working 7 days a week for 3 years and had to make a decision, reduce clinical hours and or give up the consulting. In a short period of time I could not keep up with the clinic. By 1995 I was consulting full time and in 1996 I was asked by a seating manufacturer for advice on the bio-mechanics of an office chair. By 1999 I consulted with most of the office furniture manufacturers including Steelcase, Herman miller, Teknion, Inscape and Knoll.

As my exposure in the office furniture industry grew so did the clients. Along with a gentleman named Pete Berlin we put together the first ergonomic program for Merrill Lynch and the client base has grown to 66 of The Fortune 500 Companies.

Has it been a smooth road?
Nothing is smooth, there were learning curves, egos, arrogance, toxic environments and toxic people in the corporate world that were all stumbling blocks to success. Every today but a person becomes better at dealing or accepting it.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the TaskGroup story. Tell us more about the business.
TaskGroup is the most experienced ergonomic consultancy with an unparalled mix of medical expertise.

We are a global ergonomic consulting and technology firm committed to delivering practical and innovative solutions to the workplace.

Taskgroup partners with its clients to identify and resolve the causative agents negatively impacting a worker’s comfort, performance and the bottom line. With industry and business expertise, broad global resources, and a proven track record, Taskgroup delivers the insights and improvements to create high performance based companies.

We are most proud of our ergonomic software designed to educate employees, identify risks and empower employees to fix their own workstation both at home and in the office without a financial investment. Along with that we have a children’s version of the software that is currently being studied at the Children’s Orthopedic Group of Atlanta and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
When I began, nobody knew what the word ergonomics meant, including myself. Today most large corporations have ergonomist on staff and Universities offer it as a curriculum. I taught ergonomics at Oakland University for three years and helped develop the curriculum in 1995.

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