Considerations of the Mental Workload in Socio-Technical Systems in the Manufacturing Industry: A Literature Review

Considerations of the Mental Workload in Socio-Technical Systems in the Manufacturing Industry: A Literature Review

Manuel Alejandro Barajas Bustillos (Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico), Aide Aracely Maldonado-Macías (Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico), Jorge Luis García-Alcaraz (Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, Mexico), Juan Luis Hernández Arellano (Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico) and Liliana Avelar Sosa (Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7192-6.ch005


As cognitive tasks have displaced physical tasks in today's manufacturing industry, this sector can demand high levels of mental workload from workers. In certain situations, there is a high cognitive load, which affects operators reducing their attention to the task and causing them mental fatigue and distractions, resulting in errors that generate economic costs or even injuries to workers. This literature review aims to provide a comprehensive understanding the use of mental workload in the manufacturing sector. The methodology consisted of conducting a search in four databases. In the search, a combination of keywords was used, classifying each journal according to the mental workload evaluation means, the type of evaluation, and the area of application. Articles not focusing on the manufacturing area were discarded. Of the total of 3839 articles found, 12 have been selected. Regarding the methods used for mental load assessment, the analytic techniques were found to be the most frequently used.
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Whenever any type of work is done, the body undergoes two types of loads: a physical one and a mental one. The physical load is constituted by the biomechanical, physiological and caloric requirements that the worker’s body demands, while the mental load refers to the cognitive processing requirements necessary for good performance at work (González Munõz & Gutiérrez, 2006) although currently there is no consensus as to which factors are most closely associated with mental load (Rubio, Díaz, & Martín, 2001).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Stress: Associated with the state that results from events that generate anxiety or overwhelmingness. When a person receives demands that are excessive, he/she will begin to feel anxiety and to experience various symptoms.

Cognitive Ergonomics: The branch of ergonomics that is interested in mental processes such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, to the extent that they affect the interactions between human beings and the other components of a system.

Mental Workload: Refers to the set of strains inflicted on a person by the demands of the mental work that he/she performs.

Cognition: The activity related to the acquisition of knowledge.

Database: In the academic field, they are repositories of information that may contain references to books, journals, conference proceedings, and theses, among others.

Socio-Technical Systems: Refers to the integration in the company as it consists of a technical system (equipment and production methods) and a social system (a group of men) that interact with and complement each other.

Subjective: In the field of mental load assessment, subjective instruments are those in which the mental workload is not measured directly, but indirectly.

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