Audi has demonstrated that well-being of its employees are the highest priority of the company for a long time. Recently Audi announced that they are employing robots to help their human colleagues by assisting them at the assembly lines and now Audi is taking ergonomics at the workplace to a whole new level by introducing so called ‘chairless chairs’ in its plant in Neckarsulm.
So far it is only testing and only three prototypes have been in use. But it is believed that it is going to improve employees’ well‑being and maintain their health over the long term. Furthermore, it should help to optimize workplace and promote higher productivity and even better quality of the final product. The concept itself is not a simple chair – it is much more hi-tech than that.
Chairless chair is developed by Audi together with a Swiss start‑up company. Essentially it is an exoskeleton that is worn on the back of the legs – it is fastened with belts to the hips, knees and ankles. It is made by using combination of leather, carbon‑fiber‑reinforced plastic and hydraulically adjustable joints. Leather covered surfaces support the buttocks and thighs. Body weight is transferred into the floor through these adjustable elements and chair can be adapted to the wearer’s body size and the desired sitting position. Chair itself only weighs just 2.4 kilograms, therefore should not become an interference with the work, but a needed support.
Chairless chair allows person to walk around freely and, whenever needed, to sit down in an ergonomically favorable position at any place. It should improve posture and reduce strain on the legs of the workers as they always have to move around the car part being assembled. Audi believes that it will improve health of the employees; therefore, it will reduce employee absenteeism for physical reasons. Ergonomics is one of the key priorities for a workplace in Audi’s factory and company believes that there is direct correlation between comfort at the workplace and quality.
Currently only three pilot prototypes are used at assembly lines at the Neckarsulm plant. But Audi is planning to start a test phase at the Ingolstadt plant in May also. After that chairless chairs are going to reach series production and should spread among major part of workers in Audi plants. That will make currently used chairs and stools unnecessary and will allow workers, who are currently working while standing, to alternate between sitting and standing while working.
Programs to improve ergonomics in the workplace, like this and robot-human cooperation program at the Ingolstadt plant are part of “We for us. Active into the future” strategy aimed at creating the most pleasant and stress-free working environment possible.