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Ford is testing an exoskeleton vest to improve assembly line worker ergonomics and safety

Posted November 11, 2017

Car factory workers often have to work overhead. You probably noticed that changing a light bulb can give fatigue to your arms, so imagine working with your hands over your head for entire day. In car factories this is actually quite dangerous and can result in some bad injuries. However, Ford thinks it found a solution – a complex vest exoskeleton.

The exoskeleton that Ford is currently testing, does not limit movements, but provides support and allows lifting heavier items easier. Image credit: Ford

Ford estimates that some assembly line workers have to complete 4,600 overhead tasks every day. This, of course, results in sore arms and shoulders. Not only it reduces satisfaction in the workplace, but it can also be dangerous as tired hands can drop some heavy tools. This exoskeleton, developed by Ford and Ekso Bionics reduces fatigue and provides support, needed in order to avoid injuries. Not only it provides support, but it also does not limit the range of motion of the arms and can help lifting heavier items.

This vest is light and easy to wear – it allows assembly line workers to move freely while providing support and helping to avoid injuries. However, it can also be used elsewhere – in construction sites, other types of factories and other places where people are in danger of fatigue-related injuries. This exoskeleton can also be adjusted to fit workers of various shapes and sizes, while its lift assist can also be adjusted for different work settings.

Now the exoskeleton is being tested in two plants. Before making a larger investment Ford wants to see how well it works and what are opinions of the workers, will it really help preventing fatigue and injuries. So far assembly line workers are happy with the device and they report feeling better after a long day at the factory. Bruce Hettle, Ford group vice president, said: “Investing in the latest ergonomics research, assembly improvements and lift-assist technologies has helped us design efficient and safe assembly lines, while maintaining high vehicle quality for our customers”. Ford is trying to solve two kinds of problems in its factories: safety and ergonomics.

In terms of safety, Ford is making significant progress – last year Ford saw the lowest incident rate ever. Ergonomics in Ford factories are improving at a quick pace as well. There are fewer situations where workers have to overextend themselves to reach certain areas, hard-to-install parts are now handles easier and, lately, overhead work in the assembly lines became just that little bit easier with the help of these exoskeletons.


Source: Ford

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