Ford is experiencing a new exoskeleton to work with arms raised above his head

Anyone who hangs the dryer in the bathroom or painted the walls knows how difficult it is to work with raised hands for a long time - the shoulders begin to literally burn, the back gets numb. And the workers on the Ford conveyor carry out in this position some operations up to 4,600 times per shift, that is, up to a million operations per year.

Ford, in conjunction with California-based manufacturer of exoskeletons Ekso Bionics, began testing the EksoVest exoskeleton model at two American car assembly plants. EksoVest is a model of an exoskeleton without a power source for the upper half of the body. Thus, it is possible to increase the labor productivity of workers without incurring additional costs for electricity.

Work on a modern automobile plant is not as physically difficult as in past decades. Today, most of the labor-intensive operations are done by robots, including all the work on lifting and transporting heavy parts. Nevertheless, even without lifting loads, some repetitive actions are difficult for a person.

The use of EksoVest exoskeleton reduces fatigue of workers and reduces the number of injuries at work. In other words, the employer increases the efficiency of labor of workers and reduces the amount of insurance payments on health insurance. The use of exoskeleton should be profitable: workers actually begin to perform tasks faster and more accurately. Technical Director Ekso Bionics notes that the use of exoskeletons increases not only productivity, but also morality, because the workers feel less tired at the end of the working day.

The EksoVest model is designed for workers from 152 to 193 cm tall. As already mentioned, the device is fully mechanical and does not require external power - no batteries and cables, but it provides adjustable support from 2.2 to 6.8 kg for each arm.

The exoskeleton is relatively light (4.3 kg), comfortable and practically does not constrain hand movements.

Tests at American factories are conducted jointly with the United Auto Workers, one of the largest trade unions in North America. Now he brings together more than 391,000 active members and more than 580,000 retired. Considering that the union has 600 regional divisions and contracts with 1600 employers, it can be assumed that the union’s support of this exoskeleton is worth a lot. If the experiment at Ford’s factories proves its success, unions can promote the use of exoskeletons to ease the work of workers in other factories. Who knows, it is possible that the use of an exosclet in the future will be made a mandatory contract clause for manual workers. Work without exoskeleton will be considered inhuman. Yes, and for employers, as already mentioned above, the use of these technical devices is beneficial: with minimal costs, labor efficiency increases, health insurance payments are reduced, and the workers themselves even feel gratitude to the employer who “cares” about them.

Ford itself believes that the test results can now be considered successful, so it plans to put exoskeletons on the workers of its other factories around the world, including in Europe and South America. In Russia, Ford has its own factory in the city of Vsevolozhsk (Leningrad Oblast), as well as a joint venture Ford Sollers in Yelabuga (Republic of Tatarstan).

Ekso Bionics positions EksoVest exoskeletons for industrial workers and builders. In fact, such a unit is very useful, for example, in finishing work. It can be bought or rented even for home use - and without any fatigue, fasten metal profiles for a suspended ceiling around the perimeter of the room, which is almost impossible for an unprepared person with weak arms, shoulders and back.

Someone might say that a person with an exoskeleton on the assembly line of a car factory is a kind of intermediate stage between a human worker and a full-fledged robot. In fact, most of the work on the conveyor is already automated, and people perform only relatively non-standard tasks that robots do not cope very effectively. Most likely, most of these tasks in the future still automate. Nevertheless, at least the last years, while living people work in production, they should work with comfort. And now girls will be able to fully work on the automobile conveyor along with men, which is also good news for them.


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