With the manufacturing industry evolving at a rapid pace, businesses are looking for ways to leverage new innovations to increase safety on the factory floor. Most of the recent developments have been focused on making robots safer for the human workforce, but there have also been incredible advancements in making physical labor less demanding on people’s bodies.
Ford is looking to relieve some of the pain from everyday work for its factory staff with a new upper body exoskeleton tool. This technology is the result of a partnership between Ford and California based Ekso Bionics. On average, Ford assembly line workers lift their arms over their head about 4600 times a day, which works out to over 1 million times a year. This rate of overexertion on the arms and back can cause injuries and permanent damage.
To make sure their employees remain healthy, Ford is in the process of testing the EksoVest, which elevates and supports a worker’s arms while doing overhead tasks. The exoskeleton can be fitted for employees 5 feet tall to 6 feet 4 inches tall and provides adjustable lift assistance between 5 to 15 pounds per arm. According to Ford, it is comfortable to wear because it is lightweight, isn’t bulky and allows employees to move their arms freely.
“My job entails working over my head, so when I get home my back, neck and shoulders usually hurt,” said Paul Collins, an employee at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. “Since I started using the vest, I’m not as sore, and I have more energy to play with my grandsons when I get home.” (http://ford.to/2zuxjof)
The EksoVest was designed and built for rapidly changing real-world environments like factories, construction sites and distribution centers. The vest is non-powered and provides plenty of protection and support to reduce the stress and strain high-frequency, long duration activities can have on the body. Russ Angold, Co-Founder and CTO of Ekso Bionics has said the company is “Collaboratively working with Ford enabled us to test and refine early prototypes of the EksoVest based on insights directly from their production line workers,” he went on to explain, “The end result is a wearable tool that reduces the strain on a worker’s body, reducing the likelihood of injury, and helping them feel better at the end of the day – increasing both productivity and morale.” (http://ford.to/2zuxjof)
Ford has been hard at work using advanced technology to improve employee safety, with the EksoVest being only one of their innovations. From 2015-2016, the most recent full year of data, the company has seen an 83% decrease in the number of incidents that resulted in days away from work and work restrictions or job transfers are at an all time low of 1.55 incidents per 100 employees in North America.
Employee safety is a must for all manufacturing businesses. It is always great to see major manufacturers invest and develop new ways to keep hard working staff safe and healthy. Human employees are the lifeblood of most factories around the world and making sure they’re not going to be injured will only boost efficiency and morale throughout any manufacturing business. For more information on the latest employee safety developments be sure to check back with Manufacturing Talk Radio.