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Ford Assembly Workers Don Exoskeleton Suits to Lessen Fatigue & Prevent Injuries

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【Summary】Workers at Ford Motor Company assembly plants are getting some assistance from exoskeleton technology, a wearable robotic vest that allows workers to lift heavy objects much more easily. It is also a way to prevent workplace injuries caused by repetitive tasks, such as bending, reaching and heavy lifting.

Jacky Ho    Aug 07, 2018 1:56 PM PT
Ford Assembly Workers Don Exoskeleton Suits to Lessen Fatigue & Prevent Injuries
author: Jacky Ho   

Working in an assembly plant building vehicles is a physically demanding job. Now workers at Ford Motor Company assembly plants are getting some assistance from exoskeleton technology,  a wearable robotic vest that allows workers to lift heavy objects much more easily. It is also a way to prevent workplace injuries caused by repetitive tasks, such as bending, reaching and heavy lifting.

Ford's new wearable technology is called an ‘EksoVest' and it helps reduce injury risk. The Eksovests are rolling out globally for Ford's assembly plant workers after a successful trial in two U.S. plants.

Ford offers employees the use of an EksoVest in 15 plants around the world, to help lessen the physical toll that their job takes on their body. Ford partnered with California company Ekso Bionics to enhance this wearable technology that elevates and supports a worker's arms while performing overhead tasks such as reaching up with a power tool to screw bolts to secure the car's brace – all while standing underneath the vehicle.

"Building vehicles is physically a tough job," said Bruce Hettle, Ford group vice president, Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. "We care about our employees and are trying to help them do their jobs with the least amount of wear and tear on their bodies possible."

The EksoVest fits workers ranging from 5 feet 2 inches tall to 6 feet 4 inches tall and provides lift assistance from five pounds to 15 pounds per arm. Ford workers say it's comfortable because it's lightweight and not bulky, allowing them to move their arms easily.

"I don't want the EksoVest to ever leave," said Nick Gotts, an original EksoVest operator at Flat Rock Assembly, "Any job that's overhead, I wouldn't work without it."

eksoworks-eksovest-partnership-ford-mustang-assembly.jpg


A Ford assembly worker puts some finishing touches on a Mustang while wearing an EksoVest

Ford piloted the EksoVest at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. and Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Mich., during the past year. The valuable feedback from plant operators helped Ford refine the technology before the company rolled it out globally.

"At Ekso, our mission is to augment human capability with wearable technology and robotics that help people rethink current physical limitations and achieve the remarkable," said Jack Peurach, president and chief executive officer of Ekso Bionics. "Advancing our collaboration with a global leader like Ford, represents a major step forward in achieving our mission as our EksoVest is deployed around the world to enhance the well-being of its workforce."

All of Ford's North American assembly plants have EksoVests and they are being used in plants in Asia Pacific, Europe and South America as well.

In addition to preventing workplace injuries, Ford says the EksoVests allow jobs get completed to a higher level of quality, in a shorter amount of time, increasing both productivity and employee morale.

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