Ford is well aware that the workers on its production lines are at risk of fatigue or injury due to the repetitive tasks they perform every day. Rather than just accept the risk, Ford decided to do something about it and trialled an exoskeleton called EksoVest for a year at two plants. Earlier this year we visited the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant to see the vest in action.
The trial was clearly a success and Ford announced this week that it is offering an EksoVest to workers at 15 plants spread across seven countries.
As Ford explains, its vehicle production requires workers to stand underneath a car and perform tasks above shoulder height while holding heavy tools. For some workers it’s the equivalent of spending all day lifting a bag of flour over their heads. This action can be performed up to 4,600 times a day.
The EksoVest is the creation of by Ekso Bionics and offers lifting assistance of between five and 15 pounds per arm. It does this by supporting the weight of a worker’s arms making it much easier to carry out repetitive tasks from chest to over head heights. No power is required so there’s no need to worry about having to recharge the vests. It’s also fully-adjustable for the build and height differences of individuals.
Workers involved in the trial appreciated the help offered by the vest, with Nick Gotts, an EksoVest operator at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant commenting, “I don’t want the EksoVest to ever leave … Any job that’s overhead, I wouldn’t work without it.” Now Nick won’t have to.