Ford Rolls Out Exoskeletons For Factory Workers To Improve Productivity, Safety

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For people who work jobs that have them performing the same exact movements for hours a day each day, on-the-job repetitive stress injuries are a big concern. Ford wants to help its employees be safer and have fewer injuries, which in turn prevents worker pain and helps keep things rolling in the factory. To help its workers who reach over their heads multiple times per day, Ford has announced that it will be rolling out exoskeletons to some of those workers.

The exoskeleton is called the EksoVest built by Ekso Bionics. This isn’t the sort of exoskeleton designed to make the worker stronger or allow them to lift more. EksoVest is a device that offers passive arm support for 5-15 pounds of weight. It appears to essentially help the user to hold objects in place over their heads.

Ford's Marty Smets, an expert on human systems and virtual manufacturing, says that this vest is an "endurance enhancer" rather than a "strength enhancer." The higher the user reaches up, the vest offers additional assistance and support. Ford has been testing this device for the past 16 months in two plants in the Dearborn, Michigan area.

eksoworks eksovest partnership ford mustang assembly

In the trials, workers used the vest for 86% of their shifts. With the successful trial under its belt, Ford is expanding the use of the vests to 15 assembly plants around the world. Ford plans to issue 75 of the exoskeletons and these will be only the upper-arm support skeleton to help with overhead work. In the long term, Ford plans to operate a system that can be augmented and grow as the tech matures. Eventually, Ford might roll out exoskeletons for other works in its factories and make the job easier on the people working there and reduce injuries while improving productivity.