Ford Using Robotic Exoskeletons to up Production
The EksoVest might look like something out of a Terminator movie, but it’s actually helping Ford workers build more trucks.
Ford has always remained at the forefront when it comes to finding new ways to integrate technology into its business. And that doesn’t begin and end with the cutting edge tech in your truck, either. It actually starts on the assembly line, a creation that Henry Ford himself came up with. And in a never ending quest to increase productivity while also reducing the risk of injuries for its workers, Ford is turning to robots.
But we’re not talking about replacing actual humans with robots, mind you. We’re talking about the kind of robots you wear – exoskeleton technology. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, workers are donning a new upper body exoskeletal suit thingy called the EskoVest. The wearable tech helps elevate and support worker’s arms while performing overhead tasks. In addition, the vest provides 5 to 15 pounds of lifting assistance per arm. And it’s lightweight, non-restrictive, and not bulky at all.
According to Ford, their assembly line workers lift their arms above their heads a whopping 4,600 times per day. Or a full one million times in a calendar year. As you would imagine, this is not only tiring, but increases the probability for injuries. And the EskoVest, developed in tandem with California-based Ekso Bionics, is just the latest effort from Ford to help keep workers safe and healthy. In fact, over the last decade, the automaker has seen an 83% decrease in accidents thanks to advanced safety technology.
“Collaboratively working with Ford enabled us to test and refine early prototypes of the EksoVest based on insights directly from their production line workers,” said Russ Angold, co-founder and chief technology officer of Ekso Bionics. “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.”
So even though the EksoVest might look like something that’ll one day decide it wants to exterminate the human race, it’s actually a win-win. Workers stay safe, and Ford cranks out more trucks. But if we were assembly line workers, we’d be keeping an eye on our vests. You know, just in case!