Ford testing exoskeleton created to ease physical tasks for workers

Enlarge Image Do any sort of overhead work for years on end and you'll see why this is necessary.                  Ford

Enlarge Image Do any sort of overhead work for years on end and you'll see why this is necessary. Ford

Yet, despite not having to carry so much weight, factory workers in Ford's auto manufacturing plants still do tedious and hard work, considering how they have to perform overhead tasks repeatedly, up to 4,600 times a day or one million times a year. Ekso Bionics co-founder Russ Angold told Ford that this collaboration allows them to "test and refine early prototypes" of the vest. These are created to increase productivity and reduce injuries.

The company announced this week that some of its workers are now testing out a new wearable technology called EksoVest, that essentially allows factory workers to function like bionic people. "Since I started using the vest, I'm not as sore".

To ease this burden and lessen the chances of injury, Ford has partnered with California-based exoskeleton maker Ekso Bionics to trial a non-powered upper body exoskeletal tool called EksoVest in two of the carmaker's US plants. The wearable suit, made by Eksovest, straps onto workers' backs and arms, and assists with 5- to 15-pound lifts per arm. "With the proven success at the piloted locations, we look forward to expanding this technology to our other UAW-Ford manufacturing facilities".

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Ford is testing a pilot program that equips assembly line workers with exoskeleton vests that are expected to reduce the risk of fatigue or injury.

Between healthcare costs and lost work time, worker injury can be very expensive to automakers, so Ford and its competitors have been working to improve safety and reduce incidents.

The motoring industry has used robotised production lines for decades - and now Ford is bringing the technology to its factory workers in the form of "wearable tool". Between the years 2005 and 2016, an 83% decrease in injuries and work restrictions was reported, which is a rate of 1.55 incidents per 100 full time employees.

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