Ford has been working closely with Ekso Bionics to offer EksoVest exoskeletons to employees at 15 plants throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and Asia Pacific. These upper-body wearable devices are designed to prevent fatigue and repetitive strain injuries from performing the same tasks over and over again. This is another step in Ford’s goal to minimise the risk of employee injury, an initiative that has led to the company achieving 75 percent fewer incidents that “resulted in lost time” since 2005.
“Building vehicles is physically a tough job,” said Bruce Hettle, group vice president of Ford’s Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, in a press release. “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 is perfectly suited for overhead work when assembling vehicles and is designed to offer between 2.25 to 6.8 kilograms (5 to 15 pounds) of lifting aid for each arm. The vest is available in sizes ranging from 157 centimetres (5 feet 2 inches) up to 193 centimetres (6 feet 4 inches) and is built for comfort. Ford tested the EksoVest at two different plants, one located in Wayne, Michigan, and the other in Flat Rock, Michigan, before sending them out to other facilities. “I don’t want the EksoVest to ever leave,” said Nick Gotts, one of the first EksoVest operators at Flat Rock Assembly. “Any job that’s overhead, I wouldn’t work without it.”
Jack Peurach, president and chief executive officer of Ekso Bionics, is happy that the company was able to work with Ford and calls the partnership “a major step forward in achieving our mission as our EskoVest is deployed around the world to enhance the well-being of its work force.” He adds that the company’s goal is to complement the abilities of humans “with wearable technology and robotics that help people rethink current physical limitations and achieve the remarkable.”
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