Ford is having their research and development wing test an exoskeleton which would support the worker’s arms during overhead tasks that could lead to injuries over the course of time. The Eskovest is the latest in advanced tech items Ford is pushing so as to reduce physical stress on employees who take part in the vehicle assembly processes. Placing things on a conveyor belt or changing overhead machinery may not seem difficult but that is another thing if one has to do the same things 4000 times each day without fail.
According to an assembly worker at the company’s Michigan Plant, his job means working overhead and when he finally gets home, his back and neck tend to hurt. Since he started using the vest, he confirms he has had more energy left over at the end of the day.
The project was the result of a partnership between Esko Bionics and Ford. Russ Angold, chief technology officer at Esko Bionics claimed the collaboration with the auto company allowed them to test and refine the early prototypes of the EskoVest according to insights that were directly from their production line workers.
How it Works
The device may also be customized in order to help everyday workers with tasks as has been shown by the lift-easing prototype
. Ford’s exoskeleton is a different path from that as it focuses on the upper body as a means of reducing body stress and injury over a longer period of time. The device can be fitted to support workers ranging from 5 to 6 feet 4 inches in height and allows for adjustable lift assistance from 5 to 15 pounds each arm. It is also comfortable to wear considering it is lightweight and has not caused any recorded irritations. It also allows the workers to move their hands, freely during the process as it is not bulky which is quite significant as the company has made sure the concept was not self-defeating by having it be so tiresome to use.
Ford Leads the Pack in Work Stress Relieving Tools
The auto industry is not the only sector as well which is beginning to propose these machine aids for other applications including assisting injured military personnel to walk. Ford is not the only auto group which is interest though. The United Automobile Workers have declared an interest, as well. The Eskovest is currently part of a pilot program but once it confirms success, this could expand quite quickly to utilization in other auto assembly factories. GM for one has been looking at similar ways to reduce worker stress. They came up with RoboGlove last year which is a force applying glove aimed at reducing muscle strain that was related to gripping hand tools the whole day.
It would seem the other companies are adopting a wait and see approach to Fords new appliance, but it should quickly gain traction after the pilot phase with other brands.
To date, the system has worked on at least, one hundred new vehicle launches utilizing ergonomic tech tools including the recent 2018 F-150, 2018 Ford Expedition, and the Lincoln Navigator. This program has allowed the company to achieve a reduction in employee incident rates.