Ford has announced a revolutionary new tool designed to combat production line repetitive stress injuries in its manufacturing facilities around the world. The technology called the EksoVest is rolling out in Ford’s production facilities in 15 plants based in seven countries around the world.
The company projects the EksoVest as a remedy for the often low intensity, yet high volume activity on the production line, with some activities the equivalent of lifting a bag of flour 4,600 times a day.
The EksoVest is made by Ekso Bionics and Ford has been a partner in its development. The unit elevates and supports a workers arms while they are doing overhead tasks while standing underneath the vehicle.
“Building vehicles is physically a tough job,” said Bruce Hettle, Ford group vice president, Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. “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 fits workers ranging from 5 feet 2 inches tall to 6 feet 4 inches tall and provides lift assistance from five pounds to 15 pounds per arm. Ford workers say it’s comfortable because it’s lightweight and not bulky, allowing them to move their arms easily.
Ford piloted the EksoVest at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. and Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Mich., during the past year. The feedback from plant operators helped refine the technology before the company rolled it out globally.
“At Ekso, our mission is to augment human capability with wearable technology and robotics that help people rethink current physical limitations and achieve the remarkable,” said Jack Peurach, president and chief executive officer of Ekso Bionics. “Advancing our collaboration with a global leader like Ford, represents a major step forward in achieving our mission as our EksoVest is deployed around the world to enhance the well-being of its work force.”