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Ford Testing Exoskeleton To Reduce Worker Injury

Ford Testing Exoskeleton To Reduce Worker Injury
November 10
14:02 2017

Ford Motor Co. is testing a new exoskeletal tool that production workers wear to while performing such overhead tasks as installing fasteners.

Ford partnered with California-based Ekso Bionics on the EksoVest, an upper-body exoskeletal technology designed to help elevate and support a worker’s arms.

The EksoVest is commonly used by workers using drill and impact drivers, torque wrenches, and paint sprayers, according to Ekso Bionics. The device can be fitted to support workers ranging from 5 feet tall to 6 feet 4 inches tall, and provides adjustable lift assistance of 15 pounds per arm.

“Designed and built for dynamic, real-world environments like factories, construction sites and distribution centers, the non-powered vest offers protection and support against fatigue and injury by reducing the stress and strain of high-frequency, long-duration activities that can take a toll on the body over time,” Ford states.

Ford assembly line employees perform overhead work up to 4,600 times per day, and more than 1 million times per year, according to the company.

“By reducing the strain on a worker’s body, he/she not only feels better at the end of every day, it also reduces the likelihood that the worker will sustain injury. Jobs get completed to a higher level of quality, in a shorter amount of time, increasing both productivity and morale.”

To date, Ford has used ergonomic technology tools on more than 100 new vehicle launches globally, including most recently the 2018 Mustang, F-150, and the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

“Through significant investments in the program, not only has Ford achieved a reduction in employee incident rates, it has seen a 90% decrease in such ergonomic issues as overextended movements, difficult hand clearance and tasks involving hard-to-install parts,” the company states.

Between 2005 and 2016, the most recent full year of data, the company saw an 83% decrease in the number of incidents that resulted in days away, work restrictions or job transfers – to an all-time low of 1.55 incidents per 100 full-time North American employees.

With support from the United Automobile Workers, EksoVest is being piloted in two U.S. Ford plants, with plans to test in other regions, including Europe and South America.

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