In an effort to reduce the risk of fatigue and injury for workers caused by repetitive and potentially strenuous tasks, Ford is rolling out a new wearable technology globally called EksoVest.
Following successful trials at two U.S. plants, Ford employees in 15 plants and seven countries around the world (including Oakville Assembly Complex in Canada), are able to use an EksoVest to help lessen the physical toll that their job takes on their body.
Ford partnered with Ekso Bionics to enhance this wearable technology that elevates and supports a worker’s arms while performing overhead tasks such as reaching up with a power tool to screw bolts to secure the car’s brace—all 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.
“I don’t want the EksoVest to ever leave,” said Nick Gotts, an original EksoVest operator at Flat Rock Assembly in Michigan, “Any job that’s overhead, I wouldn’t work without it.”
Ford piloted the EksoVest at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. and Flat Rock Assembly Plant 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.