Ford brings exoskeletons into production lines in Mexico
Ford Motor Company revealed that workers at its Cuautitlan and Hermosillo assembly plants are now using the EksoVest wearable technology, which helps reduce the physical wear, injuries or discomfort of its employees during the vehicle assembly process. Worldwide, 15 plants already use this technology. “We are very proud to have this technology in Mexico for our employees,” said Enrique Araiza, Ford’s manufacturing director in Mexico.
The automaker stressed that this and other measures have helped reduce incidents at Ford plants around the world by 75% since 2005.
Ford partnered with Ekso Bionics to improve this technology that lifts and holds a worker’s arms while performing general tasks, such as reaching for a power tool and securing a car’s clamp while underneath the vehicle.
The devices, which cost about US$ 6,000 apiece, aren’t electrically powered — instead, they help shift the body’s weight to make repetitive tasks more comfortable. Instead, they move some weight to a worker’s legs, relieving pressure on the shoulders.
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.
“This technology was created by Ford to improve ergonomics in workstations. It was initially designed to eliminate the potential risks of injuries caused by certain characteristics of work in the production lines, such as repetitions, posture and loading. However, in our plants we have gone beyond this initial concept. Today, the applications of Exoskeletons are being oriented to reduce the fatigue that occur in a normal day of work,” Araiza said.
Ford began using the EksoVest last year at its assembly plants in Wayne and Flat Rock, Michigan, as part of a pilot program. The feedback provided by the plant operators helped refine the technology before the company integrated it globally.