BMW has kicked off testing procedures at the factory in Spartanburg of a so-called “ekso vest” developed by Richmond-based Ekso Bionics. The main idea behind the backpack-style device is to lower muscular strain and provide the worker with extra ergonomic upper body and arm support. Although the “ekso vest” is not powered, it does make objects seemingly weightless and as a consequence it reduces fatigue.
After seeing exoskeletons during a TED Talk, assembly planner Frank Pochiro pitched in the idea to BMW to implement an “ekso vest.” The response from management was positive and a pilot program was initiated. He believes the technology boosts an employee’s productivity, especially among the older workforce. Pochiro went on to specify 30 people have tried the high-tech vest so far and all of them loved it and would like to wear it from now on.
He considers the “ekso vest” has great potential since it not only improves safety, but also increases job satisfaction and lowers fatigue. Pochiro is already thinking of powered exoskeletons which will be more supportive and will further increase productivity. As far as hygiene is concerned, that won’t be an issue as BMW wants every worker to have his own vest.
These exoskeletons enable a more comfortable work environment which pays dividends in terms of productivity while increasing safety at the same time. On top of that, the vest is compatible with a variety of jobs which means that it can be used by different types of workers.
Audi has been testing out something similar since last year. Pictured above is a carbon fiber “chairless chair” prototype co-developed with a Swiss start‑up company and used on the assembly lines at its factories in Neckarsulm and Ingolstadt. It reduces strain on the legs and at the same time improves a worker’s posture which in return enhances the well‑being of an employee.
Note: Attached images of the exoskeletons from Ekso Bionics are only for illustration purposes. Do not necessarily depict the actual exoskeletons used at the Spartanburg factory.