Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) has been testing new mechanical exoskeletons to help factory workers function like bionic people that will help reduce the physical damage of millions of repetitive tasks over many years. Employees at two American factories are testing upper body exoskeletons developed by Ekso Bionics Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: EKSO). These are designed to increase productivity and reduce injuries.
These “EksoVests” are also being tested in other regions located in Europe and South America, but U.S. testing has been going on since May at Ford’s Wayne and Flat Rock factories. These vests support workers while performing overhead tasks such as providing lift assistance of up to 15 pounds per arm through a mechanical actuator. Like an empty backpack, this device uses torque to take the stress off an employee’s shoulders and enables a user to hold a weight in front indefinitely without a strain.
Since 2013, Ekso began developing, constructing, and manufacturing exoskeletons for the military and medical fields. These vests aim to get employees used to the technology before moving which will then lead to powered exoskeletons that can help with lifting and carrying items.
For years, Ford has been studying ways to lower employees’ injury rates. Between the years 2005 and 2016, an 83% decrease in injuries and work restrictions was reported, which is a rate of 1.55 incidents per 100 full time employees.