Warehouse personnel test exoskeletons for better ergonomics

Warehouse personnel test exoskeletons for better ergonomics

The work of our warehouse staff is physically demanding. Because we attach great importance to the well-being of our employees – care is not just some hollow word, but one of our company values that we feel very strongly about – we are constantly looking for ways to ensure they can do their job as ergonomically as possible. In that context, we are currently exploring the possibilities of exoskeletons. “Order pickers carry weights of up to 25 kilos,” Business Unit Manager Benjamin Hermans explains. “A heavy burden on the neck, back and shoulders, especially when you do this day in, day out. Through the years we have implemented various adaptations that have led to better ergonomics. But these have been rather small interventions, with no fundamental modifications. Maybe the exoskeletons we are now testing in cooperation with the VIL (Vlaams Instituut van de Logistiek – Flemish Logistics Institute) will bring some change to that in the future.”

Wearable robot suits

For quite some time, Exoskeletons have been used in the medical industry, where they are used to support patients in their rehabilitation. However, the wearable robot suits also offer opportunities for other industries, and they are being thoroughly scrutinised. “At our warehouse, we have performed several tests with passive skeletons. These suits redistribute and transfer the load to the lower body, which puts less strain on the upper body. The initial results were positive with regards to the actual order picking. But the suits do somewhat hinder the freedom of movement, which does not help in a job where you also have to climb onto, and come down from appliances, walk short distances etc. For such movements, the suits are not yet user-friendly enough. We are currently examining whether there are other suits that we can use in our warehouses. Because, even though the suits are not yet sufficiently geared to the jobs of our employees, we still strongly believe in them. Therefore, within the research group of the VIL we are helping to map out the functionalities of the suit, thus contributing to their further development and employability in our industry. And the health and safety of our employees also benefit from it.”

Want to know more? Please contact our expert Benjamin Hermans, benjamin.hermans@essers.com.

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