The buzz at this year’s Applied Ergonomics Conference continued to circulate around exoskeletons, the latest human performance augmentation tool in industry. These wearable devices mimic human movement and either actively generate force or passively transfer the load to reduce the burden on human joints. Additional benefits claim to improve posture and performance and decrease fatigue, though a firm conclusion on the physiological effects these have on the human body is not confirmed. Furthermore, the long-term effects remain a mystery since trials have yet to conclude.
Ergonomics Specialist Chris Dockery of BMW Manufacturing Co. shared a few key considerations from companies that have trialed exoskeletons in his presentation, “The Evaluation and Use of Wearable Technology.”
- Fitting the unit to the user is paramount to ensure all the benefits are leveraged. If the units are shared, they need to be adjusted to each individual prior to use, which will take up production time.
- Since the unit is expensive, it’s likely to be shared. If not properly sanitized, it may not be used.
- The intent of an exoskeleton is to impact a specific type of task. Ensure it is properly matched to the job to avoid additional problems (e.g. hard or sharp edges on units may damage products).