Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, labour shortages were already on the rise. The industrial landscape, particularly the manufacturing sector, found itself grappling with an influx of new challenges. The manufacturing workforce is considered relatively old, and young people are not motivated to work in warehouses under tough physical conditions. Industrial accidents have been on the rise as well.
The trajectory of manufacturing companies was at a crossroads; they were tasked not only with the sustainability of their operations but also with safeguarding the well-being of their workforce. It is also their responsibility to protect their workforce from injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders.
However, from within these challenges, there emerged an imperative for transformation. The answer lies in an innovation that could bolster both safety and productivity – exoskeletons.
What exactly are exoskeletons?
An exoskeleton is designed to strengthen human performance in physically demanding tasks by supporting one’s body parts like the hands, lower back, legs and upper body. This helps to alleviate the physical strain on workers when they are lifting and transporting heavy loads or holding tools.
There are two types of exoskeletons: passive and active.
Passive exoskeletons do not have any power source and are used to increase strength and effectively distribute weight to improve worker stability. This type of exoskeleton is currently widely used across various industries such as the automotive, aerospace and construction industries, to get the most out of skilled workers in an increasingly tight labour market.
On the other hand, active exoskeletons use energy to power sensors, actuators, and other tools allowing them to provide substantial lift assistance to workers.
The integration of technology with human effort emerges as a powerful synergy that will propel the workforce into new realms of efficiency.
Why is this innovation significant?
Exoskeletons offer major advantages, such as decreased work-related injuries, billions of dollars in medical cost savings, and reduced sick leaves and lawsuits. It also reduces bodily fatigue, leading to higher alertness, enhanced productivity, and better work quality.
With exoskeletons, companies can keep high-performing and experienced employees past their physical prime in the workforce, extending their careers. Furthermore, it boosts employee and workforce morale – employees would appreciate the idea of being protected and technically assisted.
The future of exoskeletons
In a world where innovation is the heartbeat of progress, exoskeletons emerge not only as technological marvels but as harbingers of change – change that is poised to redefine the way we work, the way we safeguard our workers, and the way we envision the future of manufacturing.
As the manufacturing landscape evolves and becomes more digitalised, the leadership of companies will find themselves entrusted with a new responsibility – harnessing data for strategic decisions. The future of exoskeleton designs lies in the integration of other technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), smart wearables, data analytics and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Eventually, a key challenge for exoskeleton companies will be to incorporate these technologies into their solutions.
One global player recognising the importance of wearable robotics is Henkel Adhesive Technologies. The global leader for adhesives, sealants, and functional coatings is looking to implement exoskeletons for up to 130 chemical manufacturing sites worldwide.
Utilising our global innovative platform, ManuVate, Henkel seeks to identify the most suitable solution providers and the latest technologies for the purpose of accelerating digital transformation. ManuVate connects organisations with industry practitioners and transformation consultants to identify manufacturing solutions together, with rewards to be given.
Find out more about the challenges Henkel posted on ManuVate here.