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Exoskeletons for Logistics

With this project VIL has examined how the new generation of exoskeletons can be used for manuel activities in the logistics sector. The objective was to reduce physical strain for employees and to increase productivity of repetitive tasks and heavy lifting.

status: Closed | theme: Digitalization | type: Regional


The rise of bionic technology, like ‘wearables’ and ‘exoskeletons’, push the physical boundaries of the human body. Smart clothing, smart glasses, bionic arms and even smart contact lenses have the potential to support logistic employees when it comes to process execution or optimization and communication, and also to minimize health and security risks.
Exoskeletons can be considered as ‘wearable robot suits’ that boost the human body in terms of strength and endurance. This technology is currently used for rehabilitation in the health sector and for handling heavy equipment in the industry.

Opportunities

  • To reduce physical strain when doing repetitive manuel tasks (order picking, packing, loading and unloading, …). Physical strain can lead to physical ailments, reduced productivity, low motivation and finally absenteeism
  • To support older operators with physically demanding tasks
  • To increase productivity of repetitive tasks and heavy lifting

 

Report

VIL members can download the report (in Dutch) via the VIL library. Non-members can purchase it via our webshop

Results

  • Exoskeletons are getting more and more developed for the utilization in the industry. The exoskeletons that are currently on the market mainly focus on helping with repetitive tasks.
  • Exoskeletons effectively reduce physical strain, but with some tasks unwanted negative effects occurred.
  • The use of a passive exoskeleton can be considered to address remaining risks.
  • Companies who want to use exoskeletons in logistics should ask themmselves two important questions: 
    • Does the person wearing the exoskeleton have enough freedom of movement necessary to preform the task? 
    • Does the task stay limited to the area in which the exoskeleton can be helpful?
  • To use the exoskeleton, specialized training and guidance is necessary in order to get used to it.
  • VIL has worked out a phased scheme for the utilization of exoskeletons.

Practical details

Start: November 2017
Total lead time: 19 months

Fourteen companies: Atlas Copco, bpost, Colruyt, Conway, Danone, Delhaize, Gates Distribution Center, H.Essers, Honda Motor Europe Logistics, Katoen Natie, Limburg.Net, Mainfreight Logistic Services, Oesterbank and Sortbat

 

 

Press (In Dutch)

News (In Dutch)

 

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