EU project EXSKALLERATE starts field trials: Four companies from North Hesse and South Lower Saxony participate
Region. More than 80 percent of all Germans suffer from back pain in the course of their lives. A widespread ailment that also burdens the economy: Employees are absent due to illness or leave their jobs prematurely. The production, construction and logistics sectors are particularly affected. Here, exoskeletons can be an important building block for the ergonomic design of the workplace. The mechanical support structures worn on the body support and reinforce movements. Physically demanding work is thus literally easier to perform.
This is precisely where the EU Interreg project EXSKALLERATE comes in: partners from six European countries - including business development agencies and universities - are currently researching how exoskeletons can be used in practice. After all, these can not only improve health in the workplace, but also increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises. The Regionalmanagement Nordhessen GmbH, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HAWK) in Göttingen and the MoWin.net e.V. mobility network are cooperating as German partners.
In a study phase, four small and medium-sized companies from northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony are now testing how wearing an exoskeleton affects physical strain in everyday work. One of the companies involved is Einbecker Brauhaus AG. Here, despite a high degree of automation, there is a lot of manual work - for example, stacking six-packs or sorting empty containers. Participation in the project is a benefit for employees and the company alike, says Dorte Simon, the company's commercial manager: "With retirement coming later and later, it must be the employer's goal to design work in such a way that physical activities are also possible until the end of working life."
At wood wholesaler F.A. Schreyer, where around 50 cubic meters of wood are packed every day, the view is very similar: "We hope that the use of exoskeletons will enable us to carry out our work for longer despite the high strain," says scheduler Henry Wilde. At the Grebenstein-based company Pulverbeschichtung Schreiner, one could even now imagine purchasing more exoskeletons: "The employee feels a clear relief. He would prefer not to take the exoskeleton off at all," says Tim Krauss, head of internal logistics.
The study phase, which will run until the end of the year, will be accompanied by researchers from the Faculty of Engineering and Health at HAWK. "The goal is to obtain real data: What is the concrete effect of wearing the exoskeleton on physical strain during work?" explains Prof. Dr. Christoph Russmann. In addition to regular feedback discussions, there are therefore also on-site appointments during which measurements are taken using modern technology. Among other things, motion sequences are analyzed and compression forces are calculated. And thanks to a special biomechanical measurement system, the physical workload can even be visualized on screen in real time.
This close support is well received by the participating companies. "This also provides us with information on how to optimize our work processes," says Elena Peppler from the Rack & Rüther GmbH butcher shop in Fuldabrück. The first experiences with the exoskeleton there have been extremely positive: "The employees notice how their bodies are supported. Lifting packages is no longer such a strain, and work is easier in the long run."
Companies interested in the use of exoskeletons in everyday work will get a vivid insight into the topic at the Life Demo Day on Tuesday, May 31. The event, organized by Regionalmanagement Nordhessen GmbH in cooperation with HAWK Göttingen, will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Scheddachhalle of the Göttingen Health Campus. Visitors can then experience, among other things, how physical workload and relief are visualized in real time with the help of a biomechanical measurement system. In addition, it will be possible to experience the effect of exoskeletons on one's own body in various work and movement situations. Registration under www.regionnordhessen.de/anmeldung is necessary.