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SHK craft company lets its employees test four exoskeletons

Kathrin de Blois attaches great importance to keeping her employees healthy. To protect the backs of her fitters, the entrepreneur from Mönchengladbach took part in a test of exoskeletons.

The policy pushed by the Energy turnaround is not only a difficult one, but also a difficult task. "It's pretty exhausting to do a Heat pump in the Basement at tow. Our Federal Minister for Climate Protection Robert Habeck is welcome to ask our fitters how their backs are in the evenings," says Kathrin de Blois with a wink.

Since the Managing Partner the Haaß GmbH & Co. KG always has the well-being of her employees in mind, she is interested in technological novelties at Healthcare, such as the Use of exoskeletons, and is always looking for solutions as to how to Employee health sustainable get and improve lets.

The SHK company from Mönchengladbach employs just under 50 employees. According to Kathrin de Blois, the average age is 32 - despite Corona, the number of sickness reports is within limits. What is clear, however, is that the day-to-day work of the technicians -. ten employees are Older than forty - is physically demanding on construction sites. The use of exoskeletons could relieve their team of fitters during strenuous physical activities. Opportunity, Lifting and carrying aids at test, offered itself with the Participation at Research project journeyman craftsman 4.0.

Within the framework of the Research project Journeyman craftsman 4.0 innovative digital assistance systems for employees in SHK craft enterprises are to be developed and tested. In order to relieve employees when carrying heavy elements or working with heavy tools, the Use of different types of exoskeletons tested. To the Project partner include, among others, the Central Association for Sanitation, Heating and Air Conditioning (ZVSHK), exoIQ and the Munich SHK company Hans Schramm GmbH & Co. KG. The research project is supported by the Federal Ministry of Labor within the framework of the New Quality of Work Initiative (INQA) promoted.  

Test of the exoskeletons

Kathrin de Blois has left it up to the fitters whether they want to participate in the test of the exoskeletons. Seven employees from different fields of activity of the Mönchengladbach craft business - from first-year apprentices to long-serving employees - "enjoyed taking part," explains the managing partner of Haaß GmbH & Co. KG.

Products from four manufacturers

For selection were the Products from four manufacturers. The installers from Haustechnik Haaß were able to Exoskeletons from Laevo (Netherlands), HeroWear (USA), hTrius (Germany) and Auxivo (Switzerland) test. "They should help our employees with the Lift and Carrying radiatorsHeating systems and Heat pumps, but also heavy toolboxes support and thus relieve the lower part of their back," says Kathrin de Blois.

Differences in wearing comfort

The Test phase lasted three weeks. "All seven participants were able to try each exoskeleton for two to three days." There were no significant differences - At most in the Comfort. The Weight of the exoskeletons did not play a role. "They were all very light," Kathrin de Blois summarizes the testers' verdict. 

Conclusion of the exoskeleton test

After the Completion of the three-week test phase falls the Conclusion of the 36-year-old as follows: In total, the Benefits of this pioneering technology Kathrin de Blois and her test team convince: "The Physical stress becomes reduces, thereby one Prevents overtiredness and thus a Counteracted slackening of concentration.“

However, it is important that the products are still stronger on the Work requirements in the SHK trade tailored be

Advantages of exoskeletons

"All the fitters noticed that the exoskeletons relieve and support the lower back during lifting and carrying. Particularly noteworthy: The basic posture becomes improves", emphasizes the managing partner of Haaß GmbH & Co. KG and continues: "This will Incorrect loads avoided and improves long-term health."

Necessary improvements

One or two things, on the other hand, would still have to be improved for Kathrin de Blois. "Some employees were afraid that they would have to work with the Loops of the exoskeleton at a Manager or at a Door handle get caught." In addition, the loops would also partially Pockets on the work clothes concealed.

In addition, the aids used would only for a small part of the activities needed. "Lifting and carrying make only ten percent of all work steps."

Last but not least, the exoskeletons could be better on the Body size adaptable be. Especially very large and very slim professionals had not fit.

Also the Costs play a role: The Prices the four tested exoskeletons lay between 750 and 2.000 Euro. "However, we expect them to change as demand increases," says Kathrin de Blois. She is willing to invest in the health of her employees. "It goes without saying that this is a matter of the heart for us."

More about "Exoskeletons "In the Online article "Exoskeletons protect the wearer from peak loads" on we introduce the scientist and founder of exoIQ, Professor Dr.-Ing. Robert Weidner, who developed the S700 shoulder exoskeleton together with his colleague Bernward Otten. At Online article "Exoskeletons are a worthwhile investment for craftsmen". explains how Hunic's passive exoskeletons are designed to make working with heavy loads easier, but also to guide their wearers to a back-friendly posture. 

Recommendations of the entrepreneur

"I look forward to the further development of this new technology and see here a huge potential - in many ways. Specifically, we would like to see the Aids more in the work clothing of the fitters integrated become and for other activities such as Kneeling or Can be used for overhead work would be. Ideal would be a kind of Overall." For this Kathrin de Blois recommends the Manufacturers of exoskeletons with a Cooperate professional clothing company.

To promote the use of exoskeletons in the skilled trades, the Professional associations or Health insurance companies to the Share costs. "Ultimately, they benefit when the health of professionals is promoted."

Increase attractiveness as an employer

The bottom line is that Kathrin de Blois sees "huge potential" for the use of exoskeletons in the skilled trades. Besides the health aspects she cites as an argument, for example, the Increasing the attractiveness as a training company an. "Maybe we can use it to appeal to more young women who find working as a SHK plant mechanic too strenuous. Boys are likely to find it cool that the exoskeleton makes them look like a cyborg."  

However, she also has her eye on the existing workforce. The fluctuation of qualified skilled workers in the skilled trades is high. Kathrin de Blois wants to do something to counteract this. Aids such as exoskeletons could help to reduce the Health, but also the Employee satisfaction with your own employer increase. "Surely everyone should be happy to know that we care about the health of our employees."

Source: SHK company Haaß from Mönchengladbach has its fitters test four models of exoskeletons for three weeks ( (17.10.2022)

Tom Illauer

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