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Ford is Giving Its Factory Workers Robot Exo-suits To Ease To Burden of Building Cars (qz.com) 49

Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz: Ford's cars are getting closer to driving themselves, but they still need humans to build them. And because people aren't quite as durable as robots, it's trying to make those jobs easier by developing a suit with Ekso Bionics that takes the stress out of working long hours on a car assembly floor. Ekes, founded in 2005 in California, builds exoskeletons, essentially robotic assistive systems that people strap into to make walking, lifting, and standing easier. It's worked with the US military to build suits for soldiers. The system Ekso developed with Ford, called the EksoVest, doesn't use any motors to make working on factory lines less stressful, and it's nothing like what you see in movies, as it simply uses hydraulics to redistribute weight so that workers can comfortably raise their arms above their heads for extended periods of time. The suit can be worn by anyone from 5 ft to 6 ft 4 inches tall, and can provide lift assistance up to 15 pounds per arm. Some assembly-line workers at the average Ford plant lift their arms 4,600 times a day -- or about 1 million times a year, the company said.
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Ford is Giving Its Factory Workers Robot Exo-suits To Ease To Burden of Building Cars

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  • Do they look like the carrier suits in Aliens that Ripley wore?!?!
    Please?!?
  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @04:24PM (#55871057) Homepage Journal
    We are getting closer to the future every moment.
  • FOOLS! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @04:40PM (#55871141) Journal

    Those suits are recording their every move. once enough data is collected they'll be able to replace them with robots!

    You're motion-training your own replacements!
    =Smidge=

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Puh-leeze!

      Ford Motor Company, remember? UAW ring any bells? No jobs are endangered here...

      • Re:FOOLS! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday January 05, 2018 @04:58PM (#55871259) Homepage Journal

        UAW ring any bells? No jobs are endangered here...

        The early 1980s called. They would like you to know they ended over 30 years ago. The UAW hasn't had much clout since then.

        Besides, if the UAW is so evil and so influential at Ford then how do you explain that they are the only one of the big three that required zero government assistance to stay afloat recently?

        • by Puls4r ( 724907 )
          *disclaimer* I work for Ford. The UAW has little or no power anymore. They are desperately clinging to each contract knowing full well that the tide of consumer opinion, even within their own ranks, has turned against them.

          They have people doing talentless labor who are collecting 20-30 dollars an hour. People in the same classification doing superb work collect the same amount. That is the heart of the discontent: it's always the high performers that are dragged down to the lowest common denominato
    • Those suits are recording their every move. once enough data is collected they'll be able to replace them with robots!

      H-1b replacement robots!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Some assembly-line workers at the average Ford plant lift their arms 4,600 times a day"

    That means lifting your arms every 6 seconds during an 8 hour shift. That must take some getting used to. I don't think I'd be able to lift my arms anymore if I tried that for a couple of hours, even with empty hands.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They were recording the person who gives out the hand jobs.

      • as much as i hate silicon valley*, that scene was actually pretty funny.

        *every single fucking episode:
        1. dude comes up with a way to save the company
        2. dude gets 90% of the way through succeeding
        3. SURPRISE! it all blows up in his face.

        rinse, repeat.

        pass.

  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @04:46PM (#55871181)

    Naturally

    • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

      That was what made the assembly line an innovation. More people working at the same time, but the were only doing one specific thing, so the overall productivity was much higher than the same number of people building individual cars.

      Doing more with less people is what Ford was built on.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      And? The alternative is probably that they price themselves out of the market, consumers buy some other brand and everybody lose their jobs. In fact, if they're successful there could be more jobs at Ford despite being less in the industry. Unless you're in some form of cartel/monopolist market or public service where people have no choice but to suck it up being intentionally inefficient to protect jobs is folly. I have an old Ford that might get replaced soon, it's been good to me so obviously I'm looking

  • ... it's trying to make those jobs easier by developing a suit with Ekso Bionics that takes the stress out of working long hours on a car assembly floor.

    Sure, but they could also hire more employees, instead of making the remaining - I mean current - ones work longer and harder - I mean easier.

    [the suits are] nothing like what you see in movies, as it simply uses hydraulics to redistribute weight so that workers can comfortably raise their arms above their heads for extended periods of time.

    Sounds like bunches of fun. (Is it still a torture stress position with the suits?)

    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      ... it's trying to make those jobs easier by developing a suit with Ekso Bionics that takes the stress out of working long hours on a car assembly floor.

      Sure, but they could also hire more employees, instead of making the remaining - I mean current - ones work longer and harder - I mean easier.

      [the suits are] nothing like what you see in movies, as it simply uses hydraulics to redistribute weight so that workers can comfortably raise their arms above their heads for extended periods of time.

      Sounds like bunches of fun. (Is it still a torture stress position with the suits?)

      I am not an industrial hygienist, but if a suit applied uniform pressure to the legs, it may help to get more bloodflow higher up in the body and into raised arms. That could eliminate some of the discomfort of poor circulation in raised arms.

  • to improve productivity. If it happens to make their jobs easier that's a side benefit, and one that, in the absence of Unions, will be used to lower their pay.

    I'm not saying this is a bad thing, I'm just saying that, like all productivity increases, it needs to be approached with careful forethought. I can't be the only one who's seen this chart. [google.com]
  • by Trax3001BBS ( 2368736 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @05:54PM (#55871707) Homepage Journal

    I had to see it work https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • "Ford's cars are getting closer to driving themselves, but they still need humans to build them."

    There's your problem right there.
    They don't need human operated robots but AI driven ones.

  • Ford, unable to completely automate due to being held hostage by unions is rolling out robots that contain flesh bags made of mostly water. These flesh bags will be nominally in control but ultimately will be nearly as productive as a traditional robot.
  • FORD WORKERS, take the suits! Then weaponize them, and take back this beautiful country from your capitalist oppressors!
  • Resistance is futile. Enter your exoskeleton.
  • And in the off hours... Ford employees are encourage to use the suits to fight crime in ... MEGADetroit!

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.

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