Third-party logistics provider FM Logistic has unveiled the Ergoskel, an ergoskeleton designed to help warehouse workers lift parcels while reducing physical strain on their bodies. The Ergoskel has been developed and patented by FM Logistic and the University of Technology of Compiègne (UTC) in France.
To investigate the effects of repetitive manual handling in warehouses, FM Logistic and UTC used motion capture to record the movements and postures of pickers in the warehouse. Motion sensors and accelerometers were placed on more than 20 volunteer pickers to measure the impact on their bodies. The results were complemented by images from 18 synchronized cameras.
The Ergoskel is designed to facilitate the handling of parcels weighing up to 25kg. It is worn like a backpack with adjustments for body size and weighs 2.8kg. The vest-like device consists of a frame with elements on the upper body, lower back and upper thighs, as well as cables with hand clutches. The lift-assistance mechanism starts when the picker places his or her hand under the parcel. It takes less than 90 seconds to put on and adjust the Ergoskel and 30 seconds to remove it.
According to FM Logistic, 85% of testers said they were able to keep their freedom of movement while wearing the Ergoskel. The first tests show that the Ergoskel reduces strain on the back and upper muscles by 70%.
“We believe that innovation is key to improving the health, safety and working conditions of our warehouse employees – one third of which are pickers,” said FM Logistic’s managing director for France and Western Europe, Yannick Buisson.
“The FM Logistic and UTC Ergoskel represents a milestone in our ambition to tackle the risks of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), as we hire and train about 700 people per year in France alone. I am grateful to our team members who have participated in the field experiments.”
Following lab tests at the UTC, FM Logistic is trialling 10 Ergoskel devices at five of its warehouses in France. The next step is to further improve the device before considering a wider deployment.