Fiat Chrysler Automóveis (FCA) is the first company in Latin America to incorporate exoskeleton technology into the production process. Ten test sets are being deployed in the assembly and logistics lines at Fiat Automotive Plant in Betim in Minas Gerais aimed to reduce muscle efforts and improve the ergonomic condition of operators in the manufacturing line.
Light and easy to adapt, the system follows the employee's movements in full synchronism.
"We have acquired ten leg, arm and trunk sets, making operators run their activities with more comfort, agility and quality", says Cristiano Felix, FCA's Manager of Environment, Health and Safety for Latin America. In a situation of bending, for example, the weight of the trunk is absorbed by the exoskeleton.
The total investment exceeds US$80,000. After extensive benchmarking, two sets were purchased from the Swiss company Noone and act as a kind of chair, sustaining the weight of the operator at the time they sit. The remaining sets are branded suitX, a North American trademark.
The biomechanical system is worn as a vest. Max Nunes dos Santos works on the assembly of FCA engines and has been testing the exoskeleton for upper limbs for more than a month. “It walks with us and carries the weight. I feel much more relaxed. It's like my uniform and it's already part of my daily life,” he says.
Under an expansion phase, new assemblies have been purchased for use at the Córdoba plant, in Argentina, and at the Campo Largo engine plant, in Paraná.
The exoskeleton is a support to several initiatives to improve the ergonomic condition of the operator, such as rotating hooks, mechanical arms and hoists.
According to Felix, the acquisition of the equipment is part of the strategy to integrate Fiat Automotive Hub with ‘Industry 4.0’ with the development of new technologies connected to the Internet of Things, additive manufacturing, virtual simulation, among others.
“To seek solutions for the operator to perform the activity with higher quality is an important challenge, inherent to the practices of Industry 4.0,” he adds.