The system, developed with technology company Ekso Bionics, aims to reduce the risk of injury for those taking on physically demanding and repetitive construction roles. Following a successful trial in two American plants, the suits are now being used in a further seven countries.
Bruce Hettle, Ford group vice-president of manufacturing and labour affairs, said: ‘Building vehicles is physically a tough job.
‘We care about our employees and are trying to help them do their jobs with the least amount of wear and tear on their bodies as possible.’
The technology, called the EksoVest, assists a worker’s arms when performing overhead tasks, and can provide five to 15 pounds of added assistance per limb. A lightweight design means the vest is comfortable and can be used without restricting movement.
It has also been designed to fit people from 5 ft 2 in to 6 ft 4 in, meaning it should suit most users.
Nick Gotts, an EksoVest user in the Flat Rock assembly plant in Michigan, said: ‘I don’t want the EksoVest to ever leave. Any job that’s overhead, I wouldn’t work without it.’
All of Ford’s North American plants now have EksoVests, and they are being used in plants in Asia and South America too. Some Ford European plants are making use of the technology as well.