The future on our back
Since the summer of this year, employees at the FIEGE Mega Center Ibbenbüren have been using exoskeletons. This technology provides powerful support for lifting movements during order picking.
Science fiction aficionados are familiar with exoskeletons from movies like Iron Man or The Matrix. On screen, they give superheroes and villains supernatural powers. However, to see these power suits in action, it is not necessary to check out the big screens – all it takes is a look at the FIEGE Mega Center in Ibbenbüren. Since the summer of this year, employees there have been working with the AI-based Cray X exoskeleton from German Bionic.
The power suit is worn like a backpack. “It really took us some time getting used to them”, Ralf Trendel, group leader at the FIEGE location in Ibbenbüren recalls – despite the fact or even because the physical input was less. “When lifting, the exoskeleton performs up to 50 per cent of the load being lifted in addition to providing active walking assistance”, Trendel explains. All colleagues welcome the support given by the machine since every year, up to 55 million parts are sent out from the highly productive logistics centre: “You feel a distinct relief during work. Quite simply, I am not as exhausted in the evening as I used to be.”
The Cray X offers additional support for the worker. “We can personalise the exoskeleton to our own requirements”, Trendel tells us. The Smart Safety Companion, an early warning system that taps workplace ergonomics, prevents fatigue, poor postures and lifting practices of employees, thus averting errors and injuries due to critical overloads.
Just like many species of spiders that naturally possess an outer skeleton, FIEGE employees benefit from a network which in this case is composed of radio waves that connect with German Bionic’s cloud-based IO system platform. Detlev Hornhues, head of the Ibbenbüren branch, says: “Since this is AI technology, it learns more things every day and makes potential optimisation immediately apparent.” For example, working processes that were originally manual can easily be integrated into the digital workflow.
Employees training employees
For the test phase in June, selected employees were trained on how to use the Cray X. Their feedback was decisive in assessing how the technology would work inside the World of FIEGE. Following the successful completion of the pilot phase, the first-time users are now sharing their knowledge with their colleagues, to familiarise them with the system. “The relevant advantage is that this allows us to directly integrate practical experiences into the training process”, Hornhues explains, adding that “after all, it is our long-term goal for all employees, male and female, working in inbound and outbound, to know how to work with the exoskeleton.”