The 10 keys to a successful integration of exoskeletons in a company
In this webinar, Antoine Noel, President and Co-founder of Japet gives you the 10 keys to successfully integrate an exoskeleton in a company.
Interested in acquiring exoskeletons? The integration of these new physical assistance devices requires a structured and collective approach.
Identification of the need.
1. The exoskeleton that solves all problems does not exist
Exoskeletons are physical assistance devices, the purpose of which is not to increase the human capacity but to assist in certain tasks.
Moreover, each exoskeleton on the market has its specificities, and must be considered as the solution for specific problem. Therefore, it cannot cover the whole body or adapt perfectly to each work situation.
To properly begin an implementation, it is necessary to understand and identify the worker in difficulty and/or the workstation involving risks.
The analysis of the targeted workstation must assess the physical workload and each one of the work-related tasks. The INRS has published a comprehensive guide to accompany you in the survey of your workstations.
But who do we involve?
2. The project is not just the matter of HSEs and ergonomists.
In order to assess all risks in a complete and realistic way, this analysis must include health and human resources management indicators, and employees’ feedbacks.
Therefore, this collective approach must involve many players in the company: human resources, ergonomists, environmental health and safety, the occupational health department, and the employees of the workstation in question.
It is from this analysis that you will collectively be able to draft the specifications of the solution that will meet the need for necessary assistance.
All you have left to do is identify possible solutions. Whether it is organisational, human, ergonomics improvement, automation… no option should be set aside to respond to the workstation’s needs.
And then what do we choose?
Assessment of the needs/exoskeleton adequacy
3. The option “test it all and see what works” generates frustration and can lead to operator’s blockages to the implementation.
Indeed, by testing too many different exoskeletons not suited to operators, they will no longer believe in this solution, even if you finally find one that meets their needs.
Similarly, having them testing an exoskeleton that meets expectations, and in the end not being able to provide it to them, because the budget is not available, will create a disappointment.
You know your needs, we know our product. In the first approach, it is relevant to perform a theoretical assessment of the needs/product adequacy and ensure that the solution fits into your budget.
To this end, at Japet, we have provided you with a less than five minutes quick diagnostic tool, allowing you to have an equipment suitability diagnosis, to the different workstation tasks and evaluate the biomechanical gain of the exoskeleton use.
Our product experts are also available to exchange with you by phone, to carry out this theoretical validation of the needs/product matching, evaluate the budget project, and provide you with all the necessary elements to assess the exoskeleton’s effectiveness and results.
And the working environment in all this?
4. An exoskeleton which meets the assistance needs in theory, is not necessarily adapted to the workstation.
In order to check that the exoskeleton is usable in the working environment and to validate, with the operators involved, that the product is adapted to the workstation’s specificities in your structure, it is necessary to perform a test in real working conditions.
Again, the approach must be collective. Imposing the test on a team or an operator will lead to failure.
Prior to the test, it is necessary to ascertain the acceptability of the exoskeleton amongst the operators. “Acceptability” means the intention of the employee to use the exoskeleton (which differs from the actual usage of the exoskeleton).
To do so it is necessary to revalidate and reconfirm with the operators the need for assistance on the workstation. It is important to explain to them how the equipment could answer the intended objective, and to ensure that they are voluntary to carry out this field test.
In the same way, it is the team leaders who condition their co-workers’ daily use of the equipment. If they do not buy into the product or the process, your investment will be in vain. You have to get them on board.
To solve back problems, do I simply need to acquire an exoskeleton?
The implementation in the company.
The exoskeleton can be integrated on the workstation, but its implementation is not necessarily a success.
5. Implementing a protocol is required to align the integration.
The exoskeletons are new tools, so their use should not be taken for granted or considered intuitive. This is why it is essential to establish a usage protocol before even identifying the operator who will be the first integrator in the company.
It is considered that it takes about 1 month for an operator to definitively accept the use of the exoskeleton. A protocol compiling recommendations on the moments/tasks of use, and on the duration of usage, must be put in place to accompany the employee during this month of integration.
At Japet, we have decided to provide you with an individual tracking notebook, in which the integration protocol is indicated, allowing the operator to carry out the daily assessment of the exoskeleton.
The goal is to proceed to a progressive use of the equipment, so that it is naturally integrated into the operators’ habits, thus insuring its acceptance.
6. Appoint an employee close to the operators on the field, who will become the exoskeleton’s referent.
We also recommend the training of an internal referent who will act as an intermediary between the manufacturer and the operators in the integration project. He should be quite close to the field and the operators.
Responsible for the smooth functioning of the integration, the referent has several missions: he will be able to answer the questions related to the equipment, he will identify the voluntary operators for the implementation, and train them in the installation and use of the exoskeleton.
7. Carefully choosing and training the first operator is crucial for integration.
The first person to use the exoskeleton in the company will become your ambassador for the rest of the team. Choose a volunteer, motivated to fulfil this crucial role in the company.
Since the equipment is new to everyone, the training must be complete. It is carried out by a manufacturer’s representative and the internal referent previously trained.
Firstly, in the meeting room, the training must include a presentation of the product, followed by a demonstration of the exoskeleton on the trainer. Secondly, comes the operator’s installation training, under the supervision of the manufacturer’s representative, followed by a stand-alone installation. Then must be presented the monitoring protocol or individual usage log in which the user must carry out a daily assessment during the first month of integration.
There is no need to go to the workstation with the equipment as long as all of these steps are not clear and controlled by the operator. You would risk a misuse of the exoskeleton, and therefore bad feedbacks.
When all this is assimilated, the operator goes to his workstation to equip himself and use the exoskeleton in real situation. This step is important because the test in the meeting room is not representative of the reality of the job. Some questions can only appear during usage in the working environment.
8. The integration tracking allows to adjust the protocol of use of the exoskeleton.
For a month, the operator must indicate daily in his monitoring notebook the use he has of the exoskeleton, and regularly evaluate his perception on the usefulness, usability, and acceptance of the exoskeleton.
The exoskeleton is new, and the operator must get used to it. Without a follow-up, there are risks of him abandoning its use once he faces the first difficulties.
This month of integration aims at testing each work situation, to evaluate and adjust the final usage protocol. It is imperative that the referent follows the operator daily.
And when the month of integration is over, should I equip all the operators of the workstation?
9. Take time to make an assessment after the month of integration and duplicate the experiment with other operators of the workstation.
Before starting a large-scale implementation, it is necessary to make an assessment and an evaluation of the integration.
Is the equipment appropriate and accepted by the operator? Does it meet the workstation’s need for assistance and is it useful? Is it well suited for the working environment?
Your first operator completed his first month of integration, but it is important to repeat the experiment with a new voluntary operator. The evaluation of the equipment must be carried out on the long run, and on several operators of the same workstation, thus taking into account the interindividual characteristics and variations.
Once the month of integration is completed by several operators, proceeding to a relevance assessment will enable you to have a global vision of the device use they had. It will allow you to define a precise exoskeleton usage protocol for the workstation.
Our teams are there to accompany you in your analysis of the results, and to create the definitive equipment usage protocol for the targeted position.
Once the protocol is elaborated, do I implement it to all workstations?
10. Each operator, each station is different, do not deploy the protocol identically; what works for one will not necessarily work for another.
Just because the exoskeleton works on one station, does not mean that it is suitable for all positions in the company.
You have followed a structured path to ensure a successful integration of the device on the first workstation. To implement the exoskeleton on other positions identified with a risk, we must start from scratch and use the same method.
The advantage is you are now well experienced on the exoskeleton’s integration protocol on a workstation. The exoskeleton is no longer new for employees, and they have already seen it worn by other colleagues, who have become ambassadors of the project internally. Naturally, other operators and colleagues will ask to join the project.
You now hold the keys to structure the exoskeleton’s integration into your company. Surround yourself internally and externally, the project must be collective, and the manufacturers or integrators of exoskeletons can accompany through the process.