Colas introduces the French Exopush rake Exoskeleton to the UK
Colas has launched the Exopush in its UK business. Exopush is an exoskeleton designed to give power assistance to operatives working on levelling with a rake. Amongst emerging benefits will be productivity gains and increased efficiency plus direct cost savings from lost time at work in the industry, due to multiskeletal problems
Since the 1930s, roadworkers have continued on the front-line with the time-honoured hard work of manual labour. Not many things come along which so radically change this way of working.
Co-created with RB3D, an Auxerre-based company specialising in the construction of cobots and exoskeletons, this new radical kit is a direct outcome of the Colas Group Open Innovation programme where innovative solutions are co-created by bringing together start-ups and Colas’s operational team.
The Colas UK team took delivery of the first 2 Exopush units in Autumn 2019 for training and trials. First deployment of the Exopush on live sites started in January 2020 with plans in hand for rollout deployment across the UK business.
Protected by 3 international patents, the Exopush improves the ergonomics of the raking task and is designed to reduce fatigue and physical stress experienced by operatives and to enhance wellbeing.
The user handles an electric actuator which helps push or pull the tool, while the weight is taken up by a harness and link to the ground via a force leg attached to the shoe with a footplate.
The kit weighs 8.2 kilogrammes, with a 5 to 7 hours runtime from each of 2 electric batteries per unit. The carrying kit fits easily in the crew bus and takes under 2 minutes to get ready.
It can push/pull up to 50 kg and reduces repetition movement up to 5-fold for the user. It protects the back and shoulders with a balance of tension on the shoulders and by reducing the fluctuating distribution of loads during movement.
Benefits from improved posture are significant. An average posture for raking is at 53 degrees of bending the back, which Exopush straightens to a more upright 21 degrees while reducing twisting of the trunk and neck extension yet keeping full freedom of movement.
In-house studies on heart rate show a 124-144 pulse rate per minute generally in raking activity. With Exopush this stays in the range of 124 – 128 pulse rate per minute.
Repetitive stress is reduced with 30% fewer movements on average, and work-related strain is reduced by between 5 and 10-fold with less perspiration and back pain.
It is compliant with the AFNOR NF X35-109 standard and relevant on jobs where materials are spread by hand (asphalt or white materials), where application takes place without hindrance, and for where over 5 to 10 tonnes of materials are laid.
This is a job that has not changed over a century and changing habits takes time – but UK operatives teams in training show very positive acceptance.
In reducing risk of musculoskeletal disease, and enhancing quality of life in and out of the workplace, both short and long term, it is envisaged that Exopush may help with the industry recruitment challenge for operational colleagues by overcoming the low attractiveness for strenuous jobs.
Carl Fergusson, CEO Colas UK says: ‘ the arrival of Exopush for trials and now live operations has definitely generated positive impact in our organisation – for the user and the team as a whole. Productivity gains and increased efficiency is a target for any business in order to ensure direct cost savings. Lost time from work due to back problems can be reduced with the use of the levelling exoskeleton, ensuring this target can be met.
‘We are constantly mindful of our prime objective for the innovation of Exopush – to facilitate the work of our skilled operatives and revolutionise their well-being. Our significant investment and field trials reflect the strength of collaboration with our supply chain on innovation in all areas of safety and delivery.
In line with our culture where our diverse and inclusive workforce benefit from continuous health and safety improvements, we are keen to generate interest in Exopush, and to be able to share an outstanding result of Open Innovation and best practice across our industry so that all the workforce who carry out this type of role in our industry might benefit.’