Exoskeletons: Comprehensive, comparative and critical analyses of their potential to improve manufacturing performance

Stephen Fox (Corresponding Author), Olli Aranko, Juhani Heilala, Päivi Vahala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Exoskeletons are mechanical structures that humans can wear to increase their strength and endurance. The purpose of this paper is to explain how exoskeletons can be used to improve performance across five phases of manufacturing. Design/methodology/approach: Multivocal literature review, encompassing scientific literature and the grey literature of online reports, etc., to inform comprehensive, comparative and critical analyses of the potential of exoskeletons to improve manufacturing performance. Findings: There are at least eight different types of exoskeletons that can be used to improve human strength and endurance in manual work during different phases of production. However, exoskeletons can have the unintended negative consequence of reducing human flexibility leading to new sources of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and accidents. Research limitations/implications: Findings are relevant to function allocation research concerned with manual production work. In particular, exoskeletons could exacerbate the traditional trade-off between human flexibility and robot consistency by making human workers less flexible. Practical implications: The introduction of exoskeletons requires careful health and safety planning if exoskeletons are to improve human strength and endurance without introducing new sources of MSD and accidents. Originality/value: The originality of this paper is that it provides detailed information about a new manufacturing technology: exoskeletons. The value of this paper is that it provides information that is comprehensive, comparative and critical about exoskeletons as a potential alternative to robotics across five phases of manufacturing.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Manufacturing Technology Management
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Manufacturing management
  • Manufacturing technology
  • Production improvement
  • Skilled workers

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