E-exoskeletons mean bananas weigh just a third at Himbert

Fruit and vegetables are delicious and healthy – but carrying and palletizing them in heavy boxes and crates every day can place an unhealthy strain on your back. This is why Himbert, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler from Saarland, Germany, has introduced the AI-based Apogee e-exoskeletons for its employees. And that brings clear benefits: Tons of weight compensation. Happier and healthier packers of bananas, apples and oranges. Faster and more accurate calculations using real-time data available from the connected exoskeletons. In addition, the devices never cease to amaze customers from all over the world and are always a topic of conversation. The bottom line: No one in the company wants to be without the power suits – they are here to stay.

ABOUT HIMBERT

With around 100 employees, Himbert GmbH has been a leading wholesaler and service provider in the fruit and vegetable sector in south-west Germany for 60 years. Headquartered in Völklingen, the company has its own state-of-the- art banana ripening facility, including a packing station, and has a fleet of 16 refrigerated trucks and additional transport partners to serve its customers. www.himbert.info

THE CHALLENGE

Moving heavy boxes of fruit, especially bananas ripened on the company‘s own premises, demands a lot from the packers at Himbert. Between 3,000 and 6,000 banana boxes are picked every day: Lifting, carrying, moving – from one pallet to another. One box weighs 19 kg (42 lbs). This adds up to between 10 and 15 tons per person per day – too much strain for the backs of the employees in the long term, which is something the employers’ liability insurance association has also recognized. But what to do? Managing Director Johannes Himbert previously tried passive exoskeletons, but they didn’t do the job satisfactorily: “Our colleagues were unhappy with them, they tended to dig into their shoulders, for example. They no longer wore them,” says Himbert. But then he read about the e-exoskeletons from German Bionic.

“Back problems, damaged intervertebral discs, hernias: The Apogee is a great preventative measure against these ailments. That’s why I say: Even if you think you don’t really need it, you should give it a try. Because the amount of support and the level of satisfaction people have with the exoskeletons is very high.”

Johannes Himbert
Managing Director, Himbert GmbH

THE SOLUTION

A quick successful test, and a swift order. Since then, the AI-based power suits from German Bionic have been successfully in service at Himbert. The Apogee exosuit offers extra power for two areas of the body: Supporting the lower back with up to 30 kg (66 lbs) of assistance per lift, they are particularly helpful when it comes to lugging the heavy boxes of bananas, apples and oranges. At the same time, they also provide active walking support, which can be very useful in the huge warehouses. The small and lightweight power suits can be strapped on like a rucksack and attached to the body and legs in just 20 seconds when starting work. Then just one click on the power button and the device provides additional strength and also indicates the amount of weight compensation, steps taken and more – via a convenient display.

THE RESULT

Around 30 tons of weight compensation per day as well as faster and more accurate calculations thanks to the real-time data provided by the connected exoskeletons. While figures on how much the packers were handling per day were based more on gut feeling in the past or had to be manually measured, the company can now easily evaluate the KPIs via the display of the fully-connected e-exoskeletons. Even more important, however, is the health and wellbeing of the employees. The packers were enthusiastic right from the start and have been using the devices every day ever since. In the mornings, there are even a few friendly tussles about who gets to put on the cool power suits first. And on top of that, the device arouses a great deal of interest and provides a great topic of conversation during customer visits from all over the world: What is it? How does it work? Could it be something for us? And indeed, the company is planning to order a few more of these e-exoskeletons.

“Our team was enthusiastic right from the start and uses the devices every day. Especially our younger colleagues can’t wait to put them on and hit the ‘on’ button. The devices are very easy to use and everyone knows immediately what they need to do.”

Johannes Himbert
Managing Director, Himbert GmbH

BENEFITS

  • Hybrid automation: Integration of manual workplaces into digital processes
  • Smart augmentation: Relieves up to 30 kg (66 lbs) per lift
  • Use cases: Activities such as lifting and carrying, loading and unloading or constant work in a bent posture
  • Real-time data: Networking with data insight platforms for analysis and monitoring
  • AI-based: Learns with every use
  • Motivation via display: Gamification and recommendations for ergonomic measures
  • Prevention of work-related musculo- skeletal disorders (MSD)
  • Maximum safety thanks to unique closed housing design
  • Protection against accidents at work
  • Completely dust and waterproof, disinfectable
  • Tested in real everyday work


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