The Institute of Biomechanics (IBV) works on ‘Innowork’, a project financed by the Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness (Ivace) that seeks to advance the development of innovative techniques based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the prevention of ergonomic risks and in the use of exoskeletons, all with the aim of improving working conditions and productivity in the new work environments that have emerged under the concept of “factories of the future.”

The European Factories of the Future Reach Association (EFFRA) highlights the concept ‘factories 4.0 and beyond’ and the need to innovate in people-driven manufacturing processes, improving the interaction between them and work teams and machines, influencing in the need for complementarity between people and technology to achieve excellence in manufacturing, the IBV explained in a statement.

In line with this challenge, the director of Innovation in Occupational Health and Wellbeing at IBV, Mercedes Sanchis, has highlighted that this approach “seeks not only to improve working conditions, but also to increase productivity in work environments through the reduction of days off work caused by musculoskeletal disorders”.

The demand for exoskeletons has been increasing as an effective measure to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort during work that involves high physical loads. In this sense, the IBV has been one of the pioneer centers in carrying out the analysis of the behavior of these devices in real production lines, such as, for example, the study carried out at the FORD Valencia plant on the use of an upper limb exoskeleton. for assembly line workers.

In this context, companies need to have tools that facilitate the process of selection and implementation of exoskeletons in the work environment, as well as evaluation techniques that consider its effect on reducing ergonomic risk.

In response to this demand, the IBV is developing an interactive tool that will allow companies to identify which jobs could benefit from the implementation of specific exoskeletons, as well as the guidelines for their correct selection and implementation.

Sanchis has indicated that “as important as the selection of the most appropriate exoskeleton, taking into account the specific characteristics of the task, is its implementation in the company’s production process, monitoring the feedback of those workers who have decided to use it during the working day”.

Additionally, Innowork has focused on creating innovative techniques to assess ergonomic risk in the workplace, using AI-based technologies that provide accurate and objective information.

According to Sanchis, “new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, are here to stay and so that people can dedicate themselves to carrying out tasks that provide greater added value. At the moment, there are certain tasks that they cannot carry out, such as, for example, making proposals to improve a workplace from an ergonomic point of view. But they can replace us in the application of ergonomic risk assessment methodologies and in their quantification.”

In these investigations, the IBV has the collaboration of leading companies such as SPB, Panamar, Zummo, Platos Tradicionales, Embutidos Martínez or Grefusa that are committed to the design of new work environments driven by people and the use of technologies for the protection of the working staff.

Finally, Innowork is a project financed by the 2023 aid program of the Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness (IVACE), aimed at technological centers in the Valencian Community for the development of R & D projects of a non-economic nature carried out in collaboration with companies, financed by the European Union (IMDEEA/2023/67).