Guardian® XO® Exoskeleton Use Case:
Addressing labor shortages, productivity shortfalls, injury costs, and slim marginswith a full-body, powered exoskeleton
The Burden of Contruction Workers
Construction and lifting tasks are inextricably intertwined. Construction workers spend most of their day — and career — lifting materials into place for fastening and finishing, with the potential for injury never far away. The industry, one of the bellwether sectors of any nation’s economy, is often faced with the trade-off between productivity and workplace safety.
Workers can use cranes, forklifts, and hoists to move large loads on construction sites. But what about smaller, dense building materials like formworks, buckets of epoxy, or oversized pieces like laminated beams and roof trusses? How many of those can the average worker lift per day before fatigue and muscle strain cause productivity to suffer?
In tight and unstructured workspaces where cranes and hoists won’t fit, multiple workers typically perform team lifts to move heavy or awkwardly shaped construction materials. But that still comes back to human labor, subject to the dual constraints of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) and an ever-tightening shortage of workers.
The Guardian XO Exoskeleton — Making Workers More Productive While Avoiding Injury
What if you could combine the skill and know-how of construction workers with the strength and precision of robotics to help with material handling and build tasks?
The Guardian XO full-body, powered exoskeleton is designed to boost productivity, minimize the risk of workplace injury, and enable more laborers to lift, move, and manipulate heavier loads by themselves. The suit utilizes robotics, sensors, and software to help solo workers move loads of up to 200 pounds (90 kg) on construction sites.
The exoskeleton is ideal for manipulating and conveying heavy materials from the point of unloading to where the tradesperson needs them. It becomes a force multiplier in hands-free mode, allowing the operator to both hold an object like a 100-pound (45 kg) beam in place and use two free hands to hammer, drill, or weld it. The Guardian XO exoskeleton is also designed to bear the brunt of overhead lifting tasks and heavy tool work that strain the back, neck, and shoulders.
The Guardian XO exoskeleton is worn by the construction worker and reacts to their natural movements, augmenting the ordinary motion of limbs and joints. Because the Guardian XO exoskeleton is modeled on the human body, operating it is intuitive and easy to learn. It offers the operator optimal maneuverability on the construction site, with an effortless command of heavy or oversized objects. Since human judgment and expertise guide the suit’s movements, an operator wearing the exoskeleton can work right alongside other tradespeople — without the special safeguards or physical distance required for fixed lift-assist equipment.
Applications in Construction
Three scenarios illustrate how the Guardian XO full-body, powered exoskeleton can help improve productivity and address the workforce shortage in construction.
- Cross-site transport — Long, unwieldy bundles of rebar travel cross-country on flatbed trucks and trailers, but ironworkers need an efficient, low-strain way to move them across the job site to the point where they’re needed. Using the Guardian XO exoskeleton, a single laborer can perform the work of two or more.
- Moving, installing, and dismantling formwork — Formwork for pouring concrete is common in road and rail construction. A cycle of installing and dismantling 45-pound (20 kg) steel or wood panels on a typical site can take two workers multiple days. The exoskeleton can enable a single worker to handle the lifting, transporting, set up, and tear-down formwork that would typically take two or more to complete.
- Lift in the right place — Cranes, hoists, and forklifts are made for heavy lifting, but they are not made for tightly constrained spaces like elevator shafts or inaccessible areas like the 40th floor. Rather than asking workers to perform unassisted lifts in small rooms and areas with little clearance, project managers can equip them with the Guardian XO exoskeleton. The robot is designed to enable workers of nearly any size and strength, which helps equalize the workforce and allows companies to tap into a larger pool of workers.
Advantages and Capabilities
To address these scenarios, the Guardian XO exoskeleton:
- Supplements human labor in heavy lifting, allowing the operator to move naturally with 24 degrees of freedom
- Features hot-swappable batteries as its onboard power source for near-continuous operation
- Enables safe lifting of up to 200 pounds (90 kg), regardless of the size or strength of the operator
- Allows quick deployment; taking the suit on and off takes less than 30 seconds, with additional provisions for sudden egress
- Reduces strain on body parts most prone to injury from heavy physical exertion, including shoulders, lower back, and knees
- Designed to minimize the physical strain by offloading the weight of the carried item, plus the weight of the robotic suit itself
- Helps bridge labor shortages — Many construction companies face staffing problems, with four out of five firms reporting difficulty in filling craft positions and two out of three saying it will be difficult or more difficult to hire 12 months out. In an industry that historically favors a particular body type and level of strength, the Guardian XO exoskeleton levels the playing field for smaller or aging workers. The exoskeleton augments human strength, opening more employment possibilities and allowing older, more experienced workers to remain productive longer.
- Mitigates fatigue and risk of injury — Muscle strain leads to fatigue, which can lead to injury. High injury rates impose high expenses on construction companies, accounting for as much as nine percent of project budget and leading to indirect costs as much as 17 times higher than direct costs. The Guardian XO exoskeleton helps mitigate the risk of WMSD by reducing the strain of physically demanding lifts without interrupting surrounding workflows. And where health standards call for workers to socially distance, the exoskeleton can minimize or eliminate the need for team lifts that require employees to work side by side.
- Addresses declining or stalled productivity — While labor productivity soars in manufacturing, retail, and agriculture, it has been negative in most construction sectors. With a complementary lifting tool like the Guardian XO exoskeleton, construction companies can equip their workforce with the right tool for the task, improve downtime, and enhance job site productivity.
- Does more with the same or lower labor costs — Avoiding injury and augmenting workers’ strength and endurance are steps toward reducing overall labor costs and improving profit margins. The exoskeleton’s labor-saving features, like embedded sensors, 24 degrees of freedom, processing power, and the robot-as-a-service model, add up to significant multiples in productivity.