The Strong Relationship Between Ergonomics and Assembly Lines

In order to improve the psychological and physical well-being of operators, Bosch Rexroth presents three solutions for a smart, ergonomic and “human-centered” factory: Manual Production System, an ergonomic assembly bench for customized production; Active Assist, a workstation that adapts to the physical characteristics of the operator with a sensory assistance system; APAS Assistant, a class 3 robot that senses the operator’s presence up to 10 cm away.

by Michela Zanardo

Bosch Rexroth has always had in mind a revolutionary model of “human-centered factory” with the belief that the digitalization of production processes will further highlight the great added value of-fered by human intervention in terms of thought, reactivity and quality. Being aware of this and thanks to the countless opportunities offered by new technologies, Bosch Rexroth can take a proac-tive approach to ergonomics and take the big step towards “lean production” with advantages in terms of people’s mental and physical well-being, safety and performance quality.
In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, the need for a human-centered approach as a cor-nerstone of the production cycle has led Bosch Rexroth to take advantage of the principles of ergo-nomics in assembly activities. The link between ergonomics and industry 4.0 is, in fact, very strong, its variations embrace both cultural and technical aspects in equal measure and the focus is precisely on humans. Ergonomics already existed before digitalization, but thanks to it, ergonomics has been able to make a truly extraordinary leap in quality, making the workplace more flexible, intelligent and, above all, interactive. The new smart workstations by Bosch Rexroth are also designed with a view to improving the psychological and physical well-being of the worker with particular attention to the seat, therefore to posture, lighting and acoustics.

Active Assist is a workstation capable to adjust itself according to the operator’s physical and cog-nitive characteristics.
Active Assist is a workstation capable to adjust itself according to the operator’s physical and cog-nitive characteristics.

Safer processes and workstations

Manual Production System is the manual production system by Bosch Rexroth, an innovative and ergonomic assembly bench developed to optimize and customize production. Active Assist, on the other hand, is Bosch Rexroth’s smart workstation, a connected and advanced assembly desk which can be connected via Wi-Fi. Active Assist offers a customized workstation as it can adjust itself ac-cording to the operator’s physical and cognitive characteristics. Furthermore, thanks to the assisted driving system, it supports the operator in assembly tasks, reducing learning and training time as well as the risk of errors.

APAS Assistant is a class 3 collaborative robot that senses the presence of the operator from 5 to 10 cm away.
APAS Assistant is a class 3 collaborative robot that senses the presence of the operator from 5 to 10 cm away.

The Industry 4.0 paradigm combines the introduction of new technologies, skills and organizational models with the deep transformation of the working environments and the ways in which workers deal with machines. Operator safety issues, their physical and mental well-being, injury prevention and improved working conditions are all factors that significantly affect productivity. Therefore, they are at the center of the proactive approach to ergonomics on which the “human-centered facto-ry” is based. For years, this model has been at the center of the Bosch Rexroth’s offer of smart solu-tions, designed and built with a view to protecting the well-being of operators and the safe and easy interaction between humans and machines. The integration of ergonomic principles with production processes and the advent of connected digital technology multiplies the possibilities of protecting the operator from health risks deriving from biomechanical overload, incorrect posture, work stress or repetitive tasks. Bosch Rexroth workstations are designed to protect the musculoskeletal system and the physical well-being of workers as they are connected and customizable.

APAS can perform repetitive or ergonomically unfavorable activities autonomously and with high precision.
APAS can perform repetitive or ergonomically unfavorable activities autonomously and with high precision.

Another pillar of the Bosch Rexroth ergonomic approach is assisted driving, which can significantly reduce the risk of errors: Active Assist offers an advanced sensory assistance system that contrib-utes to the concept of Safety intended as error-free assembly. By reducing the risk of error almost to zero, the Active Assist guided procedure limits the stress related to frequent changes of movements and the risk of making mistakes, indicating the assembly sequences to the operator and confirming their correctness through error-proof “poka-yoke” devices. The system provides for real-time quali-ty check, using hand-tracking, a visual detection of the hand position with an indicator light. Real-time verification further decreases operator stress caused by repetition of certain errors.

Safe and efficient assistance to the operator

Bosch Rexroth has developed a robot that fully guarantees the enhancement of the human factor and a safe collaboration between robot and worker. This is APAS Assistant, a class 3 robot that senses the presence of the operators from 5 to 10 cm away and allows them to move safely within the work area. With a range of action of 1,100 mm and a maximum capacity of 10 kg, APAS can perform repetitive or ergonomically unfavorable activities independently and with high precision. As it can work safely and efficiently near humans, APAS is a collaborative robot equipped with a specially developed sensor surface which is the basic technology for safe human-robot collaboration. Thanks to the innovative technology by Bosch Rexroth, if an operator gets too close to APAS As-sistant, the latter perceives the person’s electric field and stops immediately before man and robot come into contact, safeguarding the most critical body areas such as the head.