Exoskeletons pass practical trial: Innovative technology takes the strain for warehouse employees

For the first time, DACHSER has tested active exoskeletons produced by German Bionic under everyday work conditions in the warehouse. The results are impressive. Now the technology will be rolled out at additional locations.

Exoskeletons in trial use at the DACHSER Warehouse
Exoskeletons in trial use at the DACHSER Warehouse

Working in a warehouse still involves a lot of manual labor, and sometimes it can be physically demanding, too - for example when unloading goods or picking. DACHSER has long been looking into providing employees with technical aids to help them perform strenuous tasks. Exoskeletons hold particular promise. In medicine, external support structures of this kind have been in use for a long time; in industry, an increasing number of market-ready devices are now becoming available.

As early as 2019, DACHSER conducted initial warehouse tests, primarily of passive exoskeletons with mechanical spring systems, rails, or weights that assist in lifting loads. In the meantime, active exoskeletons have reached a level of maturity that can improve warehouse processes as well. Active exoskeletons use battery-powered robotic motors to facilitate lifting operations, greatly relieving strain on the lower back for anyone lifting heavier loads. Since wearers experience less fatigue, they are more able to maintain good posture.

Active exoskeletons from German Bionic in use in Magdeburg

Active exoskeletons produced by the German manufacturer German Bionic were put through their paces in the warehouse at DACHSER’s Magdeburg logistics center in the spring. The aim was to gather empirical data under real conditions and to obtain feedback from employees. “Cray X” devices were deployed to support various processes in incoming goods, order picking, and at the packing table. The exoskeleton can provide 30 kilograms of relief per lifting operation and also assists with carrying.

The exoskeleton can provide 30 kilograms of relief per lifting operation and also assists with carrying.

“The positive effects of the exoskeletons soon became clear,” says Stephan Heinemann, Contract Logistics Manager at DACHSER’s Magdeburg logistics center. “Our employees benefit from direct relief when handling heavier loads as well as from ergonomic body stabilization. That has long-term advantages, too, since the exoskeletons prevent overexertion and workplace accidents that would be damaging to health.” Another impressive aspect of the devices was their ease of use, which meant that the testers accepted them in no time.

Active exoskeletons provide relief in the warehouse
Active exoskeletons provide relief in the warehouse

Technology with a future

This positive experience will be harnessed. “During testing, everyone noticed—as we had hoped they would—how the exoskeleton relieved their lower back, and rated this as positive,” Heinemann confirms. Accordingly, the location will make regular use of three active exoskeletons in the future.

Other locations in the DACHSER network will also use the new technology in their warehouses, including the Ulm logistics center starting in the fall. “By introducing new technologies and innovations, we’re continuously working to make DACHSER’s processes, including those in the warehouse, more efficient and effective. Above all, this includes providing support to people in all aspects of their warehouse activities,” adds Thomas Klare, Head of Corporate Contract Logistics at DACHSER. “Our use of active exoskeletons is an impressive demonstration of how modern technology not only makes work easier straight away, but can also have a positive impact on our logistics operatives’ long-term health.”

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