It’s getting easier to work in
shop floors at Audi production plants. The German luxury car maker has built
three prototypes in use on assembly lines in Neckarsulm. These chairless chairs
ease many assembly activities. This high-tech carbon-fibre construction allows
Audi employees to sit without a chair. At the same time, it improves their
posture and reduces the strain on their legs.
According to an Audi press
release, the health of its employees has top priority for the company. For this
reason, at its plant in Neckarsulm, the company is testing a new technology
that eases many assembly activities: the so-called “chairless chair.” This
high-tech carbon-fibre construction allows employees to sit without a chair. At
the same time, it improves their posture and reduces the strain on their legs.
“Audi has played a leading
role in the field of ergonomics for a long time now. The chairless chair is one
of many projects that we have implemented in our production processes in recent
years. It helps us to enhance our employees’ well-being and maintain their health over the long term. At the same
time, an ergonomically optimised working environment promotes more productivity
and even better quality,” stated Audi’s Board of Management Member for
Production, Prof. Dr. Hubert Waltl.
As the employees’ health will
be improved by the use of the chairless chair, the Works Council is also in
favour of the project. “We must utilise our technological leadership also for
the well-being of the workforce. Because
technologies that relieve people of stress are examples of how the
future has to be shaped for the good of the employees,” explained the Chairman
of Audi’s General Works Council, Peter Mosch.
The chairless chair, which
Audi has further developed together with a Swiss start-up company, is an exoskeleton that is worn on the back of the
legs. It is fastened with belts to the hips, knees and ankles. Two leather-covered surfaces support the buttocks and thighs while two struts made
of carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) adapt to the contours of the leg. They are
jointed behind the knee and can be hydraulically adjusted to the wearer’s body
size and the desired sitting position. Body weight is transferred into the
floor through these adjustable elements. The chairless chair itself weighs just
2.4 kilograms. Dr. Stephan Weiler, the doctor responsible for ergonomic
workplace design in Audi’s health department said, “The chairless chair is a
clear demonstration that Audi places priority on attractive and well-designed workplaces. This construction reduces the stress and strain
on our employees’ knees and ankles in an ideal manner.”
While working, employees wear
the chairless chair like a second pair of legs to provide support whenever
needed. For many assembly operations, it allows employees to sit in an
ergonomically favourable position instead of standing – even with short working
intervals. At the same time, this high-tech
supporting structure improves posture and reduces strain on the legs. Chairs
and stools, which are currently used in some assembly operations as temporary
aids, become unnecessary. At the same time, Audi hopes that use of the
exoskeleton will reduce employee absenteeism for physical reasons.
“With the use of the chairless
chair, we are continuously improving ergonomics in assembly operations. We also
anticipate new applications for colleagues with reduced physical capabilities,”
stated Dr. Mathias Keil, Head of Industrial Engineering Methods at AUDI AG.
Starting this week, Audi
employees are gaining experience with three pilot prototypes of the chairless
chair on A4* and A6* assembly lines at the Neckarsulm plant – with cockpit
pre-assembly for example. Until now, the employees there worked only while
standing. They now have significantly less physical stress due to the
supportive carbon-fibre device, which allows them to alternate between sitting
and standing while working. Audi will start a test phase also at the Ingolstadt
plant in May. After that, the company will deploy the chairless chair in series
The pilot project is being
supported by an interdisciplinary team and is part of the area of activity
under the heading of “workplace of the future” within the company’s ergonomics
strategy: With “We for us. Active into the future,” Audi is reacting to current
and coming challenges brought by the transformation of working life.
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