In the logistics of American supermarkets Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV are experimenting with devices known as exosuits which, laced on the worker’s body, help them to lift and load while working in the warehouses. Technological developments in this sector respond to the health and safety requirements of workers in warehouse operations that have increased exponentially in the pandemic period along with online orders. Amazon itself has stepped up its accident prevention programs by developing, among other things, new technologies to prevent repetitive activity injuries. Verve Motion, Massachusetts manufactures battery-powered devices that can reduce lifting effort by 30% to 40%, helping to lighten the weight on workers’ backs without restricting their movement. US storage companies are estimated to have added nearly 168,000 jobs between April 2020 and April this year, marking a 13.6% increase. Additionally, the staff shortage is driving up wages as logistics operators compete with heavyweights including Amazon which plans to hire an additional 75,000 warehouse workers this year. Logistics firm ProLogistix, which works with companies including Walmart Inc. and Target Corp., said the average starting pay for warehouse workers in April was $ 16.58 an hour, up 8.9 % compared to the same month of 2020. In short, wearable robotics could facilitate work, make it more attractive for the workers themselves and increase productivity. These are devices that can be fastened to the shoulders like a backpack and that certainly do not reduce the weight of the objects to be lifted but rather aim to reduce the effort of those who have to lift them: a commitment that affects millions of workers who carry out work manual material handling in the United States. A sector, that of wearable robotics, which intersects a whole range of logistics services with enormous prospects. In this sense, Kenco Logistics Services is implementing a fleet of self-driving tractors that pull trolleys loaded with pallets. In addition, it is also testing remote-controlled forklifts equipped with technology produced by the startup Phantom Auto that drivers can maneuver remotely using real-time video and audio. Logistics automation companies say demand for these technologies grew during the pandemic as companies struggled to cope with large swings in volume. Gartner Inc expects the demand for robotic systems that provide facilitation to human workers to quadruple by 2023.
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