Spanish automaker SEAT claims it has reduced factory-worker muscle injuries 70% by creating avatars of production-line staff.
The Volkswagen Group affiliate says its Martorell, Spain, plant has substantially reduced lost labor hours owing to production-line injuries through initiatives using biomechanics and virtual-reality technology over the past two years.
The automaker’s CARS Health & Rehabilitation Center has conducted more than 4,000 studies of production workers’ joint and muscle activity. A combination of cameras and sensors captures workers’ movements to create a 3-D avatar employing analysis software often used to create video-game characters. Virtual-reality technology then is applied to simulate different positions on the assembly line and assess possible modifications.
With some workers having to repeat motions up to 100 times a day, the assessments have cut injuries and prevented new ones through changes made to production lines at the design stage.
“The avatar is a 3-D image that accurately reproduces the speed and range of the motions,” says Sonia Garcia, responsible for ergonomics at SEAT. “We can simulate different positions until we find the best option, for example, for attaching the rear hatch. This allows us to save time and money in comparison to performing tests on the actual line.”