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Ford aims to improve comfort for workers on its assembly lines

Wed, 25 May 2011 00:00:00 -0700

Ford Motor Co. is using a digital mannequin, customized to account for physical differences across regions, to determine how to make jobs less physically strenuous for its assembly-line workers.

The digital worker avatar is based on Ford's virtual North American Jack and Jill workers. It uses a combination of human modeling software developed in Ford's Detroit labs and Hollywood's motion-capture technology.

This is the same type of Hollywood animation technology used in movies such as Mars Needs Moms and games such as Mortal Kombat.

“We adjusted the sizes of our Jack and Jill models to reflect the populations at our global plants so all our regions can benefit from what we've learned,” Ford ergonomics expert Allison Stephens said.

Results on how to maximize comfort for assembly workers in Africa may differ from those in Asia, for instance, as Ford compensates for physical characteristics unique to the region.

Among its first assignments, the digital worker will be used for new products at assembly plants in China. It also helped design the assembly line for the new Focus in Germany and the United States, and for the Ranger pickup built in Thailand and South Africa.

By Michelle Koueiter