In Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin struggles to live in an increasingly industrialized world. Technology continues to allow more complicated vehicles to be built more efficiently, so when GM Authority learned about this robotic tool used by General Motors assembly team members, we thought we’d take a closer look.
The Chevrolet Traverse has third-row seating that can accommodate three adults comfortably—a unique benefit in the world of SUVs. They have all the safety systems, infotainment, lights, and climate control (even coat hooks!) that you’d expect up front. Giving third-row passengers these features required manufacturing innovation from the best minds of Detroit, so some cleverness was created to deliver assembly team members, tools, and parts to the rear of the Traverse to install wiring harnesses, air bag connectors, and brackets.
Working with a custom equipment supplier, engineers developed the “Ergo Chair,” a device that carries a team member to each operation necessary for their “vehicle assembly responsibilities” in the rear of the Traverse. “Our goal was to get the operator in and out of the vehicle in the safest and most ergonomic fashion to allow them to do the high amount of overhead and rear work required,” says GM manufacturing systems engineer Dave Bentoski.
The chair sweeps the team member into the vehicle on a pivoting seat driven by a robotic arm and controlled by his/her body motions. The member is placed at just the right height for the job to be performed. The chair carries the correct parts and tools with the member to each operation, entering through the side door and extending down the length of the vehicle—crawling through the vehicle or reaching in through openings is a thing of the past.
“To build a vehicle successfully, you need a great product and a great process, but at the heart of that process are the people, and the care they put into each and every vehicle,” says Lansing Regional plant manager Tony Francavilla. “Having the Ergo Chair put our employee with the parts and tools at the optimal position for each operation, improves both vehicle quality and worker health and safety.”
General Motors is believed to be the first automaker using ergonomic robotic chairs to help its workers safely and reliably assemble vehicles. GM is using three Ergo Chairs at Lansing (MI) Delta Township and has added them to the Spring Hill (TN) Assembly line. The Ergo Chair is also being evaluated for use in other GM facilities.