GEODIS, a third-party logistics provider (3PL), has begun using exoskeletons to support and protect employees’ backs during their work in its warehouse in Venlo, the Netherlands. Staff wear the exoskeletons—an external type of brace—for lower back support as they lift and carry objects during their pick and pack activities.

The exoskeleton, developed by Dutch firm Laevo, gives support via a spring system that acts as a type of counterweight. When the employee bends over, the spring pushes back so that the load on the back is reduced by 40%.

“Staff are fitter after a working day thanks to these skeletons,” explains Sjors van Enckevort, site manager, contract logistics at GEODIS in Venlo.

The use of such aids is becoming very important in the logistics sector. Health and safety are at the core of GEODIS’ business excellence approach. At the Venlo site employees who carry over 4,000 kilograms (roughly 8,800 pounds) per day benefit from the back support that the exoskeleton provides during their picking activities. Three employees currently wear a personalized exoskeleton during their work in the distribution center at Venlo.

GEODIS is also exploring further possibilities for exoskeleton deployments. The warehouse type of exoskeleton the 3PL is currently using is passive, meaning that the exoskeleton follows the user’s movements, adjusting pressure without impeding movement. There is now increasing interest in the development of an active exoskeleton, which would extend support to the employee’s arms as well. Depending on the results of their performance in Venlo, the company is considering deploying them more widely across its network in the future.