Skill-Assist: Helping Human Workers with Automobile Modular Component Assembly 2002-01-0126
Modular component assembly has become a dominant trend in the final assembly process at automobile manufacturers. While modular component assembly offers various benefits, such as cost reduction, it poses the problem of installation difficulty, since a modular component is heavier and larger than individual parts.
To solve this problem, a new type of assist device has been developed, which reduces the operating force required by workers to install a large modular component on a vehicle body. In Toyota, we call this device “Skill-Assist”. Skill-Assist contains two electric actuators to reduce horizontal operating force requirements. Actuator control emphasizes improved subjective operational feel, so that operators can manipulate Skill-Assist intuitively, making optimal use of the skills they have acquired through their work experience.
For an assist device to work interactively with human operators in a shared workspace, it is essential to ensure worker safety. Before Skill-Assist was actually applied to the cockpit module installation process, the Risk-Assessment protocol established in Europe was adopted to ensure operator safety. Actual application has confirmed that Skill-Assist is effective not only in reducing the physical workload on human workers, and installation work time requirements, but also in improving the subjective operational feel and utilizing workers' acquired skills.