Japan: Company Builds Robot to Help Elderly Staff | Science and technology news
In a country where the population is shrinking and aging, a transport company is building an exoskeleton to relieve its workforce.
Nara, Japan – A Japanese transport company that employs many elderly people has invested in an exoskeleton to relieve its staff.
Tatsumi Shokai Logistics – which employs more than 700 people in total at its sites – has been building the robot since 2014.
The exoskeleton helps employees perform their jobs, which includes constant loading, unloading, transporting, and folding.
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“The burden on my back and legs has been halved,” Kenji Takemura, an employee of the company for more than 34 years, told Al Jazeera.
The 57-year-old said he could do the same job over an extended period of time, adding that he hoped to continue working for another decade.
The results of the recent national census suggest that Japan’s population will drop dramatically over the next few decades.
With an aging population and fewer young people to replace them, some academics predict that it will be difficult to find a suitable and skilled workforce.
“We will have a labor shortage in the future and robotics could help us,” Yasuhiko Saito, a professor at Nihon University specializing in demography and gerontology, told Al Jazeera.
“I think the migration policy will not help address the labor shortage. Robotics is therefore perhaps the only way to deal with this shortage. “
Companies such as Tatsumi Shokai are at the forefront of research.
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Exoskeletons aren’t a new invention, but Tatsumi Shokai may be the first company to prioritize older people as their primary users.
The cost of these projects is kept secret, but the results are publicly tested.
Tatsumi Shokai’s robot, which would allow someone to work beyond retirement age, can lift a person over 89kg.
The current prototype is intended for those who walk long distances, such as those who work in the countryside or in hilly areas. It helps maintain stamina and strength as well as support the joints of the body.
“More people can work with the assistance combinations. People can continue to work for longer and the devices allow people who do not have enough physical strength to work again, ”said Keiko Fakul of Activelink.