The trend of Exoskeletons involves wearable devices built to support or enhance human physical capabilities. While passive exoskeletons absorb energy from movements and relinquish power when support is needed, active devices are externally powered and can sense and react to specific movements of the human body.
With over 1.7 billion people affected worldwide, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are one of the most common work-related health issues. Exoskeletons, originating from the healthcare and military industries, appeared on the market for industrial use in logistics more than a decade ago to reduce the development and effects of MSDs in the workplace. Typically classified by the regions of the body they support, both active and passive devices have been improved over the last 2 years in terms of usability, form factor, and performance. In 2021, the exoskeleton market was valued at 257.9 million USD and is predicted to grow with a CAGR of 18% from 2022 to 2030, highlighting anticipation of further breakthroughs and wider adoption in workplaces.
While the Exoskeletons trend is expected to have only minor impact on efficiency gains within supply chain operations, the technology is understood to positively impact employee health and safety. As logistics operations face an aging workforce and growing labor shortages, exoskeletons capable of reducing physical strain on the human body have become a topic of interest for logistics organizations seeking to limit the particularly high sick leave rates per full-time equivalent (FTE) affecting the industry. In addition, the implementation of exoskeletons in operations could provide differentiation to attract labor. However, large-scale deployments have yet to be seen, mostly because currently available devices offer support only for specific sets of movement, limiting their application to niche use cases.