Working with the exoskeleton for field workers - two months later

22 July 2021, Jasper Schmeits

I am looking forward to it, and so are our field workers! After our successful pilot with the exoskeleton, we have arrived at a new phase: the implementation process.

My previous blog, which was called The exoskeleton: an ergonomic mouse for field workers and informed you about our successful pilot with the exoskeleton, attracted many responses. From colleagues who want to work with the system, and departments that are curious about whether it can be beneficial for their customers. But I also heard from external parties that simply wanted to share their ideas and/or be informed about our experiences. This is pleasing and very useful, because it allows innovation managers like myself to learn from the feedback. As far as I am concerned, the packs themselves are not the most important thing; it’s the whole process that surrounds them. Namely, continuously discovering and implementing innovative developments that could be beneficial to our work.


Enthusiastic about follow-up process

The exoskeleton pilot with a few of our Dutch field workers showed that the system is a welcome addition to existing personal protective equipment. It helps to avoid health issues when working with physically challenging loads, like when inserting bores and monitoring wells, or when having to bend or lift while carrying something that is beyond one’s lifting capacity. So it should come as no surprise to learn that we are enthusiastic about the follow-up process. Two colleagues from France, who had read about this on Yammer, also said they would love to be part of the follow-up process.

There was also a lot of interest in the exoskeleton among our wastewater and air teams; they will also be involved. We have clearly expressed our aim of making such innovative applications part of the standard toolbox that is offered to field workers. We will not be forcing anyone, but they will be there whenever necessary.

Making sure that implementation is successful

In the meantime, I have realised that further implementation of such applications will require more than just ‘buying a few and seeing how we get on’. Cooperation is one of the most important components for achieving success in processes like these.

In the past, my enthusiasm would cause me to address such processes with a bit too much excitement, but we have now structured everything properly. Why are we doing this and for whom? Who bears final responsibility and what is needed to further guide/support this process?

The questions we have asked ourselves, trigger us and other people to think carefully about them:

Why are we doing this? What is the purpose?

The digital support of our field workers are our primary focus. We are continuously looking for tools, technology and accessories that can make our work easier, better and faster. Not every idea need be financially appealing from the very outset. This is about the long-term deployment of our employees: how can we make sure that they experience fewer (physical) issues when performing their jobs? If the investment reduces fallout in the long run, it will have been extremely profitable. This will be a bonus, but the smiling faces of our satisfied (and healthier) employees will be priceless!


For whom are we doing this?

In principle, for everyone that needs it. We have not limited ourselves to soil field workers because support workers and IT workers also encounter physical loads on a regular basis. In addition, as a Leading European Environmental Consultancy, we also operate on the international stage, so I am proud that TAUW France will also be taking part in the follow-up process.


Who bears final responsibility and which follow-up process is needed?

This development, guidance and support will require investment that we are able to justify. Therefore, from the very outset, it was important to know who was responsible for each specific part (thus avoiding debate later down the line), so we could fully exploit our new experiences in the follow-up process. We now know what we can expect from one another. Hopefully, this will lead to such systems becoming a regular part of our employment conditions, in the same way as the allowance we offer for safety/monitor glasses or for setting up home offices.

On 20 July 2021, we started the implementation process to further improve our experience with the exoskeleton. In October, I will provide another update about how we are getting on.


Creating added value

TAUW is constantly looking for smart technological solutions that offer added value in our work and the work of our clients. Therefore, besides cleverly and innovatively using existing tools, we also develop new digital products that add value to our services. You can see some great examples on our Digital Transformation page by clicking the button below.

 Digital Transformation


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