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Chairless Chair for improved ergonomics in Audi’s production plants

News International-French

2 Mar 2015

The company is testing a carbon-fiber construction allows employees to sit without a chair, so this technology improves their posture and reduces the strain on their legs.

The health of its employees has top priority for Audi. For this reason, at its plant in Neckarsulm, the company is testing a new technology that eases many assembly activities: the so-called “chairless chair.”

“Audi has played a leading role in the field of ergonomics for a long time now. The chairless chair is one of many projects that we have implemented in our production processes in recent years. It helps us to enhance our employees’ well‑being and maintain their health over the long term. At the same time, an ergonomically optimized working environment promotes more productivity and even better quality,” stated Audi’s Board of Management Member for Production, Prof. Dr. Hubert Waltl.

As the employees’ health will be improved by the use of the chairless chair, the Works Council is also in favor of the project. “We must utilize our technological leadership also for the well‑being of the workforce. Because technologies that relieve people of stress are examples of how the future has to be shaped for the good of the employees,” explained the Chairman of Audi’s General Works Council, Peter Mosch.

The chairless chair, which Audi has further developed together with a Swiss start‑up company, is an exoskeleton that is worn on the back of the legs. It is fastened with belts to the hips, knees and ankles. Two leather‑covered surfaces support the buttocks and thighs while two struts made of carbon‑fiber‑reinforced plastic (CFRP) adapt to the contours of the leg. They are jointed behind the knee and can be hydraulically adjusted to the wearer’s body size and the desired sitting position. Body weight is transferred into the floor through these adjustable elements. The chairless chair itself weighs just 2.4 kilograms.

While working, employees wear the chairless chair like a second pair of legs to provide support whenever needed. For many assembly operations, it allows employees to sit in an ergonomically favorable position instead of standing – even with short working intervals. At the same time, this high‑tech supporting structure improves posture and reduces strain on the legs. Chairs and stools, which are currently used in some assembly operations as temporary aids, become unnecessary. At the same time, Audi hopes that use of the exoskeleton will reduce employee absenteeism for physical reasons. 

Starting this week, Audi employees are gaining experience with three pilot prototypes of the chairless chair on A4 and A6 assembly lines at the Neckarsulm plant – with cockpit pre-assembly for example. Until now, the employees there worked only while standing. They now have significantly less physical stress due to the supportive carbon-fiber device, which allows them to alternate between sitting and standing while working. Audi will start a test phase also at the Ingolstadt plant in May. After that, the company will deploy the chairless chair in series production.

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