Headquartered in Hong Kong, Gammon Construction is one of SE Asia’s leading construction companies, with an annual turnover of US$2.5bn, and is a keen adopter of new technology with a focus on adding value for its customers through innovative and sustainable solutions.
With over 8000 employees, the engineering and construction company, like others in the Hong Kong construction industry, has long faced manpower shortages, together with an aging workforce.
Consequently, in an effort to lure talented new workers and to reduce the workload of its employees, the company recently invested in two sets of “zero-gravity arms” (Zero G Tool Arms) from Sigma Ergonomics, one of Australia’s leading providers of ergonomic systems to a wide range of industries.
Manufactured by US company Ekso Bionics, the innovative mounted exoskeletal system functions without the need for power, allowing workers to comfortably operate heavy tools including impact drills, chipping hammers and grinders for extended periods.
With the zero-gravity arms shouldering the weight of the equipment, workers are not affected by the strain and fatigue caused by repetitive tasks such as drilling, tiling, chipping and grinding.
The Ekso Bionics Aerial System, to which the Zero G system is mounted, is designed to increase safety and productivity while working from an elevated work platform (EWP).
As well as eliminating the risk of dropping heavy tools from heights, the system significantly reduces the risk of injury from heavy tool usage and awkward body position.
In a recent direct comparison with an Access Work Platform (AWP) at a height services installation, the Zero G system improved the productivity of the drilling work task by over 50% while reducing worker fatigue and improving safety and efficiency.
Thomas Ho, Chief Executive of Gammon Construction, is a passionate supporter of innovation and highlights the Zero G system as one of the latest innovations introduced into his organisation.
Andy Wong, Gammon Construction’s Innovation manager, explained that the Ekso Bionics Aerial Systems has been successfully deployed at a construction site of a data centre in Hong Kong’s Tseung Kwan O district and at a transport terminus in Kowloon, with very positive feedback from workers and their managers.
He said the workers recognised the many benefits the Zero G system offered including ease of use, comfortable to operate and an ergonomic design.
“Following the success of the Ekso Bionics Aerial Systems, we plan to expand the trial scheme to several other of our work sites in the region,” Mr Wong said.
Tony Brooks, director of Sigma Ergonomics explained that Ekso Bionics has spent several years designing and perfecting a range of ergonomic tool arms which are used to weightlessly manoeuvre heavy tools.
“Already proven across the world, the arms rely on spring tension and an innovative design to balance the weight of tools used in drilling, sanding, riveting and many other applications.
“The Ekso Bionics Zero G arms are designed to hold tool payloads of up to 19kg and fully balance the weight thus allowing the user to freely, safely and accurately manoeuvre the load in any direction without injury or fatigue.”
Requiring less than 30 minutes of operator training to achieve competency, Mr Brooks explained that the ergonomic tool arms have a variety of mounting options to suit the application including portable gantries, carts, jib arms and linear rails.
“As well, these systems require very little maintenance, no expensive inputs like electricity or compressed air, and have already been successfully used in a variety of industries from aerospace and defence to automotive manufacturing.
“With Ekso Bionics’ innovative exoskeleton technology, workers can now complete heavy hand tool tasks with less fatigue, better workmanship and fewer workplace injuries. Plus companies often enjoy a high ROI, sometimes less than a year, making the decision to invest that much easier,” Mr Brooks concluded.