Colruyt co-workers get ergonomics coach thanks to SpineWise

Colruyt co-workers get ergonomics coach thanks to SpineWise

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Well-being at work is an absolute priority for Colruyt Lowest Prices That is why it tested a new technology to sensitise store co-workers to work more ergonomically, together with the Belgian start-up SpineWise. Through sensors of SpineWise on their work clothes, co-workers get bio-feedback when they execute physical work. This makes them more aware of their posture and it allows them to execute their work with more attention to ergonomics. The first test at Colruyt Ostend showed nice results: thanks to these 'Intelligent Wearables' up to 30% less physically demanding postures were recorded. A new test is planned in the autumn, in the Colruyt store of Hoboken.

Customised solution

In May, the store co-workers of Colruyt Ostend had the opportunity to participate in a test to work more ergonomically. Rudi Dewulf, regional director at Colruyt Lowest Prices: "Our store co-workers are on the move all day long: placing products on the shelves, helping customers at the checkout, etc. Of course, we want our colleagues to be able to work as smoothly as possible without putting too much strain on their bodies: their well-being on the shop floor is paramount to us. In addition to sensitising and informing our co-workers in the stores about how to work ergonomically, we want to coach them even further to start working with that information. That is why we decided to collaborate with SpineWise."

SpineWise is a Belgian start-up that develops hightech products (so-called "Intelligent Wearables") that helps to reduce the number of back and shoulder injuries on the shop floor. Liesbeth Van Hauwermeiren, CEO at SpineWise: "Colruyt asked us to elaborate a solution for the store co-workers. Quite the challenge, as their work involves a lot of different movements. We developed a solution with two sensors placed on the work clothes of the co-worker, one at the collar and one at waist level. The sensors move along with the body and measure the position compared to a neutral upright position. This is how we measure the back movements. When a physically too demanding posture is assumed, the sensors provide bio-feedback, via a short vibrating signal." The focus was on the most common movements: lifting, reaching and movements at the cash register.

30% less non-ergonomic back movements

Colruyt Lowest Prices and SpineWise are satisfied with the results of the first test, that was carried out on some 50 co-workers of the Colruyt store in Ostend. A decrease of almost 30% was observed in the number of pre-bend movements of the back.

The test also revealed some additional suggestions from the co-workers that can be taken into account for the future. For example, the possibility of integrating a pedometer will be researched, and whether the biofeedback can be adjusted to how strenuous the movement is, for example by providing a signal that is a little stronger in case of a more extreme movement.

Rudi Dewulf: "We are very satisfied with the first results of the test with SpineWise. We will now get to work with the learnings form the first test, because we want to keep improving to keep the well-being on the shop floor as high as possible. With SpineWise, we literally give them that small additional push in the back. In the autumn, we will provide a next test at the Colruyt Store of Hoboken." There, the store co-workers will also receive additional information about how to work more ergonomically, through videos and reports with action points.

Liesbeth Van Hauwermeiren: "An important nuance is that today we are mainly looking at the short term and not at the long-term effects. Therefore, it is certainly a good thing that the test will be continued."

Colruyt is continuously working on solutions for co-workers regarding more ergonomics on the shop floor, so the cooperation with SpineWise is certainly not a first. In the past, the retailer already performed tests with exoskeletons and in the autumn, there is also a test planned with the company Kinetic within the logistics organisation. Kinetic is an American player that developed similar technology for 'wearables' to support the body. This will be tested extensively at the Colruyt Group distribution centres.

Finally, in addition to this initiative, Colruyt takes a lot of other initiatives around ergonomics and health in the stores. Improvements in this area are sought daily, first and foremost by reducing physical load at the source as much as possible. On the other hand, this is done by introducing new resources that are supporting for the daily work, such as checkout work or stocking the shelves in the store.