Myontec from Kuopio is best known for smart clothes to detect injury risk of pro athletes, but in recent years its technology has also begun to be used to improve work ergonomics. CEO Janne Pylväs talks about how smart textiles can improve occupational safety.
How can smart textiles improve work ergonomics and safety?
“We do a lot of service projects in Nordic countries to measure physical or static load at workplaces. For example, we can see how muscles are loaded at a particular stage of work. The purpose of the accumulated data is to reduce the workload and the resulting sick leaves. The smart garment is worn against the skin. The sensor collects a signal from the surface of the skin that goes to a data collector, i.e. an electronics module connected to the garment. We measure with smart clothing, analyze the results in our software and make suggestions for action.
For example, the smart belt, MBelt, as our new product measures the surface muscles of the lower back. The muscle activation signal is captured accurately identifying what and where the pain is. We provide objective data, while a doctor and a physiotherapist depend on observation and the patient's subjective experience."
Where such a measurement is useful?
“The work in the logistics, retail and healthcare sectors involves lot of lifting. Companies in the construction, agricultural, transport, wood processing and property management sectors in particular can also benefit from this.
What problems can smart clothes solve measuring muscles at the workplace?
“We started ergonomics measurements originally late 2018 at the initiative of pension insurance companies. The idea was to reduce musculoskeletal sick leaves and the number of disable pensions. Today, we also help companies, who develop their processes: how to develop them in an employee-centric way, whether to automate, what kind of tools are needed. We provide data to support decision making process and investments. We can even measure the load differences and impact of different work shoes or gloves. How many companies are purchasing well ergonomically designed cloves which can proven to reduce forearm load?
Sweden has a new regulation that regulates hand intensive work. We developed an smart sleeve, ErgoSleeve, which measures the arm muscles as well as the angles, rotations and repetitive movements of the wrist, shoulder and elbow. Customers use the smart sleeve independently to get an in-depth picture of how much repetition there is and what is the load for joints and muscles."
What kind of results come from your measurements?
"Of course, it is up to the customer to implement corrective improvements and actions or not, but there are companies that have reduced up to 30 percent of their sick leave expenses. In the case of large companies, we can talk about million savings."
What kind of research your technology is based on?
"Myontec technology has been used in about 70 scientific publications or articles. One of Myontec's founder is Veikko Louhevaara, who is Professor Emeritus of Ergonomics at the University of Eastern Finland. He was active in implementing our technology in the field of occupational health as well, but when we started in 2008, the market was not ready for it yet. After we started working with employment pension insurance companies, we had the technology, sensors and patents ready. ”
Original article was published in Finnish on Fablehti.fi which is a solution-focused business media published by the Finnish Textile & Fashion Association.