'Ergo Chair' Gives Traverse Best Seat in the House
LANSING, MI--May 13, 2014: Chevrolet Traverse customers list its family-friendly third-row seat as one of their favorite features – and it’s a reason the midsize SUV was named by Kelley Blue Book as one of KBB.com’s 12 Best Family Cars of 2014.
The third row can comfortably accommodate three adult passengers with their own safety systems, infotainment, lights, climate control and even coat hooks. Making it so required some unique manufacturing innovation – a new assembly technology to deliver workers, tools and parts to the rear of the vehicle to install wiring harnesses, air bag connectors and brackets.
Working with a custom equipment supplier, manufacturing engineers developed the “Ergo Chair,” a groundbreaking ergonomic device built to GM’s specifications that carries a team member to each operation necessary for their vehicle assembly responsibilities in the rear of the vehicle.
“Our goal was to get the operator in and out of the vehicle in the safest and most ergonomic fashion to allow them to do the high amount of overhead and rear work required,” said Ergo Chair design team lead Dave Bentoski, a GM manufacturing systems engineer.
Moving with the precision of a ballet dancer, the chair sweeps the assembly worker into the vehicle on a high-tech pivoting seat driven by a robotic arm and controlled by their body motions. The worker is placed at just the right height for the job to be performed.
The Ergo Chair carries the correct parts and tools with the team member to each operation, entering through the side door and extending down the length of the vehicle. Gone are the days of workers crawling through the vehicle or reaching in through window or liftgate openings to install critical components.
“To build a vehicle successfully, you need a great product and a great process, but at the heart of that process are the people, and the care they put into each and every vehicle,” said Tony Francavilla, Lansing Regional plant manager. “Having the Ergo Chair put our employee with the parts and tools at the optimal position for each operation, improves both vehicle quality and worker health and safety.”
That attention to detail is noticed by Traverse owners like Ande Noktes, a mother of three and an educator in Atlanta, who values the third row of seats and, alternatively, the 24.4 cubic feet (691 liters) of cargo room.
“I realized just how much I love the third row one day when I chaperoned a field trip at school one morning, transporting six students and a teacher, then, just hours later, quickly and easily flipped the seats down to pack in 10 suitcases and five people for a drive to the airport,” she said. “On my way home, I picked up 40 bags of mulch for a garden project, and then flipped the seats back up minutes later to pick up the kids and a couple of friends from school. The third row is an indispensable part of my life!”
GM is believed to be the first automaker to use ergonomic robotic chairs to help its workers safely and reliably assemble today’s increasingly complex vehicle interiors. GM installed three Ergo Chairs at Lansing Delta Township and added them to the Spring Hill Assembly line in Tennessee. The chair is being evaluated for applications in other manufacturing and assembly environments.
“Many of the innovations that make the Traverse such a great family vehicle, are easy to see,” said Betsy Flegg, marketing manager, Crossovers. “What’s harder to see is the manufacturing innovation that went into making those seats possible, thanks to the creativity and hard work of the men and women in our General Motors assembly plants.”