PLANT

Maintain social distance on the plant floor

Small wearable device sends alert when proximity is too close.

April 27, 2020   by PLANT STAFF

The Social Distancer. PHOTO: SOCIAL DISTANCER TECHNOLOGIES

MONTREAL — Many manufacturers deemed essential and continuing to operate through the COVID-19 state of emergency are challenged by social distancing requirements. In some plant environments, maintaining that two-metre space can be difficult. Even after the pandemic, social distancing in plants and other industrial workspaces may become a thing.

One thing positive from the pandemic is the creative responses from manufacturers. This spirit of innovation has brought together two Quebec companies and three senior executives to combine their expertise and co-found a company to produce a device that addresses the safe space issue.

Jarred Knecht, president of Promark Electronics Inc., John Soares, vice-president and Steve Zimmermann, president and CEO of CMP Advanced Mechanical Solutions, have formed Social Distancer Technologies Inc. Zimmermann is the president and CEO of the new company. Promark and CMP Advanced Mechanical combined operate 500,000 square-feet of manufacturing in both Canada and the US with more than 800 employees. Watching their own employees navigate these issues led to this collective developing a wearable alert called the Social Distancer.

The credit card sized, patent-pending device instantly calculates the distance between employees and generates a visual, vibration and tone alert when employees are too close.

“Most workers have to interact collaboratively with one another at some point in their day, and it can be difficult to maintain physical distancing practices. The Social Distancer was developed as an easy solution for workers to continue their projects while maintaining proper safety standards during COVID-19,” said Knecht, COO of the new company.

The development of the Social Distancer came together from concept to pre-production in four-weeks thanks to a cross-functional design team of 14 people that included hardware, software and mechanical engineers.

“The COVID-19 landscape is something new to all of us. We brought together our experts, with advisory support and research and development funding from NRC IRAP, to help our employees not only stay safe, but also be able to work freely and comfortably,” said Soares, vice-president of Social Distancer Technologies. “With the Social Distancer, employees can go on with their workday without the need for any awkward conversations, unexpected proximity issues, or discrepancy about what exactly six feet is.”

The executives said the device will be manufactured by various Canadian partner companies and initially sold in Canada, the US and Mexico. Eventually it will roll out through global channel partners.

The $199 unit lasts 10-12 hours on a single charge. A portion of the proceeds from every device sold will go to a COVID-19 relief fund in the country where the product is sold.

The new company is taking orders. Production is underway and first order fulfillment was set for the last week in May.

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