Production in the time of Social Distancing

Date Published: 08-04-2019

Life as we know it, has probably changed for good. We now live in the post-COVID-19 world and many of the norms and ‘same procedure as last year’ mentality we’ve always had, has been forever changed!

This will have an effect on us personally and within the work environment. How so? Well, a few months ago, had you asked anyone what social distancing was, you would most probably have gotten a blank stare…with perhaps some mumbling some sort of answer that probably wouldn’t have been anywhere close to what we know today.

Social distancing is officially now defined as:

Social distancing or physical distancing is a set of nonpharmaceutical infection control actions intended to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. The objective of social distancing is to reduce the probability of contact between persons carrying an infection, and others who are not infected, so as to minimize disease transmission, morbidity and ultimately, mortality. (Wikipedia)

This certainly has affected the behaviour in our personal lives as we now live in the COVID-19 world. Just think about how you acted the last time you went to the grocery store to pick up some additional supplies. It’s quite possible, that without even knowing it, you kept a good distance between yourself and the next person in the queue or even in the aisle. Yes, social distancing has now become an ingrained behaviour! More than that, it is now law!

How do we implement these same behaviours, for our own safety and those of our fellow staff, within the production environment though? At first, it may seem like a difficult question. How can two staff members who used to work hand-in-glove to perform a certain activity still perform that same task in a safe and efficient manner? That’s where need to recall that, living as we do in the 21st century, we can and should throw some of our many technological advances at the problem!

How can two staff members who used to work hand-in-glove to perform a certain activity still perform that same task in a safe and efficient manner?

S4, a born and bred South African company has been at the forefront of providing such advances to industry for over 25 years in the form of industrial automation! Their combination of mechanical, electrical and software engineers allows them to provide off-the-shelf options as well as fully customised solutions to meet the demands of your shop-floor in the time of social distancing.

So, how can social distancing and effective health and safety be accomplished exactly by automation? This can actually be achieved by a number of methods, including:


Often a very cost effective manner of transferring items from one area to the next, without the threat cross contamination, either of the product itself, or of your staff! S4 have done scores of successful conveyor lines for a number of industries. No size is too small, none too large! Conveyors are certainly an option to free up your staff, allow your products to effectively and efficiently be moved from point A to point B.


Taking technology to the next level, as well as providing your shop-floor logistics network to work seamlessly with any existing systems, allowing JIT manufacturing within your own plant, ensuring your manufacturing lines are always well stocked, AGV’s or Automated Guided Vehicles are the promise of tomorrow’s technology already delivered today!

S4 offers a number of different AGV brands and solutions that will be able to free up your staff, as well as allowing them to adhere to social distancing standards by allowing the AGV’s to do the plant wide logistics!

S4 offers a number of different AGV brands and solutions that will allow your staff to adhere to social distancing measures

Material Handling Equipment:

What happens when the items we routinely handle on the shop-floor become too heavy for one person to handle? In the past, we may have thrown two or three operators at the problem. In our current pandemic situation though, that approach is not viable or economical.

That’s where some of the world class off-the-shelf material handling equipment S4 have on offer can come in handy.

From light to heavy payloads, S4 have you covered by a variety of options including:

  • Indeva Material Handling Equipment
  • 3Arm Tool Handlers
  • Customized material handling options.

Contact S4 with your specific requirements to allow us to show you our off-the-shelf options or allow our design team to cater to your unique needs.

Pick and Place Systems:

In the ever increasingly competitive manufacturing environment, moving work pieces from one station to the next can be a challenge. Added to the difficulty this presents most manufacturing facilities, we now need to factor into the equation social distancing. The effective deployment of pick and place systems can manage this challenge through automation, while eliminating staff congestion to keep your shop-floor a safe and hygienic environment.

Walking Beam Transfers:

Another way in which eliminate the bunching up of staff around production lines is the introduction of walking-beam-transfers. This allows your product to progress down the production line, from process to process without human interaction necessary, as a single ‘walking-beam’ transfers them from operation to operation.

S4 have built a number of different walking-beam-transfers, using traditional methods, as well as a number of unique options specifically requested by customers and designed and built in-house.

Eliminate the grouping up of staff around production lines with the introduction of a walking-beam transfer system.

Automated Storage / Retrieval Systems:

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems are comprised of several computer-controlled elements and are used in warehouses where there is a large number of loads being moved in and out of storage regularly. An automated storage and retrieval system will be beneficial to you if you have space constraints for storage, there is no processing involved, storage accuracy is crucial, or even to prevent potential damages to products…and in 2020, this can be seen as the most effective way to store and retrieve items while adhering to social distancing laws.

In addition, the benefits of installing an ASRS far outweigh the costs, as an efficiently configured system will improve the organization of your warehouse, subsequently allowing for additional storage space within your warehouse. Furthermore, the automation of your warehouse will reduce labour costs and increase safety by lowering workforce requirements.

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