2 September 2020

Smith+Nephew partners with Tharsus to inform workplace social-distancing strategy


Tharsus, one of the UK’s most advanced robotics companies, today announces positive preliminary results of a partnership with Smith+Nephew, the global medical technology business, to pilot its innovative Bump social-distancing system. Founded in Blyth and Hull respectively, the collaboration between two businesses in the North of England highlights the role technology can play in getting people back to work safely.

Launched by Tharsus at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bump is a cutting-edge system specifically designed to improve workplace safety and use anonymous employee data to inform effective social-distancing behaviour. Bump also helps businesses identify where employees are unable to effectively social distance in the workplace, empowering them to make decisions in real-time to reduce risk of Coronavirus transmission in a range of environments.

The Bump technology comprises of wearable and static devices that use sophisticated Radio Frequency (RF) technology to create a Personal Motion System that immediately alerts wearers when they are getting too close to another person.

Taking place across several working environments at Smith+Nephew’s Hull facility – laboratories, the manufacturing floor, warehouses and offices – the pilot has provided data-led insights that have informed the company’s workplace configuration, as staff members adjust to working under Covid-safe conditions. After three weeks of observing employee behaviours and collecting anonymous wearer data, Smith+Nephew has implemented a number of changes to facilitate more effective social distancing across its site.

From wearers in laboratories re-positioning the layout of equipment, to adding an additional break area to avoid employee congestion in the warehouse, the insights generated by Bump have informed Smith+Nephew’s decision-making as it aims to ensure a safer workplace for employees and reduce the risk of Coronavirus transmission. Results indicate that the average interaction time between employees that accidently encroach the recommended distance is 0.8 seconds, showing that wearers are immediately reacting to the device’s warnings.

As UK businesses start opening up their workplaces, Tharsus hopes that Bump will enable them to allow staff back into the physical work environment safely, improve decision-making, and minimise aerosol transmission. Trials are currently underway with a number of other partner organisations in addition to Smith+Nephew.

Tharsus is one of the UK’s smartest robotics companies and has a long track record of delivering progressive, robust and innovative technology solutions for companies such as DHL, Ocado, Rolls Royce, Automata and Small Robot Co.

Brian Palmer, CEO of Tharsus, said: “Now that workplaces are opening up to employees, the onus will be on businesses to ensure they are calibrated in a way that reduces risk to staff. Many lockdown restrictions may have begun to ease, but social distancing remains one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is not always easy in closed environments.

“Business leaders have a responsibility for staff safety, which can be particulary difficult to manage for those co-ordinating multiple types of workspace. By working with partners like Smith+Nephew to trial Bump, not only do they benefit from data that can help them make better decisions on workplace configuration, but we receive feedback that allows us to further improve the system itself.

“The post-lockdown workplace will place new requirements on businesses; valuable trials like these can help them adapt by illuminating potential social distancing pitfalls and ensuring the appropriate changes can be made based on robust data.”

Mike Buckle, Director – Operations Strategy & Transformation, Wound, Smith+Nephew, said: “The health and safety of our employees has been a priority throughout this crisis. The Bump system is proving its value in validating the measures we have put in place, helping us refine and improve in other areas, and giving employees direct real-time feedback to help them ensure they are safely social distancing.”


About Tharsus

Tharsus is a designer and manufacturer of game-changing autonomous solutions. We call them Strategic Machines.

Strategic Machines use a combination of technologies to tackle steep automation challenges, solve tough business problems and drive real ‘strategic’ impact for our customers, helping them to gain competitive advantage in the automation age.

Tharsus has delivered robust and progressive automation solutions for some of the best businesses around the world, including Automata, DHL, Ocado, Rolls Royce and Small Robot Co.

Our collaboration with international experts from industry and academia ensures best use of existing and emerging technology. Our state-of-the-art operations mean we can develop and deliver game-changing solutions at scale.

‘Do the right thing’ is our mantra. It drives everything we do and how we do it, for our colleagues, partners, suppliers and community. 

Tharsus is based in Blyth, Northumberland, the UK’s emerging powerhouse of advanced manufacturing. We are the UK National Chambers of Commerce ‘Employer of the Year’.  Industry recognition includes The Sunday Times Tech Track 100 list of the UK’s most exciting technology businesses and several category wins in The Manufacturer MX Awards.

About Smith+Nephew

Smith+Nephew is a portfolio medical technology business that exists to restore people’s bodies and their self-belief by using technology to take the limits off living. We call this purpose ‘Life Unlimited’. Our 17,500+ employees deliver this mission every day, making a difference to patients’ lives through the excellence of our product portfolio, and the invention and application of new technologies across our three global franchises of Orthopaedics, Advanced Wound Management and Sports Medicine & ENT.

Founded in Hull, UK, in 1856, we now operate in more than 100 countries, and generated annual sales of $5.1 billion in 2019. Smith+Nephew is a constituent of the FTSE100 (LSE:SN, NYSE:SNN). The terms ‘Group’ and ‘Smith+Nephew’ are used to refer to Smith & Nephew plc and its consolidated subsidiaries, unless the context requires otherwise.

For more information about Smith+Nephew, please visit www.smith-nephew.com and follow us on TwitterLinkedInInstagram or Facebook.