New Wave of Machine Safety

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 @ 01:11 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
The days of simply shutting down a process in the name of safety is quickly going the way of the fax machine. Yes, you need to be able to do it, but there are better more productive ways.
“We need to be able to keep people safe and also improve productivity,” said Dan Hornbeck, manager safety business development in the Automation Control and Information Group at Rockwell Automation during Automation Fair Wednesday.
“Manufacturers ask, ‘how do I conform to global standards? How do I protect my people and how do I make a competitive machine anywhere in the world?’ “Hornbeck said.
“We are getting away from the thinking of safety is shutting down a machine, but something that keeps machines up and productive,” he said. “New technologies can improve efficiencies. You also want to provide a system that is secure. If it is not secure, it is not safe.”
The costs and energy usage involving shutting down systems, can be high, so Hornbeck said users want to ensure a safe operating environment, but at the same time reduce costs and energy usage.
“Putting machines in a safe state and not shutting it down completely and then having to start it back up again to start producing product is much more efficient,” Hornbeck said.
Safe motion capability is being able to detect an upset and then determining if the machine should stop, slow down or even speed up. The old motion safety was to completely shut down the system, Hornbeck said.
“With safe speed you can remain powered up, but running in a safe speed, either slow or just the machine running in an idled state,” he said.
Again, Hornbeck said, it is all about keeping workers safe and increasing productivity. End users want to know, “how do I implement a safe system for my employees, but also produce more parts.”
“We have seen situations where (users) were under pressure to produce more product and safety become an afterthought and it ends up not being safe,” Hornbeck said.
When it comes to safety, Hornbeck repeated a constant theme from Rockwell, “if you don’t have a secure systems, you don’t have a safe system.”
Security, he said, sometimes brings in the element of fear for manufacturers. Sometimes what you don’t know can cause a certain level of anxiety and trepidation.
“People should not be afraid,” Hornbeck said. “They should be informed and educated.”

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