A hot topic at Rockwell Automation's Automation Fair in Philadelphia this week and leading up to it has been safety—not only the need to build safer machines to protect workers and machinery, but also the value proposition that safety brings.
Though more can be done to make safety a higher priority everywhere around the world, the industry has come a long way with regard to making safety less of an afterthought. "Probably one of the most prolific trends we've seen is the move from putting a wrapper around the machine to integrating safety right into the machine," said Christopher Zei, vice president of Rockwell Automation's global industry group, today during a morning forum for global machine and equipment builders.
New tools for OEMs can ease the design and layout of safety systems, helping machine builders reduce engineering design times by more than 50%, according to Chris Brogli, global business development manager for safety at Rockwell Automation. Brogli showed off some of Rockwell Automation's latest safety offerings in the Safety Solutions booth at Automation Fair, including solutions for machine safety, process safety and electrical safety.
Consider Safety Early in Design
In large part, the booth was geared toward helping machine builders and users gain a better understanding of the importance of integrating safety early in the process. "Traditionally, machine builders do a risk assessment, select safety products and throw them on the machine," Brogli said. "But designers need to spend more time writing functional safety requirements."
Brogli showed a safety lifecycle chart on which risk assessment is the first step, followed by functional safety system requirements. Too often, people will skip step 2, however, moving directly on to design, Brogli said.
"We do No. 1 and 2 almost simultaneously," said Dan Pienta, president of machine builder Automatic Handling International, who was visiting the Safety Solutions booth. Pienta spoke on Tuesday at the Safety Automation Forum about his company's move to integrated safety with Rockwell Automation. "We see what we need for what function; then we decide how we want to react when an operator goes in."
Step 3 is design and verification, step 4 is installation and validation, step 5 is maintain and improve—and then it cycles back around to step 1 any time changes are made to the machine. "A lot of people don't do the validation and verification, but it's just as important as the design," Brogli said.