What's Your Company's Safety Maturity Index?

New Tool Helps Companies Benchmark Against Best Practices, and Set a Roadmap for the Future

By Joe Feeley

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Read Also: A New Benchmark for Process Safety

An SMI 3-level company views cost avoidance as its key driver. Such companies consider safety a high priority, but not necessarily a true value. Most safety incidents are reported properly, but some might be discovered after the fact. Compliance processes are established, but might be applied inconsistently. Safeguarding technologies are a supplement to the standard control system. Safety is the goal, not operational excellence. Eitzman said 23% of the responding companies find themselves here.

Operational excellence is, in fact, the key driver for companies in the top SMI 4-level. "These companies are implementing around 90% of what we deemed as essential to safe manufacturing," Eitzman said. "That compares to less than 50% for the SMI 1-level companies."

At the SMI-4 level safety is considered vital to the health of the business and its employees. Safety is an inherent value, and everyone is held accountable and willingly accepts responsibility for themselves and the safety of their coworkers. Compliance processes are clearly defined, and even suppliers must live up to required safety standards. The company conducts thorough risk assessments, follows the Functional Safety Life Cycle, and uses advanced safety technologies to improve worker safety and OEE. "At this stage of the journey," Eitzman said, "about 15% of the responding companies are in this top category."

The ratings came as a result of a lot of discussion with customers and through our Safety Automation Forum that shared best practices, Eitzman added. "This helped customers and other companies benchmark themselves against definitions or other companies."

The best-performing companies don't overemphasize statistics. Eitzman noted that incident statistics are lagging indicators and recalled Georgia-Pacific Director of Safety Bill Hilton's remarks at a recent Safety Automation Forum that "A historical lack of accidents does not imply a current presence of safety. It simply means you've been faster than the machine."

Eitzman remarked that today's processes and machines are going faster and are more sophisticated than ever. Combine that with a workforce that is becoming less-experienced over time, and we're in a collaborative environment of people and machines, and it's the dynamics of that interaction where safety has to come in, he said.

"So," Eitzman added, "the SMI can help point companies in the right direction when they say, ‘I get it. Safety has to be my barometer of manufacturing excellence, but where do I start?' "

Collaboration Is Crucial

As an additional challenge, the knowledge necessary to improve each of the safety pillars often resides in disparate functional areas. Ludwig pointed to a finding of critical need for the collaboration between engineering and environmental, health and safety (EH&S) functions. "In most companies EH&S is responsible for safety culture and the company-wide compliance policies and procedures," he noted. "Engineering is responsible for the safety technology in machinery and the engineering procedures and developing standards and doing safety assessments. They often don't talk, but communicating and collaborating across functional groups is essential for a comprehensive approach to safety."

Considering the importance of this, "Good collaboration can lead them to advanced remediation technology and techniques, and they'll both realize they don't have to compromise their goals and objectives," Eitzman added. "In companies where the safety culture is high, but maturity is low, they are willing to sacrifice productivity to achieve safety goals. Companies are missing the mark if they have a high safety culture and high compliance, but the capital element is low, and they are using, for example, lock-out/ tag-out energy isolation that, perhaps unnecessarily, stops an entire process or machine. Two out of three can be good in some instances, but this isn't one of them."

With the launch of the online SMI assessment tool at Automation Fair, attendees can answer questions about their culture, compliance and capital, and based on their responses to about 25 multiple-choice questions generate scores in the three Cs, and a cumulative score and to help create their roadmap.

"The responder might typically be the company's EH&S person, who probably can do an accurate assessment of the culture and compliance steps, but might have to collaborate with engineering to accurately assess the technology (capital)," Eitzman said. "That's sort of a built-in encouragement toward collaboration."

The companies using the SMI assessment tool will be able to compare themselves to others by industry, region, company size and other characteristics.

This tool is different, Ludwig and Eitzman said. It will help companies that have good initiatives under way in culture and compliance appreciate that the technology pillar is vital. "Perhaps they didn't realize they could improve OEE and not have to sacrifice performance or compromise on safety. In fact, the best companies have moved beyond incident rates as their primary driver and measure themselves on OEE, because they know they're already doing everything they can, short of a better use of technology, to enhance a safety culture."

Company experts are available to demonstrate and discuss SMI with Automation Fair attendees in Booth 401 on the exhibit hall floor, or you can visit www.rockwellautomation.com/products-technologies/safety-technology/safety-maturity.page.






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