Safety data strengthens The Connected Enterprise

Visualizing and contextualizing safety data can have a positive impact on productivity and compliance.

By Dave Perkon

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"Information is one thing, but safety information is quite another," says George Schuster. He should know. He’s charged with business development for the Global Safety Team of Rockwell Automation and has seen many plants and factories begin to use safety data in new and innovative ways.

"The interesting thing for me as a safety guy is the use of safety KPIs and analysis to highlight employee behavior, use and sometimes misuse of safety systems. Safety data is also used by EHS (environmental, health & safety), production engineering and IT people. These folks don't normally hang out together," Schuster explained, as we began a tour of the Safety Solutions exhibit at Automation Fair 2016.

These are new operations teams using new tools to look at the safety information.

"A typical operations team may be looking at a machine to check part counts, uptime and downtime," added Dave Krieger, information software regional manager, Rockwell Automation. "A lot of times they are looking for root cause. It could be the operator stopped it, a mechanical fault or someone broke a light curtain. Now you can take the overall performance information and add safety information, which gives the team another tool to determine the root cause of unplanned downtime."

Real-time safety metrics

Rockwell Automation has some new tools to help understand the causes of downtime related to safety, and operations teams can start to investigate incidents in context. For example, if an emergency stop button is pressed on a machine, a popup displays on a FactoryTalk View SE application asking the operator to select the cause from a list. This provides consistent, detailed reasons to assist finding the root causes of downtime.

"So using FactoryTalk Metrics, I integrated standard OEE data collection as part of the measurement of the machine performance, but then I also created a new set of categories associated with the safety function of the machine," said Krieger. "This gives an operations or EHS person more information to investigate, helps with auditing things such as stop times, and helps automate the reporting process. The valuable safety information that was just displayed at the machine is now making it to a connected database for analysis."

Much of the safety data is already available in the machine, so collecting it and putting it into an analytical tool package, using The Connected Enterprise, won't slow down the controller. "With FactoryTalk View SE we can see safety status, and we contextualize the safety information using the reports from FactoryTalk Metrics," said Schuster. "It's something that when we sit down with an OEM, they realize the value, and they can pass that on to their customer as part of the features in their machine. It makes a smarter machine."

Safety performance vs. design intent

In the Safety Solutions exhibit at Automation Fair, a typical use case for the safety data was featured on OEM equipment from Bevcorp, a supplier of filling and blending equipment and services for the beverage industry (and the winner of a 2014 Manufacturing Safety Excellence Award).

“The machine provides a use case for safety data,” Schuster explained. “When you do a risk assessment on a machine concept, you get a design intent for access to the machine. For example, what does the guy do when he opens the guard door; how often does he do it; and how long does that task take? These are all analytics learned by analyzing the tasks and hazards when performing a risk assessment.

“The data forms the design intent and the baseline analytics for the machine," said Schuster. "If the gate is accessed five times per shift, The Connected Enterprise will collect the data, analyze it in a historical way and compare that data to the design intent.

“If frequency of access is 20 times per shift, that's a red flag. Is the operator using the guard door for some other purpose than the design intent, possibly increasing operator risk or causing a compliance issue? On the other hand, zero access frequency may indicate the guard is bypassed. The safety information can be compared across different operators, shifts and lines, and even different plants."

Safety information in The Connected Enterprise enables such leading indicators of safety and compliance—information is available while it's happening instead of the next day.

These new tools enable monitoring of the machine with graphic visualization, in real time, and at the same time viewing the history in safety-related reports. It's just one of many parts of The Connected Enterprise.

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