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Safety Is More Than an Add-On

Nov. 14, 2007
Rockwell Automation emphasizes safety.

The Safety Solution Tour at Rockwell Automation’s Automation Fair 2007 pulls together a total safety environment approach. “The high-level view of safety is what we’re emphasizing,” said Rockwell Automation safety market development manager Dan Hornbeck. “If you start from the beginning of the automation requirements and keep safety as a holistic part of the automation, integrating it will provide the best that you can get, in addition to providing a safe system.”

The tour encompasses 12 individual station panels with interactive product displays and a safety wall highlighting the overall product capabilities relative to the integration of safety and the breadth of Rockwell Automation’s safety products. Integration is demonstrated by a Delta robot using GuardLogix and other safety components. The backside of the safety wall offers an opportunity to discuss consulting capabilities and the ability to help with solution implementation.

Right Safety, Right Application

Most companies’ key drivers for safety include providing a safe workplace, as well as meeting global standards and application requirements, using contemporary technology, explained Hornbeck. “We’re all about using the right product for the right safety application.”

Visitors to the Automation Fair 2007 show floor interacted with a broad range of themed exhibits highlighting the latest solutions capabilities of Rockwell Automation.
One of the right products is the MSR57 speed monitoring safety relay, which was on demonstration in several different applications. “It shows how the machine can be slowed to a safe speed and that safe speed can be monitored,” said Hornbeck. “Our whole approach is to show customers that they can have a holistic approach to automation. Safety is a part of the overall automation strategy. It really shouldn’t be viewed as a separate discipline. Our customers have a chance to automate their environments safely.”

Hornbeck emphasized some customers’ need to justify safety from a business perspective. “Most of our customers don’t want to put a price on safety because they know they have a social responsibility to provide a safe place to work, and that’s a good thing,” explained Hornbeck. “But you can’t implement a solution that slows down productivity, so customers have the challenge of balancing. What we’re highlighting is the use of the technology that’s available today to provide a hand-in-glove application solution.”

Reducing Down Time

One of the key points of emphasis in Rockwell Automation’s safety approach is to create a safe environment by having quicker startup times and better diagnostics. “Safety for employees and productivity for the business are critical,” stressed Hornbeck. “Past approaches to safety were to stop the machine. The result was that people would bypass safety to keep the system running. A well-designed safety solution is integrated with the automation solution. It’s a matter of how quickly can you react and get the system back up and running.”

Sensaguard non-contact switches, using RFID technology for coding and inductive technology for sensing, provide diagnostic capabilities. “If you hook up those, they’ll say, ‘upstream’ or ‘downstream’ so they can find the problem and get it rectified,” said Hornbeck. “And Guard I/O (a remote I/O node for controlling and monitoring safety devices) has a lot of diagnostic information in there, in terms of which inputs or which outputs are in the safe state. It creates an optimized architecture.” Add in the MSR57 and “each one of those affects how long the system is in a safe state and how quickly you can resume production.”

Taking on Risk

Whether undertaken with internal resources or external ones, performing a risk assessment on any new project undertaking is highly recommended by Hornbeck. “We have a number of customers who will perform their own risk assessments. We have other customers who contract us and our consultants to help them on the first few, or others might bring us in to do risk assessments all the time because they want another set of eyes.”

The key is to understand the relationship and interaction of people, processes and technology. “It boils down to the safety lifecycle,” said Hornbeck. “The risk assessment is a walk-through with multi-disciplined employees who analyze the application.

“It’s a task-based assessment,” he continued. “Is there a potential for a pinch or a hazard here or there? If you can’t design it out, then maybe you can’t do anything except train the employees not to walk into an area.”

Finally, the integration of safety isn’t relegated to safety standards from country to country, Hornbeck added. “A lot of our customers, whether they are a manufacturer with facilities all over the world or a machine builder who provides machines all over the world, are looking for the integration and the ability to meet multinational standards,” he said. “They don’t want to implement different design solutions based on the country. The ability to meet global standards with a common design is what we can provide, and that’s really driving people right now.”

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