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Safety Forum for OEMs: A Frank Assessment of Machine Safety

Nov. 20, 2014
Bevcorp Shares Its Views on the Business Value of Integrated Safety for OEMs
About Mike Bacidore
Mike Bacidore is the editor in chief for Control Design magazine. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at 630-467-1300 ext. 444 or [email protected] or check out his .Meet Frank, a 30-year-old husband and father who worked at a beverage distributor. He woke up at 11:30 a.m. and joined his extended family for lunch at 1:00. Later in the afternoon, he played with his children, who begged him to stay home from work, so he could spend the evening with them playing games. Frank explained to his children that his job was what allowed them to have the nice life they led.

In the evening, he punched in for his shift right on time, as usual. He soon began his scheduled task of cleaning the filling equipment, picking out cans and sanitizing the machine with the guard open because it needed to run at a slow rotation for cleaning. It was chilly, so Frank wore a loose-fitting jacket. He noticed one last can. When he bent down to pick it up, he felt his jacket being pulled into the machine. The e-stop button was too far away to reach, and, in a matter of seconds, he was pulled through a 6-in space not designed for human passage. He would not be playing with his children any more.

"Perspective improves clarity when making decisions," said Eric Hendrickson, engineering manager, electrical and mechanical, at Bevcorp. Based in Willoughby, Ohio, Bevcorp makes rotary fillers and labeling machines for the beverage industry and was a winner in the Rockwell Automation 2014 Manufacturing Safety Excellence Awards.

Hendrickson related the tragedy of Frank and talked about his company's transition to enhancing machine value for improved business performance and profitability at today's Automation Fair Industry Forum on Safety for OEMs. "Safety can and does add value for both OEMs and end users," he said. "Some of the same struggles are shared by all OEMs."

"Safety can and does add value for both OEMs and end users." Bevcorp's Eric Hendrickson explained why safety is all about sending employees home to their families and a smart business investment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial fatalities have been on a downward trend from 1992 to 2012, explained Hendrickson. But the primary goal of a firm or organization is to maximize profit. Social responsibility, not to be confused with social obligation, is a business intention to do the right things and act in ways that are good for society. "Generally the primary goal and social responsibility are in conflict with each other, according to those definitions," said Hendrickson.

"Do compliant-safe machines provide value?" he asked. "Compliance alone won't necessarily add value. Compliance is the minimum. You have to understand the responsibility between the end user and the OEM, conduct effective risk assessments and use accepted methodologies. Acceptable risk is a grey area."

Bevcorp has used technology to create its own value-added safety solutions. "There's a system for maintaining the level of our bowl," explained Hendrickson. "Normally, that is a guard, and the operator has to stop the machine and do an adjustment and then close the door and engage the guard. They might have to do that multiple times in a shift. We've created a system where you can adjust the bowl level from the outside and save production time."

OEMs deal with a variety of challenges, said Hendrickson. "To mitigate variability in acceptable risk definition, we put language in proposals to protect Bevcorp and inform customers," he explained. "Safety produces value. There's often resistance due to production concerns, and there are often variations between plant and corporate decision makers. Plants are driven by production, so, when you go to them with a proposal, or they're asking for a machine, it won't be looked at financially the same way the corporate level would. A plant manager might not be as attuned to total cost of ownership, so we provide the proven value proposition, which might include the advantages of diagnostics."

Total cost of ownership includes design changes, installation, cleaning, maintenance and troubleshooting, operating efficiency, product changeovers, spare parts, legal fees, insurance premiums and "flexcraft" workers, explained Hendrickson.

In the past, industry, companies and people were making their own decisions on how to protect machines and workers, explained Hendrickson. But safety standards have evolved. "EN 954 came along, and we have redundant contactors," he said. "Then came EN ISO 13849 and IEC/EN 62061. Safety with innovation does add value. Integrated safety didn't exist a few years ago. Integrated safety reduces cost. For dedicated safety relays and network safety relays, they start out at a low total cost of ownership. Then came integrated safety PLCs and dedicated safety PLCs. In an integrated system, you only have to deal with one software package, so changes are easier. When machines running 1,500 products per minute are down, every minute saved is precious."

Hendrickson advised his fellow OEMs to embrace the standards. "But don't just look at it as a thing we have to do," he advised. "We're part of the industry that's developing them. Use the latest technology. Look at alternative solutions. Understand the payback. Exceed compliance and leverage sales and service."

For their efforts, OEMs will get lower frequency of accidents and more business growth, said Hendrickson. "Lastly, we drive innovation," he explained. "If we didn't innovate, we'd still be back in the relay days. We all need to learn from history. It's up to us. We owe it to Frank."

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