A Holistic Approach to Safety Automation

It’s hard to imagine that some users of machinery still do only the bare minimum necessary to comply with safety standards and regulations.

Business Manager, Safety Business Architecture and Software Group, Rockwell Automation
Business Manager, Safety Business Architecture and Software Group, Rockwell Automation

Such companies not only fail to improve the safety of their operating environment, but also miss out on an opportunity to increase productivity, reduce downtime, and cut costs. Today, what’s needed is a truly holistic approach to safety automation, which includes everything from the design of the machinery to the education and training of operators, regular safety audits and assessments, and a corporate culture that puts safety first.

“At Rockwell Automation, we see safety as one of the automation paths a company must address to remain competitive,” says Lyle Masimore, business manager, safety business at Rockwell Automation. “Instead of designing machines and processes and then considering safety, we believe that safety should be dealt with as part of the overall automation strategy.”

By advising companies to think about safety upfront, Rockwell Automation helps their customers take advantage of information from the safety equipment and incorporate that data into the design of automation systems. “By taking a holistic approach, we give companies the opportunity to accommodate all of the workplace paths in a proactive, safe manner,” says Masimore.

To facilitate a holistic approach to safety automation in all types of manufacturing environments, Rockwell Automation offers customers a large portfolio of equipment for safeguarding both machines and processes safely. As a broad-line supplier of safety-related products, Rockwell Automation can accommodate a myriad of different customer requirements. “It’s important to look closely at the automation system and determine the best approach instead of saying, ‘Well, let's design the machine and figure out how to make it safer,'” says Masimore. “We help the customer select the best safety product for the task.”

Rockwell Automation makes a wide variety of presence sensing technologies such as light curtains, switches, safety masks, and products that detect the presence of people. Rockwell Automation also makes programmable logic controllers (PLCs)—independently certified by third parties for use in safety applications—that are designed with a high level of redundancy and higher diagnostic coverage for safety. Further, Rockwell is a leading supplier of actuators, motor starters, and AC servo drives—all essential safety components.

Rockwell Automation also plays a key role in the development of international standards. Rockwell Automation’s involvement has led to the development of standards that allow more intelligent products to be used in safety equipment. “We have been heavily involved in the creation of standards,” says Masimore. “Because of our participation, we have a deep understanding of plant-floor automation requirements, and we have developed products to match those standards.”

Rockwell Automation doesn’t just supply manufacturers with a wide range of safety products. Products are only the beginning of the Rockwell Automation commitment to providing manufacturers with a holistic approach to their safety automation requirements. Masimore explains, “Companies that are automating equipment want more throughput, faster machines, and better diagnostic data, and we understand these things because we are automation experts.”

Because of the Rockwell Automation expertise, the company is uniquely positioned to help manufacturers take a proactive approach to the implementation of safety automation. “When companies begin to approach safety from a holistic standpoint, they need to think about what they are trying to accomplish from a safety and automation perspective. We help companies integrate safety systems into work processes. At the same time, we help make machinery more productive. Rockwell Automation Safety Services helps companies identify and understand safety standards and match the products and technologies available to help them cost-effectively meet their requirements. Our Safety Services team starts by doing a hazard analysis and assessment of equipment to determine what hazards currently exist. These risk assessments are the starting point that allow companies to determine how best to mitigate risk and maximize opportunities for productivity.”  (See “Rockwell Automation Makes Risk Assessment Pay” article.)

Today, the indirect costs tied to a safety incident are too large to ignore. Manufacturers determined to remain competitive must re-examine their safety systems and question who they are working with to provide quality safety products. “In the past, some companies viewed safety as an additional cost,” Masimore concludes. “Today, automation is becoming more critical because manufacturing is being done with fewer assets, which places greater emphasis on asset utilization. Every machine becomes more critical because of its effect downstream. Keeping the machine running and not having any incidents that could interrupt the supply chain has become a major concern. By taking a holistic approach to safety, manufacturers can avoid costly downtime, while vastly improving plant performance.”

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