System integrator Prodomax Automation Inc. needed to move beyond its relay-based safety control system. The hard-wired controls were slowing the company’s implementation of the manufacturing systems that it provides to Tier One auto suppliers. The
The automotive industry has long been a first-adopter of factory automation, so it isn’t surprising that Prodomax used emerging technology to solve its time-to-market problem. Ordinarily, Prodomax takes 40 weeks to configure a new automation system. The company turned to an Ethernet-connected safety solution from Rockwell Automation Inc., in
The decision immediately reduced the wiring required by the old relay-based system, and it also offered needed flexibility. In the past, a safety trip would shut down all 33 robots. The new system stops only the robots in the immediate vicinity of the interruption, allowing the unaffected robots to continue operating.
Prodomax had high hopes the new technology would produce significant productivity gains. “The final result matched the intended result,” says Dave Thompson, manager of the Design Controls Engineering Group at the company’s
The productivity gains from the new technology came in a number of areas. Prodomax cut five weeks off its 40-week implementation schedule. There was a 30 percent reduction in wiring, a 25-percent reduction in design and wiring time, a 20 percent reduction in overall labor costs and a 40 percent reduction in panel build time. That’s just the implementation savings. That doesn’t count the productivity gains its Tier One customer will experience.
New safety technology has gone global after years of development in
Prior to 2002, most
The problem is, adoption in the
As plants install smart safety technology, productivity gains are not a by-product. Productivity is the reason for adoption. Plants are implementing new safety technology to nab efficiencies. “Productivity is definitely the goal,” says Steve Freeman,director, Safety Systems Division, at Minneapolis-based vendor Sick Inc. “If you design the overall system to be safe and productive, you get a competitive advantage out of safety.”
Emerging factory safety technology was first developed in
corporate account executive at vendor Bosch Rexroth Corp., in
One area of immediate savings companies are taking is with installation costs. Plants are also taking savings by integrating safety with control. “Plants are saving time in installation and wiring,” says Skip Hansen, I/O Systems product manager at Beckhoff New Automation Technology, in
The 2002 change in
One of the most significant benefits from an Ethernet system with smart safety PLCs is that plants can grab diagnostic data from the safety network. “As far as productivity goes, if you have information coming back from safety devices, you can monitor what’s going on and replace things before they go down,” says Dave Collins, product manager for machine safeguarding products at Schneider Electric, an automation vendor with U.S. headquarters in Palatine, Ill. “That’s what people are looking for, solutions to avoid shutting down the line.”
Because safety can now be intertwined with the control systems, and because diagnostic data from the safety controllers can be collected and analyzed, plants can design their automation systems to incorporate safety technology. Safety no longer has to be an add-on separate from the production system. “Integrated safe motion technology flips the whole idea of how safety is integrated into the system,” says Sal Spada, research director for machine control and manufacturing processes at ARC Advisory Group Inc., in
What that means is that safety on machines can be individually programmed to account for safe motion. That alone reduces many of the nuisance trips from relay systems. Users can also get faster response from safety controllers, which is a side benefit. “You’re substituting software logic for electromechanical devices, and that’s really big,” says Spada. “Safe motion is not the end-all and be-all, but it’s definitely a big part of safety solutions going forward.”
With the added logical intelligence of software, safety can be programmed in to operate very efficiently. “There are more intelligent ways to stop the machine,” says Helmut Kirnstoetter, product management director at B&R Industrial Automation Corp., in
For more information, search keyword “safety” at www.automationworld.com.