The adoption of key technologies is an essential part of a smart manufacturing approach. This includes using the IoT, an ever-growing proliferation of connected “smart” devices, to improve understanding of quality, efficiency, security, and safety. It also includes the strategic use of cloud computing, mobility, and data analytics.
While most industrial firms are not yet prepared to deploy smart manufacturing technologies, they clearly see opportunities for using them. One area that has not been explored in depth is that of security and safety.
Being part of a Connected Enterprise enables safety professionals to access data that already exists in contemporary safety technologies and systems. More importantly, they can use the data to significantly improve safety compliance and performance in their organization.
Here are just a few safety benefits to consider that come with being part of a Connected Safety Enterprise.
Enhanced Safety Performance: Safety professionals can use real-time data and connectivity to improve safety performance in many ways. The ability to deliver information to workers in more convenient ways using mobile or wireless technology can help improve ergonomics or reduce the strains put on an aging workforce.
In some instances, network connectivity could be a company’s last or only link to their employees. Wearable sensors, for example, could be used to locate workers during emergencies in underground mines or other hard-to-reach places. Voice, video, and display technologies also could help companies monitor and communicate with workers following a safety incident.
Monitor Worker Behaviors: Safety-system data can help identify discrepancies between how policies and procedures are defined, and how workers actually follow them. It can similarly identify discrepancies between how safety technologies are designed and how workers actually use them.
In a Connected Enterprise, safety professionals can collect an E-stop activation’s timestamp and downtime duration, as well as the line and shift associated with each activation. They also can create stoppage-reason codes to identify why a machine was stopped, such as for jams, misfeeds, cleaning, machine breakdowns, injuries, or other reasons.
Ease of Compliance: Manually auditing safety data for compliance and reporting purposes can be a time-consuming process and subject to human error. Companies can speed up the auditing process by integrating their auditing functions into the operator interface and controller. In addition to saving time, this can free up personnel for other priorities and reduce the likelihood of manual data-collection errors. Since detected abnormalities can be annunciated in operator interface dashboards or reports, automated auditing can also help workers more quickly identify and address potential issues in their plants.
Rethinking Industrial Safety
In a Connected Enterprise, companies can do more than improve how they monitor and manage safety, they can create innately safer operations that better complement production.
The ability to access, analyze and act on safety-system data in a Connected Enterprise can help safety professionals rethink how safety is realized and set more aggressive improvement goals, much like what many of their counterparts on the production side are already doing today.