By Mike Wagner, global OEM business manager, Rockwell Automation
Automatic adjustments to improve uptime. Laser arrays to scan for operators. Servo technology to changeover equipment on the fly. New technologies are removing physical interaction from the automation equation. It’s the next generation of machine safety solutions.
But not so fast. Machines don’t yet independently strive for safety. Food and beverage packaging is about folding, cutting, pressing and moving in a fast-paced environment. Conveyors alone are involved in 30% of all machinery accidents.
There’s no doubt that equipment in these facilities is dangerous — and one of the highest risk zones in a plant. If a machine is big enough to form a carton, chances are it can take a finger with it.
In a perfect world, all food and beverage plants would be equipped with smart machines and adequate guarding. But companies are still working to build and maintain safer facilities. Operators still engage with machines manually and work with semiautomatic equipment.
Areas for Improvement
General safety solutions might not work with the specific and individual setup of your plant. Instead, each production area needs a risk assessment, confirmation that safety standards are being met, and solutions tailored to the equipment and the process. This doesn’t have to take an eternity or cost a fortune, because software is available to walk you through an automated risk assessment.
PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, also works to develop risk assessments and safety standards for North America. Their work describes the hazards and the solutions required to make a plant safe.
Don’t let these common concerns hinder implementation: