Use Operational Data and Connectivity to Build Smarter Safety

Smart Safety in The Connected Enterprise

In The Connected Enterprise, smarter and more responsive machines and equipment help enable transformation of monitoring and managing safety.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is revolutionizing manufacturing.

Once composed solely of mechanical and electrical parts, machines and equipment have become complex systems made by improvements in processing power and device miniaturization.

Those smart and connected machines are information enabled and they allow manufacturers to better leverage an important asset — their own real-time data.

The emergence of smart machines and equipment is transforming how manufacturing and industrial organizations operate. They provide unprecedented access to data that has long been trapped. This data can be collected, logged and analyzed to help workers make better business decisions.

When connected via an open and standard network architecture, such as EtherNet/IP™, they provide greater connectivity. This enables real-time collaboration and seamless data sharing across all levels of an organization’s enterprise.

And since real-time data can be turned into actionable information, manufacturers are not only given the status, but the condition of the machines, hence they can better understand their operational performance and ultimately help optimize the manufacturing process.

More Than Just Being Connected

In the era of smart manufacturing, with greater requirements for production and machine information comes the need for industrial grade smart devices.

But just because the devices have a network connection, does not mean they are “smart.” It is a combination of intelligence, value, and ease of use that make a smart device a better choice for industrial manufacturers than a conventional one.

Smart devices are created to make intelligent decisions and to offer value to the user. They have the ability to connect manufacturers with data that can show insights into the operation process and provide predictive as well as preventive analytics based on the data.

When there are so many devices and parts within a plant, they must be easy to use. Machine operators and engineers can expect the smart devices to be easy to handle and function with minimal or no maintenance; and in case an upgrade is required on a device, it can be as smooth as possible.

Also, they can be easily integrated into an automation control system and network, providing a more simplified way for engineers to design the machines.

Safety Matters

Today, best-in-class companies view safety as a key element in their pursuit of operational excellence. Researchers found that these companies have seen operational improvements resulting from the use of advanced safety technology.

Enabled by the IIoT, smart devices with better communication capability are providing real-time data — from the component to the enterprise level, which can be converted into information-enabled management tools. However, what effect will it have on machine safety, and more importantly, how can safety systems contribute to this new paradigm?

Through industrial communication protocols and Ethernet networking capabilities, safety is now a much more integral part of modern manufacturing control solutions and effectively coexists on the same network used by the automation, process and motion control architectures.

Indeed, holistic safety practices, including those that incorporate tighter integration with existing control architectures, regularly demonstrate a positive effect on the bottom line and play a huge role in the general wellbeing of the plant, the machines and the employees who operate them.

Safety Data in Hand

Actionable manufacturing data on machine performance normally is made up of factors such as speed and throughput, with safety systems traditionally delivering stop/go or safe/unsafe signals.

But with smart safety devices, it is more than just seeing on or off status and the delivery of intelligence, based on usage, life, degradation and performance drops.

Smart safety devices and their associated data sets have the ability to become a key element of this revolution thanks to their ability to share operational data that is outside the bounds of that already being collected.

Using this information, safety professionals can improve how they approach safety by using safety-system data and the greater connectivity available within a Connected Enterprise.

Monitor Worker Behaviors

Safety system data can help identify discrepancies between how policies and procedures are defined and how workers actually follow them. Similarly, it can identify discrepancies between how safety technologies are designed and how workers actually use them.

Workers may be misusing an emergency stop (e-stop), for example, to clear jams or stop production at the end of a cycle. This misuse can lead to increased scrap and longer machine start-up times, resulting in a production loss.

In a Connected Enterprise, safety professionals can collect an e-stop’s activation time stamp 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 or other reasons.

They then can analyze this data in their existing metrics and alarms and events software to determine whether e-stops are being used at an abnormally high rate. Or they might discover that higher activation rates are associated with specific production lines or shifts.

With these findings, safety professionals can take whatever correction action is needed, whether it is providing additional training, revising standard operating procedures or updating a machine design.

This same information may point to potential improvements in procedures or process, resulting in a “best practice” that could be adopted as a standard operating procedure.

Enhance Safety Performance

Safety professionals can use real-time data and connectivity to help improve safety performance in many ways.

For example, employees who work with hazardous materials or in harsh conditions can use real-time data to monitor and track potentially dangerous environmental conditions or manufacturing process states.

In addition, the ability to deliver information to workers through mobile or wireless technology can help improve ergonomics or reduce the strains put on an aging workforce.

Remote monitoring of isolated or dispersed operations also can help reduce the need for workers to travel between sites, such as to check on wellheads, pump stations and storage sites in the oil and gas industry.

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.

Better Understand Safety Risks

Risk-assessment data rarely is used outside the machine-design stage. But in a Connected Enterprise, it can take on a new role in the form of a safety calculator. It’s an innovative yet simple tool that safety professionals can use to measure anticipated risk against actual risk for each machine access point.

First, the calculator can be configured easily as a basic table within enterprise manufacturing intelligence software. Then a safety professional can enter a risk assessment’s anticipated use-frequency data as the baseline for safety performance and compare it against the machine’s actual use-frequency data. This can be done for individual safety functions such as operator access points and gates, quality check points and e-stop devices.

Lower-than-expected use frequency could indicate that a safeguard is being defeated and needs to be re-evaluated. Higher-than-expected use frequency could indicate that a product or process change needs addressed.

Any usage outside of the expected frequency or duration could represent a compliance issue or, conversely, an opportunity for process improvement benefiting production.

Ease Compliance

Auditing safety data manually for compliance and reporting purposes can be a time-consuming process and subject to human error.

But now 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 displayed in operator interface dashboards or reports, automated auditing also can help workers identify and address potential issues in their plants more quickly. This is because the information is monitored and pulled regularly, making for faster and improved decision-making.

Make Smart Manufacturing Possible

There are still many companies that do not realize that safety can play a bigger role in optimizing plant operations, especially as part of a smart factory that leverages a Connected Enterprise approach. But now the smart safety devices are helping show that safety does hinder productive manufacturing.

As manufacturers and end users pursue greater speed, scale and simplicity across every area of their operations, they start turning to smart machines and equipment.

More connected devices will continue to create more opportunities, and the seamless integration of smart devices, control, software and analytics can help them meet today’s smart manufacturing goals, while also preparing them to take advantage of greater connectivity in the coming years.

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