EHS, operations and engineering functions are collaborating to improve all aspects of safety, and thus efficiency and profits.
By Steve Ludwig, marketing programs manager, Rockwell Automation
Manufacturers are using industrial safety to not only mitigate risks, but also achieve measurable improvements in operational and financial performance, according to a recent survey. It’s the latest study to dispel the myth that safety must come at the expense of productivity.
LNS Research surveyed 300 Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS), operations and engineering professionals from manufacturing companies primarily in North America and Europe. It found that companies are using the three pillars of safety maturity — safety culture, procedures and technologies — to improve their productivity and profitability.
Some key findings include:
- About 75% of respondents said they’ve seen operational improvements from using advanced safety technology or process capabilities, and 60% said they’ve seen financial improvements.
- Companies where EHS, operations and engineering functions collaborate to improve all aspects of safety reported a 12% better on-time delivery performance.
- Companies that use a life-cycle approach to risk management reported 7% higher overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) metrics.
The companies that reaped business value from their industrial safety investments typically didn’t have to wait long for it. Respondents reported a median time of 12 months to realize operational benefits and 14 months to realize financial benefits.
The survey also found that manufacturers are using the elements of safety maturity to elevate their safety performance above others. For example, those with cross-functional safety collaboration reported a 15% lower median incident rate. And those that have implemented risk-management software reported a 25% lower incident rate.
Opportunities to Do More
The survey results show how manufacturers are using safety to drive production toward operational excellence. But the results also reveal there’s still plenty of room for improvement in all three areas of safety maturity.
On the culture side, about half of respondents say safety is seen as a core value at all levels of their organization. Yet less than one in five respondents say their company has executive-level commitment to make the necessary investments in safety. This disparity suggests companies might be “talking the talk,” but not “walking the walk,” and therefore don’t have a culture that’s fully supportive of safety.
Collaboration also falls short in most companies. Only 24% of respondents say their company collaborates across EHS, operations and engineering to improve safety. This lack of teams working together can diminish safety performance and hinder safety improvements.
When it comes to safety procedures, widely adopted standards such as ISO 13849 and IEC 62061 call for a life-cycle approach to risk management. Such an approach can help industrial firms address risks across the life of their equipment and production operations. But only 27% of respondents say they use such an approach.
Finally, from a technology standpoint, many respondents indicated they lack access to modern information-management technology that could help them better manage safety performance. For example, about two-thirds said they don’t have a dedicated EHS software. And almost half said disparate systems and data sources is a top challenge to improving EHS performance.
Additionally, only about one-fourth of respondents said they have used lockout/tagout (LOTO) alternative measures to improve their operational performance. When used correctly, alternative measures can allow you to maintain compliance while at the same time improving productivity by reducing LOTO-related downtime.
Safety Maturity Index Tool Available
Rockwell Automation created the free Safety Maturity Index (SMI) tool to help manufacturing and industrial companies measure and improve their performance in all three pillars of safety maturity. It incorporates four measurable performance levels into each pillar. By answering a series of questions, you can understand your ranking in each pillar and identify any areas for improvement.
Take safety culture as an example. The SMI tool may find that your workers only view safety as a necessity — something that must be done to meet compliance requirements. If you want to improve your safety culture to the highest level of operational excellence, you need to make safety a value that’s essential to the health of your company.
As the LNS Research survey shows, one of the biggest challenges in creating a strong safety culture is establishing a shared and common appreciation for safety among all workers. It’s easy to say safety is a value, but behaviors on the plant floor or priorities in the board room too often prove otherwise. When safety is truly a value within a company, neither plant-floor workers nor executives will make exceptions to safety, even for urgent orders and large customers.
Consider safety technology as another example. You may be using safety technologies to optimize safety performance. However, you could take your performance to another level by using contemporary safety technologies and techniques to optimize both safety and productivity.
One example is an integrated safety controller, which combines safety, discrete, motion, drive and process control in one chassis. The controller can be connected to plant-wide information systems to give production workers insights into areas such as downtime and machinery efficiency. It also can simplify your operating structure to help improve OEE and ease changeovers.
To see where your company measures up in the three pillars of safety maturity, download the free SMI tool. A separate version of the tool is available for machine builders to help develop machines that offer productivity gains while complying with modern safety standards.
The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.