Workplace safety is a multifaceted issue for many manufacturers and industrial operators. It includes both machine and process safety, and is vital to protecting workers, avoiding production interruptions and achieving operational excellence. But it also comes with a number of challenges, including:
Worker behaviors: A safety-system design should consider every human-task interaction within the machinery or equipment. Operators may bypass poorly designed safety systems that don't take these interactions into account. And even in a well-designed safety system, workers may not follow standard operating procedures, which can result in unnecessary downtime.
An evolving workforce: A major workforce shift is underway worldwide, and the safety implications are significant. Older workers who are nearing retirement but still on the job are at higher risk for certain injuries and can take longer to recover. And the younger, less experienced workers taking their place are more prone to injury and tend to have more serious injuries.
Machinery stoppages: Stoppages can happen for any number of reasons: jams, misfeeds, adjustments, changeovers, maintenance and more. However, companies often have minimal visibility into why or when these stoppages occur. This prevents them from understanding if stoppages can be attributed to specific workers, machinery, lines or shifts. It also limits their ability to remedy issues.
Regulatory compliance: Compliance with complex global safety standards is increasingly essential but also challenging. At the same time, these standards allow for the use of more advanced safety technologies that enable companies to address safety and productivity in new ways.
Data management: Many safety professionals continue to rely on outdated data-collection and reporting methods. Most often, safety data is manually entered for inspections, compliance logs, incident reports, training and other processes. And the systems in which this data is stored are not connected to plant-floor systems.
This is in sharp contrast to the growing use of real-time data and seamless connectivity in the rest of the production environment. Everyone from operators and technicians to corporate executives are using "smart" capabilities to gain new efficiencies, improve product quality and make operations more responsive. Rockwell Automation calls this The Connected Enterprise.