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Slideshow: Plant Safety Takes Center Stage in Factory Automation
1/30/2012

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Siemens' TIA Portal
Siemens created a Safety Advanced program within its TIA (totally integrated automation) portal. The goal is to help users integrate safety functions into standard automation processes. The safety feature was designed for intuitive operation and quick entry in the generation of fail-safe programs. The library concept was created to simplify the validation of safety-oriented applications.   (Source: Siemens)
Siemens created a Safety Advanced program within its TIA (totally integrated automation) portal. The goal is to help users integrate safety functions into standard automation processes. The safety feature was designed for intuitive operation and quick entry in the generation of fail-safe programs. The library concept was created to simplify the validation of safety-oriented applications.
(Source: Siemens)

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Beth Stackpole
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Worker safety a must
Beth Stackpole   1/30/2012 6:25:32 AM
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Rob: Thanks for spotlighting what appears to be a wide range of technologies promoting increased safety on the plant floor. One in particular that I'm curious about is the second slide on ExpertOperator. What exactly is a virtual safety wall that can surround equipment? Hadn't heard of that capability before.

Jennifer Campbell
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Re: Worker safety a must
Jennifer Campbell   1/30/2012 9:35:24 AM
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Rob: I'd be very interested to read more about ExpertOperator, as well. How did you learn about it?

TJ McDermott
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Re: Worker safety a must
TJ McDermott   1/30/2012 10:08:34 AM
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It sounds like a fancy way of saying light curtains, or laser area scanners.

TJ McDermott
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Who will maintain these systems?
TJ McDermott   1/30/2012 10:13:00 AM
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In my experience, I've seen factory maintenance skills gradually decline, and with it the education/knowledge necessary to keep the factory running.  This is not a slam against the workers, but against management policies and wages offered.

The result of the lowest-cost is best policy is that the maintenance department no longer has the skills necessary to monitor and troubleshoot modern networked safety systems.

naperlou
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Re: Who will maintain these systems?
naperlou   1/30/2012 10:37:56 AM
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TJ, I think the idea is to make these systems modular and self diagnosing.  Putting intelligence into the safety system components will help the maintenance team cope with more complex systems.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Who will maintain these systems?
TJ McDermott   1/30/2012 10:42:43 AM
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Oh, I agree, and understand the concept, naperlou.  The reality is a complicated computer network on top of regular electrical troubleshooting.  The self-diagnosis goes only so far, and then a human must begin tracing the circuits, which will include Ethernet problems on top of simple switch or relay failures.

The wages offered for such a skill set simply aren't enough to retain a good maintenance technician.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Worker safety a must
Rob Spiegel   1/30/2012 1:12:00 PM
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They are cool, Beth. They are called different things by different suppliers. You may have heard of them referred to as safety curtains. It is an electronic field that senses when something enters the field. When it's breeched, it shuts down the machinery. So you can't stick your arm into a moving conveyor without having the conveyor shut down.

What's new in this technology is that the curtains are closer to the machinery, the machinery shuts down more quickly, and less of the line shuts down during a breech. That means fewer false trips, quicker response, and less loss of production.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Who will maintain these systems?
Rob Spiegel   1/30/2012 1:33:30 PM
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Interesting comment, TJ. I cover the technology as it emerges, but the available technology is not necessarily what gets deployed in plants. Maintenance technology is advancing impressively. Prognostics and diagnostics catch problems before they happen. Predictive maintenance delivers efficiencies in that parts get replaced due to wear, not due to timing. The vendors insist these tools pay for themselves with predictable ROI. But of course, that doesn't mean a plant will deploy this new technology.

Alexander Wolfe
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Safety as a product
Alexander Wolfe   1/30/2012 1:33:36 PM
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Just a side note that at ALL the companies I visited in 2011, the subject of safety came up. It's a big item that companies want to implement and it's also something they want to "sell," by building safety features into their products as well as being provably "designed for safety."  A lot of this has been spurred by European regulations, which are currently tougher than U.S. regs as regards safety. Regardless of the reason(s), safety is a huge check-list item and in fact can almost be categorized as a technology in and of itself (though it's really a property, not a technology).

Charles Murray
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Re: Worker safety a must
Charles Murray   1/30/2012 6:56:41 PM
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I, too, like the ExpertOperator. Anyone who has ever operated an industrial crane knows how easily an accident can happen.

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