Safety Technology in the Digital Age: Leveraging Automation & Data Analytics
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Dave Cucerzan

Safety Technology in the Digital Age: Leveraging Automation & Data Analytics

6/19/24 | Dave Cucerzan, Senior Industrial Automation Solutions Specialist

As industrial manufacturing technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace, innovative solutions are emerging to enhance workplace safety and protect employees. In this digital age, automation and data analytics are playing an increasingly important role in preventing accidents and creating safer work environments.

This blog post reviews the power of automation and data analytics as they relate to safety, and we’ll look at how they fit in real-work applications.

The Power of Automation in Safety

At its core, automation is the use of control systems and information technologies to operate and monitor industrial processes and has revolutionized manufacturing. By automating repetitive, hazardous, and/or physically demanding tasks, manufacturers can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

For example, robots can handle dangerous materials, perform tasks in hazardous environments, and execute precise operations that minimize human error.

Related Post: 3 Tips to Make a Business Case for Robotics on Your Production Line

As it relates to safety, automation can improve the overall efficiency and reliability of industrial processes. Automated systems can continuously monitor equipment performance, detect anomalies, and trigger alarms or preventative actions before a potential hazard turns into an accident or injury. This proactive approach to safety – most importantly – protects employees, minimizes downtime, and optimizes productivity.

Consider the following:

  • Safety PLCs and Controllers: Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) like Rockwell Automation’s GuardLogix family are designed with safety in mind. They can be programmed to monitor and control safety devices, implement safety interlocks, and perform safety-related functions in automated systems.
  • Safety Input/Output Modules: These modules interface with various input safety devices, such as emergency stop buttons, safety gates, and light curtains. They also interface with output safety devices to stop a hazard from happening. They provide a reliable way to connect safety devices to the control system and ensure that safety signals are properly processed.
  • Safety Relays: Safety relays provide an additional layer of protection in safety circuits. They can be used to monitor safety devices and initiate safety actions, such as stopping a machine in case of an emergency.
  • Safety Light Curtains: These devices create a sensing field that can detect the presence of an object or person. They are often used to protect workers from hazardous areas or to prevent access to dangerous machinery.

Data Analytics: Unveiling Hidden Risks 

Data analytics is the process of examining large datasets to uncover patterns, correlations, and other valuable insights. This is another powerful tool safety professionals can utilize. By collecting and analyzing plant data from sensors, machines, and safety reports, manufacturers can gain a deeper understanding of the factors that contribute to accidents – and prevent them from happening again in the future.

Machine learning algorithms can identify patterns in historical accident data, predict potential hazards, and recommend preventive measures. For example, by analyzing data on near-miss incidents, manufacturers can identify recurring patterns or trends that may indicate underlying safety risks. This information can then be used to implement targeted interventions, such as additional training, equipment modifications, or process adjustments, to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

Related Post: 5 Strategic Advantages of AI for Predictive Maintenance

Consider the following:

  • FactoryTalk Analytics: This platform enables data collection, visualization, and analysis from various sources within a manufacturing facility. It can be used to identify trends, predict potential failures, and optimize processes for improved safety and efficiency.
  • FactoryTalk Historian: This software collects and stores historical data from industrial processes. It can be used to analyze past events, identify patterns, and make informed decisions about safety improvements.
  • ThinManager: This thin client management software can be used to centralize the management of industrial applications and data. It can help improve safety by providing operators with real-time access to critical information and enabling remote monitoring and control of processes.

Real-World Applications 

How can these apply in the real world? Here are some examples:

The integration of automation and data analytics is already transforming safety practices in various industrial settings. In the automotive industry, for instance, robots are used to perform welding, painting, and assembly tasks, reducing the risk of injuries from repetitive motions or exposure to hazardous substances. In the mining industry, autonomous vehicles are being deployed to transport materials and perform inspections in underground mines, minimizing the risk of accidents for human workers.

In the food and beverage industry, safety and efficiency are paramount. We worked with a multinational food and beverage company seeking to enhance safety measures in their North American production sites. Rexel stepped in to address the challenge of integrating physical guarding with electrical safety elements. By conducting a thorough assessment and implementing a comprehensive solution, the company successfully created a safer guarding system. This system not only safeguards raw materials throughout the manufacturing process but also protects workers from potential hazards posed by automated machinery. This resulted in a measurable improvement in safety, reduced downtime, and enhanced overall security in the production environment.

Read the food and beverage case study >>

Make the Future a Safe One 

As technology continues to evolve, the potential for automation and data analytics to improve workplace safety is virtually limitless. By embracing these innovative solutions, industrial manufacturers can create safer working environments, protect their employees, and enhance their overall operational efficiency. The digital age has ushered in a new era of safety, where technology is not just a tool but a strategic partner in the pursuit of a safer and more productive future.

The first step is a thorough safety assessment. Our team of safety experts can help you improve workplace safety, optimize efficiency, and boost your bottom line. Contact us today to get started.

Dave Cucerzan is a seasoned automation specialist and electrical engineer with over 20 years of experience in industrial automation and 30 years in electrical engineering. He is a TUV Certified Functional Safety Technician with expertise in designing, implementing, and maintaining safe and efficient industrial control systems. Dave is proficient in standard industrial controls, sensing, power monitoring, and a wide array of industrial components. He is dedicated to providing comprehensive industrial support and solutions to optimize operations.

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Rexel Automation Solutions specializes in industrial automation services, solutions, and products that transform your application and operational needs into fully realized solutions, delivering measurable results and profitability for your company.