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Combining Automation and Safety Engineering for Financial Benefit

Most manufacturing companies middle-sized and up have separate environment, health and safety (EHS) and engineering departments. Frequently, there is little overlap between the purpose, goals and projects of these two departments – engineers seek new operations to increase productivity, whereas EHS manage risk and work to ensure operations meet regulatory requirements. It’s common, therefore, to find that they have no knowledge of work undertaken by the other.

Combining Automation and Safety Engineering for Financial Benefit

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Untapped Savings Potential

However the adoption of new technologies around automation, which will create a more productive and safer working environment, demonstrates the potential for cross-collaboration between these formerly disparate departments. What’s more, this collaboration on spheres of shared agenda and interest could deliver significant financial benefits to the wider company.

One potential area of collaboration between engineering and EHS is machinery and plant. Traditionally, risk was minimised by adding physical guards and screens onto equipment to protect employees from hazardous conditions. More recently, physical guards have been replaced by smart safeguarding devices, which connect to a specialised safety computer independent of the machine’s electrical control components, creating a dedicated safety system.

Now automation devices come with safety mechanisms integrated as standard, creating strong financial incentives for engineering and EHS departments to work together on plant procurement and safety strategy. Savings can be made across every area of a project involving upgrading to safety-integrated automated equipment, from project management and commissioning, to electrical design and systems integration. Savings from the latter two areas are derived from the reduction of unnecessary duplicate efforts between the two departments.

Automation and Safety Overlap

Many manufacturing companies continue to miss out on the benefits identified above, and persist in carrying out upgrades to control systems and safety systems separately, ignoring the cost benefits arising from the increasingly overlap between the two areas. There do exist instances where no benefit is derived from combining the two projects, such as mechanical safety upgrades which don’t require new electronic safety controls consisting of components offered by companies such as osmelectrical. But cost reductions can become greater still if an even wider picture is considered.

For example, both variable frequency drives and servomotors tend to come with integrated safety mechanisms as standard. In instances such as these, it is worth additionally considering upgrading motion-related components when a team is examining either safety- or controls-related projects.

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