Stewart Robinson of Pilz Automation Technology explains how the right safety concept can make a significant difference to both the installed price of a machine's safety-related control system and its long-term cost-of-ownership.
Whether you are designing a new machine from scratch, or modifying or upgrading existing machinery, it is essential to give due consideration to the safety systems. And while the ideal will always be to consider safety at the earliest possible stage in the design of new machinery, it is a fact of life that safety systems often have to be designed to work in conjunction with specific machine functions, existing hardware or defined automation control systems. In all cases, however, the person developing the overall safety concept needs to have an in-depth knowledge of the relevant legislation, regulations and standards, as well as the appropriate safety technologies. In addition, it is important to have a sound understanding of ergonomics and the working practices of the industry in which the machine will operate.
The difference between a good safety concept and a poor one can be substantial, with serious long-term implications. A good safety concept will offer a level of safety that conforms with the relevant standards and legislation - but without being over-engineered and prohibitively expensive. On the other hand, a poor safety concept may fail to meet the necessary standards or hinder the machine operators, leading them to seek ways to overcome the safety measures. Furthermore, a poor safety concept can make machine maintenance more difficult and time-consuming, impact on availability through a high number of false trips, and can itself be difficult to diagnose and maintain.
Pilz Automation Technology has many years of experience in developing safety concepts for a wide variety of machine types used throughout a broad spectrum of industries. Furthermore, additional support can be requested from the Pilz consultants and engineers in Germany if required - or, indeed, any of the Pilz subsidiaries around the world.
Every project starts with a thorough risk assessment. Detailed engineering proposals are then presented to the customer, with mechanical, electrical and other measures combined to create a safety concept that fulfils the necessary legislative, regulatory and standards requirements, while also following industry best practice and taking account of the customer's stated preferences.
Customers can then develop the safety system themselves or pass the safety concept to a supplier as part of the safety system's specification. Alternatively, Pilz can provide engineering services - and an extensive range of machinery safety products - to support the customer during the machine design, build and commissioning, or Pilz can put the customer in touch with panel builders or system integrators as appropriate.