How smart manufacturing can alter safety standards
The manufacturing industry is constantly evolving — with the advent of new technologies like IoT, AI and others, industrial workplaces have become much smarter and safer. These technologies have transformed the way we think about production and workplace safety culture.
With advanced connectivity and data integrations, companies are optimising production and increasing efficiency. But the benefits of smart manufacturing don't stop there. These advancements don't only allow organisations to enhance productivity and reduce downtime. They also elevate their overall safety standards.
Today, when workplace safety culture and values are high on the priority list, it is time to consider how smart manufacturing can help you meet and exceed safety standards. In this article we will delve into how smart manufacturing is transforming industrial safety and impacting safety standards and regulations.
Automating hazardous tasks
An essential component of smart manufacturing is the ability to automate hazardous activities. The evolution of automation in manufacturing has been a game-changer, and it's why workplace injuries have steadily decreased over the years. For example, robots or automated tools:
- Handle tasks that could expose workers to hazardous raw materials, such as combustible chemicals or explosive materials
- Replace workers in harsh manufacturing environments, such as high temperatures
- Are used for risky manoeuvres, such as transferring loads at heights
If a human were to be involved in any of the above scenarios, more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), precautions, and specific training would have been necessary, which could pose additional challenges given the current labour market conditions. Automation such as these can drastically minimise the instances of workers coming into direct contact with hazardous materials. This significantly reduces the risk of workplace accidents and injuries, creating a safer work environment in your manufacturing plant.
An example of this is at Rolls-Royce, where the adoption of cutting-edge Industry 4.0 technologies is helping to enhance safety and ensure a safer working environment for employees. With the use of 3D visualisation software, employees can have a better understanding of their workplace, including potential hazards. Meanwhile, machine learning technology is assisting in monitoring personal protective equipment (PPE) compliance, and the deployment of robotic arms is taking over tasks that were once considered dangerous, such as furnace operations, thus reducing the need for manual labour.
Real-time monitoring in manufacturing
Smart manufacturing also helps provide real-time data insights into hazards. Sensors and monitoring systems can detect potential dangers and warn workers before they are likely to come into direct contact with hazardous substances, reducing the risk of workplace accidents and injuries. For example:
- Live gas monitors (e.g. carbon dioxide/monoxide, chlorine-in-air) can minimise exposure to known risk factors
- Sensors monitor the air quality in a manufacturing plant, alerting workers and managers if the air quality drops below safe levels
- Moisture elements and temperature transmitters can detect steam leaks and hazards from high-pressure and temperature systems
Using real-time sensors such as these to warn and track workers’ exposure levels allows for early intervention and preventative measures to be taken to reduce the risk of exposure. Additionally, it facilitates rapid response to emergencies, such as fires or gas leaks, reducing the risk of harm to workers and other plant assets.
Predictive maintenance & smart manufacturing
Predictive maintenance is another aspect of smart manufacturing with a substantial impact on workplace safety. Predictive maintenance uses data and leverages machine learning algorithms to predict when a machine is likely to fail, helping reduce downtime.
Employees working with or around heavy machinery face a higher risk, especially if there's a malfunction with an internal component or safety feature. That's why smart manufacturing technologies like Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology applications can be a game-changer. These systems monitor the important aspects of machinery such as sound, vibration, temperature, and frequency, and trigger maintenance alerts to keep everything running smoothly.
Not only does this prevent downtime for your organisation, but it also gives peace of mind to equipment operators. The data collected can be used to create predictive models to anticipate when maintenance is needed before a consequential equipment failure occurs.
For instance, consider a manufacturing plant that produces hazardous chemicals. If a chemical reactor were to fail unexpectedly, it could result in a dangerous release of toxic gases into the workplace. Predictive maintenance can detect early signs of failure, such as unexpected changes in temperature, vibration patterns, and pressure readings, and schedule maintenance to fix the issue before it leads to an accident. This can significantly reduce the risk of harm to employees and the environment.
By compiling vast volumes of historical and real-time data, AI-powered algorithms can also spot patterns that are too subtle or complicated for the human eye. McKinsey also found that AI-enhanced predictive maintenance of manufacturing equipment could yield up to a 10% reduction in maintenance costs, a 20% reduction in equipment downtime, and a 25% reduction in inspection costs.
Upholding health and safety with smart manufacturing
Smart manufacturing is revolutionising workplace safety. By automating hazardous tasks, implementing real-time monitoring systems, and utilising predictive maintenance, manufacturers have the ability to create a safer work environment, reducing worker exposure to hazards, and improving efficiency.
If you are looking to implement smart manufacturing in your organisation, consider the benefits outlined in this article and how they can positively impact your workplace safety.
Embracing change and innovation is key to success in today's fast-paced business world. The past few years have shown us the importance of staying ahead of the curve and exploring new, creative ways to improve and streamline operations.
There's always room for improvement, and by keeping an open mind to new technologies and their endless potential, you may stumble upon the ideal solution for your business. Don't let fear hold you back from unlocking new possibilities and achieving a competitive edge.
Byline written by Bryan Christiansen
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.
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