Machine Safety Pays Its Way

ABB Jokab Safety Reports Five Common Prejudices Machine Builders Must Confront

By Jim Montague, Executive Editor

Before integrating safety into machine designs and production plans, it's often necessary to confront some misconceptions and rationalizations against it. John McHale, engineering manager at ABB Jokab Safety, a products and integrated solutions supplier, and ABB Group member, in Westland, Mich., reports these common prejudices include:

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•  There's no place for safety in lean manufacturing. Safety will just impede operations, and all our processes will slow down.

•  Safety systems impede production.

•  Cost of safety solutions is too high. It would cost too much to upgrade every one of our machines.

•  Safety systems stop people from doing their jobs, and so they will just get bypassed anyway.

•  Our process is too important to add safety systems. There's no way I can shut this machine down because it makes the most money of any of our machines. If I shut it down, my bottom line and profits will be adversely affected.

McHale counters that, "One of our largest customers had a fatality in its facility, and was fined $2.4 million by OSHA. Its experts also came in, ripped apart its production process, and gave them a government-mandated timeline to upgrade. It covered 180 machines, which cost $100,000 apiece, and had a two-year deadline. This didn't include morale issues, doctor bills, cleanup bills, etc. This incident cost a huge amount of money."

McCale adds that implementing safety doesn't necessarily result in lost production, if it's done properly with a well-formed team and effective communication. For example, he says Jokab Safety recently upgraded a cardboard-box-making machine in Canada that prints, cuts and folds corrugated blanks, but its press had to be split apart to change dies and print heads or to add inks, and it had no safeguarding. "Integrating safety not only met applicable safety standards and regulations, but also reduced machine setup time significantly," McHale says. "This machine averages six setups per shift, and at two shifts per day and 354 days per year, the 30 seconds saved per setup resulted in 35.4 hours of extra production per year."

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