Safety Makes Cents

Safety Makes Cents

Pacific Blue Engineering’s (PBE) client recently presented a situation that many companies find themselves in: a machine on their floor, in this case, a shrink wrapper, was still mechanically sound but was starting to show its age.  More frequent downtime and less predictable operation were becoming the norm at the end of their production line.  Further, analysis of the machine indicated that it wasn’t up to the company’s standards for safety rating and remediation efforts would be difficult on the machine’s original control system which was no longer current vintage. The client seemed destined to purchase a new machine to fully replace the aging asset at a cost of more than $800K.  PBE was asked to examine the situation and recommend some other options.  Their team determined that upgrading the control system on the wrapper would solve the listed reliability problems as well as the issues related to safety rating.  The total cost of the alternate solution was presented at $250K-$300K, thus offering significant savings to the client. 

The Pacific Blue team has considerable expertise in both general control system applications and the implementation of machine safety systems, from investigation to solutions.  They approach each project as a collaboration with their clients and offer all aspects of services related to this, either stand-alone or as part of a turnkey solution.  Clients regularly ask them for assistance in evaluating their systems and developing internal standards.  Others use the PBE team for solution implementation after an internal evaluation has been performed.  Very frequently they are engaged at the time of equipment purchase, either on behalf of the purchasing client or on that of the OEM to ensure compliance with the purchaser’s standards. 

The returns on these projects can be huge, both financially and functionally.  A well-executed retrofit can not only save explicit dollars versus purchasing a replacement asset, but the projects give customers a chance to consider how their machines are laid out and used within their facilities.  Simple changes to elements like the Human Machine Interface (HMI) can enrich the user experience for operators and other plant staff, offering additional information on production, operation, maintenance, faults, and other items that may not have been included in the original programming. 

Beyond the general control system sphere, the PBE team is well versed in the application of ISO 13849.  This standard is a methodical approach to determining the required safety rating with respect to the control system and related safety hardware and circuits.  It addresses how the machinery is physically deployed for use and how to validate the required safety operations.  This standard is intended for use in machinery with either high demand rate or continuous demand rate and, due to the speed of modern manufacturing, this ends up being related to most machinery currently built or sold.  This standard is the primary functional safety standard utilized by nearly 90% of machinery builders today.  The TUV certification held by multiple members of the PBE team is rooted in the application of ISO 13849.

This situation is not unique. As manufacturing demands have increased over recent decades, machines have become increasingly fast and technically complex and a resulting focus on operating modes and worker safety has arisen.  The manufacturing landscape remains littered with durable machines that can still perform but are simply outdated in their approach to these modern manufacturing nuances.  Thankfully, Pacific Blue Engineering can help to extend the useful life of these machines.

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