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Machine Safety ensure that all workers return home with a smile every day

Machine Safety ensure that all workers return home with a smile every day

Creating a world free from work accidents

The world's best manufacturing sites are those that are able to produce products that enrich people's lives. Helping these sites achieve both workplace safety and productivity improvement at the same time was the goal set forth by OMRON and Scientific Technologies, Inc., which joined together to establish OMRON Scientific Technologies, Inc. (OSTI) in June 2006.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 860,000 work accidents accompanied by injuries occur in the world every day. Moreover, some 2.3 million deaths result from accidents at work and occupational diseases annually, with the direct or indirect cost estimated to be US$ 2.8 trillion worldwide1. In Germany, work-related deaths 100 years ago numbered more than 10,000 annually. That number dropped below 500 for the first time in 2014. Except in the case of Germany, the number of occupational deaths still remains fairly high everywhere in the world.

Before acquiring Scientific Technologies, OMRON had a comprehensive range of safety products based on its proprietary sensing and control technologies. It held the leading share for the automotive and semiconductor industries in Japan and Asia by drawing on its core strengths in safety design consulting. The leading provider of safeguarding products in North America at the time was Scientific Technologies, which possessed patented optical application technologies and an extensive range of safeguarding products, such as robust and long-range sensors. The company had developed high brand recognition and engineering prowess across multiple sectors, including the automotive, semiconductor, electronic devices, food processing, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics industries. The aspirations and strengths of these two companies have been united, leading to the development of various products that alleviate manufacturers' worries about how to achieve both productivity and safety.

Global product, local concept

As long as machines incorporate only those components that are best tailored to each country or region, and as long as they are used in the correct manner, no work accidents will occur. But today, people and goods are constantly moving globally. The workforce comes from everywhere and machines are exported to many different fast-growing countries.

On top of that, safety devices are designed to detect a person entering a dangerous area, such as in the vicinity of moving machinery, and protect that person from hazard. As such, these devices are engineered with higher reliability than ordinary components. They are built-in with a mechanism to ensure constant operational safety, so special skills are needed to utilize them to full potential. Additionally, safety standards and usability vary from country to country or from region to region.

A typical problem experienced at manufacturing sites in any country is that the easiest-to-use components in one country are not necessarily easy to use in other countries. As such, manufacturers tend to keep many different types of safety components in stock for use in their production equipment. They are also required to remodel their equipment to match the components available, or educate their staff on how to adapt to such components. Each of these steps is costly and workers are constrained by the components in use. In fact, people are required to adapt themselves to the safety devices in use, which means they are not user-friendly at all.

So it's understandable that people may feel like giving up when it comes to ensuring safety and productivity at the same time.

What is needed is to create safety components that are universally usable everywhere in the world, while meeting local needs. These two challenges appear to contradict one other, but there must be a solution.

"There must be a solution." This is the belief that OMRON's international safety project team kept in mind. The team consisted of members from Japan, the U.S., and Europe. Team members questioned customers in their respective regions about initial costs, concerns about installation, and complaints about the product itself. Based on the responses collected, regional differences in customer needs and issues were recognized, which helped the project team to develop a new safety light curtain2 with globally unified specifications.

The new safety light curtain incorporates a mechanism that is highly resistant to tough environmental conditions, such as exposure to water and dust, and is invulnerable to vibrations thanks to its compact, robust body. Even with its sophisticated functions, it is easy to use even for less skilled workers.

The product was more than just a "skimming the cream off the top" of each region's design characteristics that reflect its respective industrial culture: large and robust North American products, functional and efficient European models, and compact and high-performance Japanese models. In fact, it was the global synergy of regional strengths which resulted in the development combining durability, performance, and reliability without compromise.

The safety light curtain has been employed by factories throughout the world at a pace that was much faster than we originally expected.

But there are more things we can do.

Workplace safety can be maintained as long as a cycle of diagnosis, design, construction, and maintenance for machinery is implemented correctly and these machines are used properly. OMRON is one of the rare companies equipped with all these capabilities.

To enable more families to welcome their loved ones back home with a smile from factories today and tomorrow …
Automation can do much more to benefit people.

1 http://www.ilo.org/safework/events/meetings/WCMS_183012/lang--ja/index.htm
2 Safety applications

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