Machine Safety: System integrators report shortage of safety resources

Those adopting safety automation are seeing reductions in machine downtime and easier maintenance, in addition to lowering risk for workers. With a shortage of industry talent remaining a concern, these are positive results.

08/17/2013


Safety automation adoption, like other technologies, has early adopters, who can reap more benefits sooner than those who wait, according to this graphic for the Control Engineering Machine Safety Blog, from J.B. Titus.Does the adoption of safety automation have its own head of steam or is it still struggling for shelf space in the market? Safety automation became a new solution for machine guarding in 2002 when NFPA 79 opened the door for safety PLCs and safety networks. Since then, competing automation suppliers have rushed new safety automation technology to the market offering opportunities to replace older hard wired machine guarding devices. Early adopters have been major users of this new cost effective approach which also bends the curve toward increased profits through reductions in machine downtime.

As applications of machine safety automation continue to grow with manufacturers you would expect that the adoption rate would significantly grow. This strategy is born out via the Rogers Adoption Curve theory and in fact the adoption curve enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s for standard PLC technology. Both technologies for automation offer similar basic cost benefits to manufacturers.

So, what’s the problem?

A significant problem with safety automation is that there’s a shortage of engineering resources for developing application based control systems with integrated safety automation technology. A Control Engineering, June 2013, System Integrator Giants of 2013 article states:

Attracting and retaining talented programmers and engineers continues to be our top priority. We have experienced phenomenal growth in automation systems integration projects and continue to see increasing need for additional staff.  With the “automation economy” heating up, we see increasing competition to attract and retain quality employees.

Challenge: Because our goal is to continue to grow this places a strong emphasis on recruiting and retaining our professionals.  We seek to realize growth through retention and organic growth.

Our biggest concern for 2013 is the constraint to increase our skilled workforce. There is an extremely high demand for our automation and safety-related engineering services, and the development process to grow people to expert status takes years. There is a continuous deficit in the industry’s workforce that cannot keep up with the continuous demand for the services we provide.

Recruiting talent in this industry is an ongoing challenge for two reasons: 1) Demographic retiring with needed experience. 2) Universities and colleges are not producing engineers/technologist in this field as past demand decreased over last 30 years with manufacturing moving off shore. This has left a deficit as a nation.

Confirming this claim was a recent presentation by Dean Gary Bertoline of Purdue University. He described the deceleration of engineering graduates with application knowhow over the past 40 years as a mistake by educators. Instead they focused on graduates with academic achievements. So, what do we make out of such a telling story? Maybe it’s time to make lemonade from lemons? Isn’t this an opportunity?

Has this presented you with any new perspectives? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below.

J.B. Titus, CFSE

Related articles:

Contact: http://www.jbtitus.com for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
World-class manufacturing: A recipe for success: Finding the right mix for a salad dressing line; 2015 Salary Survey: Manufacturing slump dims enthusiasm
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
click me