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 Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.