Machine Guarding Upgrades – I’ll have to do them all!

Four manageable influences to considering a new machine guarding strategy or program are ....


How many times have I heard this story from an end user? 

“I understand the new technology, how to apply it, because of diagnostics I’ll increase my machine up time and productivity, and at the end of the day employee morale and spirit will increase because of flexible machine guarding & improved hazard mitigation. And, financially, all of the above will generate a great return on investment (ROI) and improve profits. However, I’m told if I upgrade one machine I’ll have to upgrade all of the machines in all three plants. My competition is too tight right now and I can’t afford to upgrade all of these machines at once given my current cash flow. Let’s re-visit this in a year or so.”

The next thing you know its 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and so forth. Essentially nothing ever develops until something big happens like an unfortunate accident. Let’s be clear, absent of any OSHA citations, accidents, or other major incidents, changing your machine safety strategy from conventional safety (hard guards, cables, relays, redundant components and wiring, etc.) to safety automation (safety PLC’s, drives, networks, motion, CNC, vision, wireless, etc.) or a combination of the two is generally a business decision.

Industry standards and regulations will not drive this decision and neither will OSHA.  

On the other hand, a few things that might “influence” a consideration to move ahead with a new machine guarding strategy or program do come to mind. In my opinion, everything I’m about to mention is a manageable influence.

  1. Safety policy manuals are often out of date and need to be updated to reflect current regulations, industry standards, and available solutions & technology. If you’re in the engineering department go sit down with the health and safety department.
  2. There may be legacy opinions in your legal department that influence decisions and policy. Sit down with these folks and find out what their position is and why? You might find that letting go of legacy opinions and setting a new direction might be easier than previously thought.
  3. A department head might have a legacy opinion based on personal experience earlier in their career. Approach this manager with a well thought out transition plan that addresses their concerns and moves your business forward on the adoption curve of new solutions.
  4. Rumor! Need I say more! Rumor’s come from multiple sources and the best “rumor buster” is education. The benefit of education is confidence and an organization needs confidence to set new directions. Don’t let rumor’s about ABC Company down the street set your business policy.

These are the first influences that come to my attention and one’s that I’ve personally addressed successfully in my career. My advice to someone today that’s reluctant to upgrade the first machine is to simply establish a written business plan for your manufacturing business. Include in this plan a migration strategy for machine guarding. For example, if you have 100 machines in three plants, establish a forecast plan to upgrade a few machines each year. Based on your ability, for some companies that might be 20 or 30 machines per year or for another company it might be only 3 or 5 machines per year. One reason for this approach is that it’s simply a good business practice and secondly, if needed, this plan can often be defended. The bottom line is - nothing mandates you to convert every machine simply because you convert one machine.   

Hopefully some of you agree with my thoughts on this issue and have some ideas on how to resolve this emerging issue?

If you or your company would like to become more cost efficient and at the same time improve yields, productivity, and safety compliance – contact:

Related articles:

Machine safety pays off

Machine Safety and Who’s Responsible

How To Integrate Safety

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