Machine Safety: Are you farming out the designing in of functional safety component requirements?

Functional safety is supposed to be designed into machine design, but is it being farmed out for others to do? Are automation suppliers truly considering farming out the design and safety certification effort of integrating functional safety features into existing components? See four strategies and one caution.


With all the chatter on the internet and in the media a new subject arises regarding functional safety. Are automation suppliers truly considering farming out the design and safety certification effort of integrating functional safety features into existing components?

Well, it seems that there are some engineering firms which are specializing in this capability and offering these services to various automation suppliers. This strategy appears to be partly based on various factors:

1. Market demand has increased for automation products with functional safety features. For example, drive systems with safe stop, safe torque off, etc.  safety functionality built in.

2. Time to market can be shortened by utilizing experienced qualified engineering firms to provide these services.

3. Automation companies typically incur incremental costs to grow specialized internal safety certified organizational know-how to perform these services.

4. Increased market demand comes from an increasing awareness of reduced life cycle costs of ownership through “safety automation” versus hardwired safety applications.

You probably say, "Great stuff!" Right?

Caution: Don’t be too quick to run to the bank. As an end user, just because your favorite automation supplier quickly brought you a safety certified component doesn’t necessarily mean they’re capable of full service to you as their customer. Farming out the design and certification effort is only one spoke in the wheel of resources required by automation suppliers to support their safety automation products. To mention a few; they will also need pre-sales support, post sale service support and training support. You wouldn’t want to phone your automation supplier’s 24 hour hot line only to be transferred to their engineering firm sub contractor (for functional safety) to then leave a voice message. After all, reducing unplanned machine downtime was supposed to be part of your return-on-investment decision. 

So, you might want to ask your favorite automation supplier a few questions related to the topics above before deciding.

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:

Inside Machines: Does adopting ISO 13849-1:2006 change the U.S. model for compliance and enforcement?

Machine safety: Incorporating functional safety as part of your machine safety plan, Part 4

Machine safety and functional safety: Which type?

Machine Safety: functional safety and the steps to be compliant in the US.

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