Automation and safety

Automation is changing the logistics environment. Phil Pearce, Certified Machine Safety Expert at SMC Corporation asks organisations to keep safety high up the agenda.
With the promise of precision and efficiency gains, automation has the potential to change the way the warehouse looks and functions.
Locally a number of manufacturing and retail giants have started to implement automation processes into their logistics operations. Recently Arnott’s Biscuits announced that they are building a $65 million state-of-the-art fully automated warehousing facility in Western Sydney.
Similarly, at the start of this year, Coles announced that it would build two new distribution centres that would have automation processes never realised in the business before.
Australia Post also committed to a $300 million national automation investment as part of its ongoing efforts to meet continuing growth.
While automation offers businesses efficiency improvements and cost savings, organisations need to ensure that all of the added technology and processes introduced are operated to safe standards, Phil Pearce, CMSE – Certified Machine Safety Expert at SMC Corporation says.
“Warehouses are moving more and more into automation, but we have to ask: is it safe?” Phil says.
Pneumatics uses pressurised air to enable mechanical motion and is used in a variety of processes and industries.
Many of the organisations investing heavily in automation processes will be using a high volume of pneumatic technology to aid automation in their facility Phil says.
According to Phil, the importance of being able to safely dump air when required in a process that uses pneumatics is critical. “There is potential stored energy, and removing that potential energy is an important processes when it comes to safety in the warehouse,” Phil says.
Phil is a Certified Machine Safety Expert (CMSE) and has undergone significant safety training. The CMSE course is a globally recognised qualification. “The course I did was actually certified by TUV NORD. We were extensively trained in how to spot potential risks, how to apply systems to minimise and mitigate risk wherever possible,” he says.
SMC Corporation has a vast range of products that enable organisations to operate as safely as possible. “It’s about asking what kind of architecture is in the system to make sure that the system is safe,” Phil says.
SMC offer safety components which can be used in anything from very basic to very complex installations.  “Achieving the highest possible risk minimisation and protecting the people who operate machinery should be the main focus of any manufacturer,” Phil says.
A priority at SMC is to develop products which require less pressure. This assists in making the products safer and more energy efficient.
“We’re the world’s largest pneumatic automation component supplier and we have dedicated research and development teams in Japan, USA, UK, China and Germany. More locally we have safety experts and engineers who can develop solutions for any logistics process that uses automation and pneumatics,” Phil says.
As safety moves higher up the agenda Phil believes it’s more about removing the jargon and making sure that machines are safe based on risk assessment.
“There are so many different solutions we can put in place to reduce the risk for operators. The more automation a customer implements, the more risk there is for injury and the more safety needs to be considered. Removing potential energy or compressed air can be done in a number of different ways depending on the process. At SMC, we have a wide range of products that are suitable for any kind of process that uses pneumatics and we can help you work out the right solution for your application,” Phil says.

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