LNS Research Principal Analyst, Dan Miklovic explores how the lack of safety and maintenance can be the cause of safety issues.
Some things are good on their own, but simply better when paired with something else. Take peanut butter and jelly, wine and cheese, or as many of us are reminded at this time of year, the beach and sunscreen. However, sometimes better together is more than just the sum of individual ingredients, like chemical reactions. For instance, internal combustion is the combination of fuel, oxygen, compression, and a spark resulting in much more than a static mix of its respective parts. This is true with quality, and environmental, health, and safety (EHS).
Quality and EHS management systems have increasingly converged over the past several years, enabled by the efforts of standards organizations such as ISO. Combining these two previously disparate management systems into one is a better together story, with shared competencies, culture, data, and processes. However, when we combine these management systems with Digital Transformation, we create something more like a chemical reaction.
Digital Transformation connects the EHS and quality management systems with detailed real-time, sensor-based data from operational technology (OT). While it converges the IT and OT, Digital Transformation also connects corporate and individual sites, customer and supplier, all in unprecedented fashions to create new insights, agility, and transference of lessons learned. Contrast that to recent history, where quality and EHS management systems were in one system, and operational planning, execution, and lessons learned were in many others.
Use case: Reducing Quality and Safety Risks Through Connected Machines
Over the past 20 years, safety has moved from being an afterthought to a core value for most industrial organizations. During that time, companies invested heavily in building sophisticated risk-based models for managing machine and process safety. The challenge most companies faced in using these models is that there hasn’t been a way to compare actual to expected results easily. This limitation is disappearing rapidly with the deployment of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies and Digital Twin mash-up applications.
LNS Research is now aware of multiple machine builders that are enabling Digital Twin applications to compare predicted and actual machine safety performance, i.e., e-stops, machine guarding, light shields, operator alarms, and more. Such uses have allowed industrial companies to identify when safety systems are being used significantly more or less than anticipated, both of which dramatically increase the risk of injury.
- When safety systems are being under-utilized, it typically indicates that operators or supervisors have found a way to disable or short-cut safety systems, usually to increase productivity, ease of use, or both.
- When safety systems are being over-utilized, it typically signals maintenance, operator, or calibration issues; causing the machine to exceed engineered operating conditions.
These operational issues put product quality at risk. Excessive stoppages and downtime can increase rework and scrap, driving up the cost of poor quality.
Similarly, quality applications are widespread in IIoT applications. If a manufacturer has visibility in in-service performance (e.g., warranty and customer complaint performance) of serial numbers, lots, or batches, they can leverage this insight to reduce in-service issues by identifying high-risk products during manufacturing. For those without this visibility, the focus is typically on reducing product variance, applying 100% product testing, and reducing inspection and testing expenses (i.e., decreasing the cost of good quality).
By using a Digital Twin, IIoT data, and advanced analytics, industrial companies identify these operational issues for corrective action at the site level. More importantly, enterprise visibility enables lessons learned and best practices for multi-site deployment to reduce risk proactively.
Formally integrating EHS and quality may not be for every company. However, these parallel organizations should approach Digital Transformation together, and use this opportunity to drive joint insights, continuous improvement, culture, and engagement.