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Robots Reduce Risk: Automation Best for Hazardous Conditions

Matrix Design, LLC

Let’s face it. Human beings are kind of fragile. They have a narrow window where they can operate efficiently and safely. For this reason, NASA has been using robotics for decades to explore distant planets without exposing humans to extreme conditions.

Back here on Earth, many industrial environments exist where direct material handling would also subject human assets to danger or abnormal stress. Automated work cells, besides increasing quality and productivity, can also be the perfect solution to operations that take place under hazardous conditions.

Do Not Enter

Besides being a good business practice, and the right thing to do, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires that companies provide all employees with a safe work environment. It’s not hard to find situations on the production line where it is wiser to put robots on the job instead of humans. The obvious situations are those that involve handling hot parts or fast moving sharp objects; processes that produce steam, toxic gases or splashes of molten metal; and operations that involve harsh chemicals.

Less apparent examples might include the ergonomic hazards of moving heavy objects, frequent lifting and repetitive or awkward movements; the debilitating effects on an operator’s health when working in hot and humid conditions; processes that create sounds well above the safe level of 85 decibels for an 8 hour shift; and slipping hazards caused by splashing coolant.

Hidden ROI

Most plant managers are aware of the economic advantages of using automation to increase quality, productivity and profits, but there is more of a challenge in quantifying tangible benefits. Efforts, such as OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) have been developed to achieve this. In addition, besides meeting government standards, providing better work conditions and improving morale, eliminating risk by automating work cells with harsh environments can also improve the bottom line.

According to the National Safety Council, “Often times (the) cost of risk is viewed only in terms of direct expenses, such as workers compensation, overlooking the indirect cost of business interruption, loss of production time, supervisory time to investigate and replace the injured worker, repair of damaged equipment and many other factors that contribute to the (overall) cost.” You can also determine through your insurance agent what savings might be possible by reducing risks through robotics.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Some factories contain conditions just as perilous to humans as those found on Jupiter and Titan. As NASA has discovered, robotics is the key to working productively without putting people at risk. Automating work cells with hazardous conditions can do the same for your machining operations.

Do you have harsh environment you would like to automate?

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