Manufacturing AUTOMATION

How continuous monitoring improves safety

October 2, 2015
By Anurag Garg Dattus

Oct. 2, 2015 – In an era where functional efficacy has never been more vital, facilities are required to deliver on increased demands. The need for eliminating unplanned downtime, catastrophic breakdowns, and unnecessary maintenance costs in production processes has never been higher. The same is true for ensuring safety of personnel and assets.

Maintenance and safety
Businesses are increasingly focusing their energy on ensuring their assets and minimizing business interruption in order to protect their bottom line. An obvious place to begin (before spending big dollars on insurance policies) is within the company’s maintenance program. Preventative maintenance had its place 20 years ago, but new advances in technology allow for more refined methods for tracking the health of machinery and getting ahead of potential failures, which undoubtedly impact the safety of people and machines alike.

Predictive maintenance — as the name suggests — leverages data collection from machinery to enable users to predict when equipment failure might occur so that maintenance can be implemented before equipment breakdowns. Several reliability centred maintenance (RCM) programs attempt to do this with monthly/quarterly samplings of temperature, vibration, lubrication, loads and pressures amongst other parameters. Better methods now exist where data is gathered on a continuous basis as opposed to intermittent sampling. Analytics enable engineers to move from an OEM-specified maintenance regimen to one that is defined by actual usage and observed failure intervals.

Prescriptive maintenance leverages advances in data analytics and modelling capabilities to take predictive maintenance to the next level — by unlocking data-driven-intelligence on not only when a machine will fail but how it will fail so engineers can be prepared with necessary replacement parts, tools and resources to repair and rebuild appropriately. This knowledge enables facilities to better learn and understand their equipment, maximize asset utilization, reduce unplanned downtime and catastrophic failures, which in turn helps increase safety of both personnel and machines.

This article outlines five key safety performance metrics and how continuous machine monitoring could improve these metrics while decreasing overall cost.


1. OSHA metrics
For manufacturing companies, OSHA metrics recorded in a given time period are a common measure of safety. OSHA metrics include the organization’s Days Away Restricted Transfer (DART), Total Case Incident Rates (TCIR), Total Number of Missed Days, Total Number of Restricted Days, and Total OSHA Recordable Incidents.

Greater visibility into the operation of machines (and subsequent early corrections) can help improve these metrics by reducing the total number of incidents. Continuous machine monitoring aims to empower engineers with a real-time intelligence on the status and health of their machinery. Through data analytics, it unlocks real-time insights into the slightest changes in operating conditions — changes that have the potential to result in safety incidents. This varies from traditional maintenance programs which are limited with their intermittent information and do not provide any real- time insights and often lead to late or missed alerts.

2. Number of documented inspections, claims and corrective actions taken
Although a high number of inspections, claims and corrective actions may suggest a proactive program, it comes with a high price tag. On the contrary, a number too low may suggest a lack of effort. Continuous machine monitoring and the insights that it generates may help companies achieve that sweet spot — relying on readily available data for inspection reports and reducing the number of claims. Although companies may see an increase in corrective actions, the overall cost (of inspections, claims filing, and other administrative overheads) significantly decreases — money that can then be channelled to better training.

3. Amount of money spent on failures
Most manufacturing operations measure safety by only taking into account personnel safety. The U.S. Bureau of Labor estimates that employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs including direct costs (workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and costs for legal services) and indirect ones (training replacement employees, accident investigation, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism).

It is worth considering, however, that the true measure should also include incidents that resulted in significant asset damages, loss of product, or environmental contamination.

By moving to a predictive and prescriptive approach of taking care of your equipment through continuous monitoring, manufacturing companies can reduce the amount of money spent on machine failures. Avoiding claims altogether reduces fines, healthcare costs, short- and long-term disability claims, and total cost of safety.

4. Lost time
Time is lost on a personal/individual basis as a result of safety incidents, and it results in lost productivity and operational time on machines as a result of safety shutdowns.

Consider a continuous manufacturing operation (assume opportunity cost of unplanned downtime is $30,000/hour) can save at least $2-4 million on its bottom line by cutting unplanned downtime by 50 per cent. This downtime can be a result of machine failures, personnel downtime for various reasons, or shutdowns for safety incidents, etc.

5. Plant operations (per cent to goal)
Operational efficiency is a company’s ability to produce at desired capacity while minimizing downtime. This includes consideration for product quality, recalls and process deviations, etc.

The benefits of continuous machine monitoring and everything outlined in this article ensure the safety of a company’s bottom line, and the ability to meet KPIs and targets across production, employee safety, and efficiency.

We have laid out several metrics used to measure operational safety and the impact continuous machine monitoring technologies can have on it. There is significant opportunity in reducing cost-centres, increasing productivity, and impacting the company’s overall bottom line. The return on investment is clear and can often be realized in under six months. The key is enabling solutions that reduce the complexity of adoption, work well with IT departments, and are an easy retrofit option for existing infrastructure.

Anurag Garg ( is the CEO of Dattus. He is a published researcher in the field of reliability and micro/nano devices.

This column previously appeared in the September 2015 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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