April 16, 2018

Safety first in manufacturing

Author : OMRON / Publisher: OMRON

Korea has grown into an economic giant since the 1970's from manufacturing high-quality fabrics, steel, vessels, semi-conductors, automobile, electronics, and mobile devices.

OMRON Korea decided to take the lead in work site safety 10 years ago, realizing that product quality is only as good as safety in the manufacturing plant. Accidents can threaten lives, production, efficiency, and growth. Offering the highest level of safety allows workers to fully concentrate on the task at hand, contributing to a better quality of life and economic growth.

It all started when OMRON Korea approached a major Korean manufacturer and suggested focusing on work place safety. Initially, architects as well as the workers were against the idea. At the time, the majority involved had commented, "It's going to be expensive and time consuming to build a new system. Prioritizing safety could reduce productivity since it would take time to get used to the new environment."

The majority failed to realize that economic and reputational risks and liabilities from an accident was far more damaging than a temporary reduction in productivity. OMRON needed the workers to develop a deeper sense of understanding and awareness in work place safety.

Offering solution over product

"What we offered was a 'one-stop total solution' which included workshops on safety awareness." said Project Leader Lee. Coming from a simple "people make errors, machines break" safety philosophy, the solution was a comprehensive safety consultation service for manufacturers which included everything from setting safety compliances, creating instruction manuals, and safety training for workers.

The safety solution was derived from an analysis of the overall work flow and machine functions, combined with decades of knowledge, insight, and concerns from workers on all levels.

Machine operators worked with project leaders to identify safety loopholes. Talking to floor staff and analyzing the factory allowed the team to develop training programs and install safety software and hardware across the site.

Supervisors and engineers received training from the ground up. And slowly but surely, Lee started to sense changes in the workers' awareness and understanding on where and how the machines could potentially pose a threat to safety.

At one of the seminars, the proposed work floors were replicated to educate the workers on the importance of safety and experience actual improvements in safety devices. There, one of the attendees mentioned, "I would work with OMRON to improve safety on our manufacturing floor." Lee reflected on that moment stating, "I was really happy to know that we were able to gain the trust of our client and sense the changes in their awareness."

Changes in awareness = Changes in the work place

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A common misconception about safety initiatives is that they are costly and decrease efficiency. But, this is not true. Safety can be enhanced with simple fencing or plastic protective cover installments. Simply observing the plant's machines and functionality reveals where these additions make a difference.

After implementing the solution, changes in the workers' safety awareness were obvious. Those who were initially skeptical are now investing in safety, education, and seminars. As a result, safety standards improved and accident rates are decreasing drastically.

This OMRON project gathered attention as one of the most successfully implemented manufacturing safety measures in Korea, and has grown to become a domestically standard business model.

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Creating value in safety

Today, more robots have become a bigger part of the manufacturing scene, and manufacturing will continue to evolve and advance. There will eventually come a day where robots will be able to think on their own and work alongside people as partners. But until that day, humans will need to show machines the safety boundaries.

OMRON imagines a world where safety is the solution by always keeping safety at the forefront of decision making, and is proud to be a leader in improving safety standards around the world. Lee looking ahead into the future stated, "In this ever-evolving manufacturing environment, my goal is to keep providing and increasing the value in safety around the globe."

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