The challenge of automation for manufacturing

by Lisa McGuire, CRSP – CEO of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC – Advancements in the manufacturing sector are occurring at an unprecedented rate and with the dynamic evolution of technology have created new health and safety risks to the manufacturing industry. This newsletter provides insight on the safety rewards, risks, and challenges that come with technology, including automation and robotics.

Whether large or small, manufacturing firms face similar issues – how to grow market share, manage costs, and safely enhance worker productivity. These issues are impacted by globalization of the production chain, automation of processes, and recognizing and managing international standards of production.

The increased use of robots and automation for repetitive or dangerous tasks positively impacts these issues, while improving worker safety and product quality. Claims resulting from repetitive tasks are the most common injury type in the manufacturing sector. Reducing injuries has a positive impact on WorkSafeBC premiums and may also increase worker productivity by reducing “down-time” as a result of a work stoppage caused by an incident or its resulting investigation.

With its focus on how much product it can sell in the next quarter or year, manufacturing can be defined as an industry of the future. Through the appropriate use of automation, companies can better meet those goals. At the same time, health and safety professionals must understand new hazards that may be created, while developing and updating current procedures. As part of the team designing, developing and implementing new technologies, health & safety professionals will play a critical role in their company’s successful introduction and integration of automated production.

 

This editorial appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Make It Safe, the Quarterly Occupational Health & Safety Newsletter for BC Manufacturers