Smart Machines & Factories
The future of safety in the Smart Factory
Published:  14 June, 2019

Agile methods are required to implement flexibility, variant management or even batch size 1 in the Smart Factory. According to Steve Farrow, managing director of Pilz UK, this brings major challenges with it in practice, for example in terms of safety.

After all, a process must be followed for every machine based on the Machinery Directive (MD) from risk analysis through to CE marking, with the respective necessary measures and documentation. This procedure is designed as a “pre-process”; this means that the machine can only properly and legally begin operation after this is successfully completed.

In Working Group 1 “Smart infrastructure” of the research platform SmartFactory KL, experts from Pilz and other companies and organisations are delving into the topic of “Safety in modular Industrie 4.0 production plants”. The objective is a plant structure that enables flexibility and changeability through modularisation, among other things. Inherently safe modules are equipped with conventional functional safety. There are still dependencies between the modules, however. In addition, a new safety architecture is necessary in modular systems that also supports unknown modules.

In a white paper, the working group described a concept for automatic certification of Industrie 4.0 production modules. According to this, machines and machine modules can be introduced into production or removed from it at runtime without impacting the rest of a plant. The required safety-related parameters are negotiated, configured and approved virtually automatically based on the introduced safety profiles.

Changes to the combined machines are accepted as safe in accordance with the MD if the individual components have the expected safety profile for the overall protective function. The safety functions are described in this safety profile. At the same time, all safety profiles from all combined machines must be implemented. If machines are combined that have not yet implemented the required profiles or if these profiles are outdated, a manual re-evaluation must be performed. This is stored in the administration shell as an interface between the digital world and the real shop floor and is available to the machine group in future.

The white paper is available online:

Image caption:

Modular certification is the prerequisite for a quick and efficient system modification in the sense of Plug & Produce, demonstrated on the SmartFactoryKL Industrie 4.0 production plant.