Mobile devices can help improve plant worker safety, ensure compliance with safety regulations and reduce costs at the same time. Thanks to advances in mobile hardware and software, safety management can now play a considerable role in broader efforts to enhance plant operations. Worker safety has always been a top priority for manufacturers. But until recent years, inspection and safety compliance management (ISCM) technology had lagged other manufacturing technologies that have driven more efficient and cost-effective industrial processes. Increasingly sophisticated software and equipment have transformed plant operations, yet safety compliance continues to be stuck in a time warp of pencils, paper and filing cabinets. With today’s technologies, the decision to go mobile is easier than ever before. Here’s how it works. Mobile handheld devices are used to read RFID tags or barcodes, which can be attached to virtually any type of equipment where safety is a factor: slings used in heavy lifting, harnesses, fire extinguishers and much more. Used in combination with ISCM software, a record of each inspection is automatically stored in a secure, cloud-based infrastructure. Inspectors can use the system to conduct facility-wide audits and to verify the safety certification of each item is up to date. Moreover, such systems are also suited for tracking employee training and certifications in much the same way they are used to track assets. A record of each inspection is permanently available for review by inspectors, safety managers and compliance officers, ensuring a facility always ready for a surprise audit. The benefits are greater efficiency and reliability in both workplace safety and regulatory compliance. Mobile ISCM systems, such as Toronto-based Field ID, overcome challenges faced by many plants: the complexity of managing safety inspections for numerous pieces of equipment; safety audit preparedness; accident readiness; and more. Here is a look at some of the most common challenges: Lots of equipment, too much paperwork Larger plants may have thousands of pieces of equipment requiring periodic safety compliance inspections. This can generate a huge paperwork burden. Mobile safety compliance systems make it possible to instantly identify each unique piece of equipment and automatically determine if it complies with safety regulations. These setups are sutied for handling safety inspections as they automatically upload results to cloud-based infrastructure. Electronic inspection certificates can be generated directly from the web. Paper, clipboards and filing cabinets are taken out of the picture. A tangle of safety standards Different types of equipment are subject to different safety standards and varying inspection schedules. This generates a complex web of inspections and standards that can overwhelm paper-based compliance management. For manufacturers with multiple locations in different jurisdictions, the complexity is amplified by variances in standards. Mobile ISCM systems bring order to this complexity by automatically identifying each piece of equipment, and linking it to its unique safety certification checklist and compliance record. In effect, safety standards are built right into the system, with all documentation digitized and securely stored in the cloud. This takes the guesswork out of inspections and ensures compliance throughout the plant. Technicians can even use the software to schedule inspections for individual pieces of equipment, according to the standards and schedule applicable to each item. Compliance uncertainty With numerous pieces of equipment scattered throughout a facility, how does one find out quickly and with certainty whether an individual item not only complies with safety standards but also is safe for workers to use? Paper records housed in back-office filing cabinets make it difficult, if not impossible, to confirm safety and compliance status on the spot. ISCM software, combined with mobile devices and bar codes or RFID tags, provide plant managers with instant access to the information they need. The status of any piece of equipment can be checked in real time simply by scanning it with a mobile reader, reducing the risk of non-compliance. More importantly, workers can know right away if a piece of machinery is safe to use. Audit readiness Safety compliance audits can happen at any time, without any advance notice. When an audit does occur, the search for paper records can become a scramble to prove compliance: Is every piece of equipment accounted for? Where is the documentation proving compliance? Are the records up to date? Mobile ISCM systems like Field ID digitize all compliance records and store them securely in the cloud. Reports and safety data can be produced in real time, day or night. Accident preparedness Despite a company’s best efforts, accidents can happen unexpectedly. Should an accident occur at a plant, will they be ready for the investigation that follows? Cumbersome, paper-based systems can add to the challenge of quickly proving safety standards compliance. Mobile systems make proving compliance fast and easy, 24/7. Not only do they expedite post-accident investigations, but they also reduce the risk of fines and other sanctions that can result if paper records are out of date or cannot be located. Universal application Mobile safety inspection and compliance solutions can be applied to virtually any manufacturing operation. Food processing plants, to cite just one example, can use mobile systems to ensure their food manufacturing processes comply with strict health and safety regulations. Whatever the type of plant, the questions asked are much the same: Do we have the proper records for all our equipment? When was the last time our equipment was serviced and maintained? What must we do to maintain compliance? Are we ready for a safety audit? Are we conducting and storing the required safety inspections? Can we provide safety traceability? Is the training and certification of our employees up to date? Mobile safety compliance systems make it possible for plant managers, safety managers, technicians and CIOs to have the right answers to these questions at their fingertips. Somen Mondal is the CEO of Toronto-based Field ID. For more information, visit www.fieldid.com.
Where engineers see valves, flanges, pumps and threaded connectors, the trained eye of a leak-detection and repair (LDAR) specialist sees potential leak points. LDAR or fugitive emissions programs help major industrial facilities locate and fix equipment leaks throughout their expansive processes. For one of Canada’s leading environmental service companies (unnamed in this article), the effectiveness of their LDAR services depend on a durable, accurate bar-code tag system, which they found in Camcode’s Metalphoto asset tags. “I’ve been quite happy with Camcode,” the company’s founder and president said. “When choosing tags, I look for what’s current at the time and I go to the company that offers the highest value solution. Camcode offered me that.” Camcode’s asset tags play an essential role in LDAR programs. A typical industrial facility may have hundreds of thousands of potential leak points, which must be identified, tagged and tracked by an easily integrated database system. Because of the sheer quantity of such potential leak points, tags can become so voluminous that “it starts to look like a Christmas tree with so many tags on everything,” said the LDAR specialist. That’s why part of his criteria for tag selection is the ability to easily integrate LDAR tags with other asset tracking systems used by his clients, such as a tag and lockout program. “Placing metal tags on every potential leak point within a facility is seen by some as unnecessary and costly, and this can be true if used solely for LDAR,” he said. “But when we can tie it to other programs, it can be a very justified method of equipment tracking.” According to Camcode, the Metalphoto tags can withstand abrasion, intense temperatures and weather conditions, and exposure to UV, chemicals and solvents. They remain readable for 30 years even in the harshest conditions, removing the need to ever relabel. As far as accuracy goes, the company says the tags virtually eliminate errors caused by manual data collection. One recent project spearheaded by this environmental service company is an LDAR program for a major new industrial facility that will likely require more than 100,000 LDAR tags in often brutal outdoor conditions that can dip as low as –50ºC in winter months. “My clients were particular about what they wanted,” he said. “In terms of the flexibility of the system and the design of the tags, the process went smoothly with Camcode.” This is an edited article provided by Camcode, a leader in the design and manufacture of durable pre-print bar-code labels, such as asset tags and UID labels for asset tracking and identification. For more information, visit www.camcod.com or call 800-627-3917.