Who Has Access to Your Machine Controls?

If you can provide a list of people who have authorized access to your machine controls, then you are ahead of the game. If you can truly ensure that only the people on that list are accessing the machine and not sharing their credentials, then you are way ahead of the game.

Limiting access to the controls of a machine is certainly not a new concept. I see many organizations still using a mechanical key system for override or start up.  According to multiple controls engineers, the main issue with that is people share, copy, and misplace these keys on a regular basis. In this case, just about everyone on the plant floor would have access to the controls of any machine.

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Just about all of us carry a device that allows us to enter and exit our buildings. Whether it be a badge or a key fob, the technology is the same. RFID adds accountability to machine access control.  For example: Jane, the team lead, has full authority to make changes in the control system. The production line comes to a screeching halt and needs to be restarted. In order to restart the machine, Jane has to present her RFID badge to a reader near the controls and she is then given access to make some adjustments within the machine. When Jane authenticates into the machine, the date, time, and Jane’s ID can be recorded. This adds full accountability to the controls and deters Jane from giving John her badge to let him restart the machine.  If John makes unauthorized changes he makes them in Jane’s name.

Access control has become a popular solution in the last few years as machines have become more critical to operation.  Like most RFID applications there are multiple ways to address this.  The key is to select a vendor who has a core competency in the industrial space with knowledge of industrial control systems.

To learn more about how RFID technology controls machine access click here or visit www.balluff.com.

How Manufacturing Can Easily Invest in STEM Programs

I continuously hear from manufacturers, machine builders and integrators across our industry that they can’t find qualified people for the job openings they have.  Technicians or Engineers, Controls or Mechanical, all positions are in short supply and heavy demand.

“The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)’s “Made in America” research series estimates the shortage at 80,000 to 100,000 highly skilled manufacturing workers.” SHRM

In addition, according to the same study, the average age in 2013 of these workers was 56 years.  In conference presentations, I have seen segments like Steel or Metalworking show average ages up to 62.  And the demand for Science Technology Engineering & Math (STEM) jobs is only growing.

“Over the past 10 years, STEM jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs, and they are projected to continue to grow by 17% through 2018, compared to 9.8% for all other occupations.” SME – Anna Maria Chávez
CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA

But…

“The United States has one of the lowest shares of college degrees awarded in science and technology.” McKinsey

This collection of data screams to me that we MUST work on encouraging our youth with an interest in manufacturing and automation.  Manufacturers have the opportunity to drive this interest even with small investments that can have a large impact.

  • Participating in events like Mfg Day
  • Providing internships or coop opportunities
  • Investing in the education system with equipment
  • Providing training to students 
  • Opening your doors to tours.

Especially important is that we invest in programs for the K-12 level according to McKinsey as relatively few incoming freshmen choose these STEM subjects and less than half complete their degrees.

I am personally passionate about encouraging people of all ages into STEM careers and I love sharing my passion for automation.  We, at Balluff, are investing in technical labs, capstone projects and even middle school after school programs.

If you are interested in how you can get more involved in promoting STEM careers in your community, please reach out to me.

@WillAutomate on Twitter

https://www.linkedin.com/in/willhealyiii