Automation in industry adds safety, not just profit

Automation could go a long way in reducing job-related injuries each year and improve productivity and profitability across the board.
17 April 2019

Workers operating machinery on an oil rig. Source: Shutterstock

When it comes to automation, there are always a host of benefits that enterprises can look forward to but benefits to safety are often overlooked in this equation.

More than 29,000 manufacturing workers suffer a job-related injury each year, according to the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada, accounting for nearly 12 percent of all workplace lost-time claims.

Multiple factors are always at play in terms of what can cause accidents in the workplace. Some industries just have higher risks than others, and reports often suggest unintentional contact with objects, overexertion and, of course, accidental slips, trips and falls.

While much of the talk surrounding automation is linked to fears about job losses, the capacity to remove human workers from these potentially dangerous tasks can be a huge boon to the working environment and prove a game-changer to the safety of certain industries.

But the relationship between automation isn’t necessarily what you may think— it’s not just about programming heavy machinery so human workers no longer have to risk getting close to it.

New software technologies are now introducing intelligent ways to reduce the likelihood of hazardous processes on the factory floor. A combination of machine learning (ML) and predictive analytics technologies is leading the trend.

Industrial IT systems can now search through manufacturing data to highlights dangerous processes.

For example, ML through supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) platform can ensure a manufacturer identifies a piece of equipment that can be overheating. The monitoring of this piece of equipment will enable alerts to be sent to the engineer to warn of a point of failure and rectify a fault before disaster strikes.

While deploying the technology may come at a price— although it’s arguably not as expensive as a business might imagine— worker safety is more assured, and the reputational and financial damages of accidents can be largely mitigated.

Meanwhile, and aside from the direct benefits of delivering better products and services with amped-up performance, automation can free the workforce from fatigue, allowing them to work at optimal levels.

A variety of task automation tools are available, ranging across marketing, sales, admin duties and technical jobs, and when automation takes up all the mundane responsibilities, the proliferation of technology will only make workplaces more human and connected.

At the end of the day, workplace automation is not only important for safety in high-risk sectors but could also be huge draw when it comes to recruiting new talent. Automation helps to reduce human errors and can allow employees to apply themselves more meaningfully to their jobs.

In short, companies that leverage workplace automation can lay the groundwork for a ‘digitally native’, and meaningfully engaged workforce.