User Needs in Automatic Equipment for Machine Safeguarding

1/22/2003 - A report from Venture Development Corporation (VDC) titled "The U.S. Market for Machine Automatic Safeguarding Equipment" investigates the process users go through in the selection of products for machine safeguarding.

The following types of equipment that provide safety protection for both personnel and machinery were investigated during this study:

These products are used with a variety of equipment including assembly, material handling, metalworking, packaging and robotic machinery, and in a wide range of industries including automotive, electronic components and products, food & beverage, paper converting, primary metals, and semiconductor.

Among the product classes the largest shipment levels are for the electronic safety sensors, and safety interlock switches. These accounted for about $143 million of a $196 million U.S. market in 2001, or 73%.

During this study VDC asked users (end users, OEMs, and systems integrators) a number of questions regarding their selection of machine safeguarding equipment, and the vendors of this equipment. The following summarizes some of these findings:

Reasons for Purchasing Automatic Machine Safeguarding Equipment
Not surprisingly, protection of personnel was by far the most identified reason. Meeting OSHA requirements was distant number two in percent of respondents. This would seem to indicate that, despite all the publicity surrounding so called "new safety standards" and "European safety standards", users understand that in the US only OSHA has enforcement authority and that since the safety products on the market meet OSHA standards (obsolete or not) they are acceptable. For the most part, they are not presently concerned with the prospect of potential new and/or revised standards.

Choosing Between Automatic and Manual Machine Safeguarding Products
Users were asked to identify how they choose between the use of automatic and non-automated (manual) machine safeguarding products. It can be seen that meeting OSHA requirements are not often factors in these choices either (identified by under 5% of the respondents as a consideration). This is another indication that users assume that OSHA standards are sufficient and are being met by the vendors.

Others (Under 5% Each):

Key Selection Criteria For Automatic Machine Safeguarding Products VDC asked users what are the most important performance and feature considerations in their selection of automatic machine safeguarding products. Reliability was by far the most cited consideration.

However, based on vendor and commissioning, certifying and servicing organization interviews, VDC learned that reliability (and other performance criteria) is pretty much discounted by users due to product similarities, and is usually secondary to price in selection of the products and vendors. Most vendors, particularly those who supply products and not complete safety or automation control systems, related that users are not willing to pay more for additional performance and/or features and will only consider these when prices are relatively equal. This has led to a trend by vendors to re-engineer their products to include more features, without price increases.

Expected Product Changes Due to Changes in Standards Requirements
The overwhelming majority of the respondents indicated that the standards they have to meet now, and expect they will have to meet in the future are OSHA standards. About 40% of the user respondents indicated they expect some standards changes over the next 5 years due to factors related to worker safety, labor union demands, and legal liabilities. About 50% of the responders, moreover, indicated that European standards would be incorporated through more strict OSHA standards and/or ANSI guidelines.

The users were asked what changes will likely be required in the automatic machine safety products they purchase as a results of anticipated changes in the safety standards. Those most identified in ranked order of responses are:

  1. More Electronics/More Automated
  2. Better/More Consistent Performance
  3. Higher Quality/Reliability
  4. More Built-In Redundancies
  5. Easier to Use and Configure

All of these either directly or indirectly can impact the safety provided
In addition to the comments of users, VDC asked vendors, ANSI representatives, OSHA representatives, and commissioning, certifying and servicing organizations how changing safety standards will change the automatic machine safeguarding products. Two major changes identified by these groups were more built in redundancy, and dual channel control capability.

VDC's study "The U.S. Market for Machine Automatic Safeguarding Equipment" provides market sizes, segmentations, and forecasts for these products. These include segmentations and forecasts by consuming industries and applications as appropriate:

Industries-Appliance, Automotive, Electronic Components, Electronic Products, Food & Beverage, Paper Converting, Primary Metals, Semiconductor, Textile, and Other

Applications-Assembly, Material Handling, Metalworking, Packaging, Robotics, and Other

Other segmentations include channels of distribution, and the projected shipment shares of machine automatic safeguarding products with safety network/bus connections.

User (end user, OEM, and system integrator) interviewing, and a web survey provided insight into current and planned implementations. These include product and vendor selection criteria, key departments and personnel in selections, trade periodical sources of information on machine automatic safety products and vendors, and sources of installation and servicing for the equipment. In addition, the activities of third party service providers in the market are analyzed.

Vendor market shares are developed for all the product categories, and detailed profiles are given for 20 major vendors.

The efforts to "harmonize" international safety standards are analyzed, along with the likely impact on product designs.

Finally, based on the findings, VDC makes recommendations on how vendors can enhance their positions in these markets. Recommendations cover product types, product characteristics and features, product modifications to meet changing safety requirements, organizational changes to meet a changing marketplace, pricing, industry and application markets to target, channels of distribution, and promotion.

Venture Development Corporation is a technology research and management consulting firm serving the worldwide electronics industry. Founded in 1971 by graduates of the Harvard Business School and MIT, VDC offers in-depth market research, as well as custom strategic planning and consulting services in the areas of industrial automation, instrumentation, electronic components, computers and peripherals, communications, office equipment, and consumer electronics.

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