Chain of Thought

Safety Hidden in Plain Sight at MODEX Show

You know you're getting old when you lose target-market status to your doctor. Commercials aimed at us mature types now conclude with “Ask your doctor to prescribe ‘Creak No More.'” There was a little of that going on at the MODEX material handling and logistics show in Atlanta last week. Some of the exhibitors whose traditional markets are equipment OEMs and system integrators are now trying to catch those customers' attention by impressing THEIR customers—the end users.

For example, at the Siemens exhibit the hot topic was material handling system energy efficiency and power consumption. Paul Ruland, their OEM program manager, explained how conveyor users can pour power from their drives back into the electrical grid via regenerative inertia stopping. In addition to energy savings his talking points included quicker system startups and maintenance—all of which are very attractive features to end users. He also mentioned how easier integration of system components on the OEM side is being combined with easier connectivity to the end user's information systems for better operator diagnostics—and safety.

Ruland explained how safety components like switches, machine guards and light curtains can be integrated into the main controller, and safety I/O can communicate to that controller via the same cable used by standard I/O. Why would end users care? It's easier for them to make their own changes to accommodate workflow or increase capacity.

This echoes the trend I mentioned in my last blog, in the context of lift trucks. Many of the coolest features lift truck makers displayed were inspired by end-user input. That could be why Brian Wesley, sales and marketing business development manager for Roll Forming Corporation, was emphasizing the safety aspects of his company's custom tubing, which is fabricated into rollover protective structures and falling object protective structures for lift trucks. Could ROPs and FOPs become part of a lift truck buyer's lexicon?

It would be great if safety were to become part of that lexicon first, but if a trade show could capture the end user's imagination at the component level, then these exhibitors will have performed an important public service. Ask your OEM about safety.

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