As industrial automation evolved from its humble beginning, people imagined and searched for tools to streamline routine and repetitive tasks accurately and efficiently. Although the industrial revolution started in the 1800’s with the invention of railroads and electricity it wasn’t until after World War II that automation began its rapid evolution. Factories were retooled to support the war effort and since then industrial automation has exploded.
Deployment of Industrial Robots
General Motors started deploying prototype robots in 1961 and slowly robots gained significant acceptance for decades however deployments are now growing exponentially in the industrial world.
Investing in robotics of many types is rapidly becoming a necessity to remain progressive and competitive in the industrial world, particularly in the far-flung oil and gas regions of Western Canada where deployment of robots can improve operations, productivity, asset security and safety of personnel.
Historically, routine facility inspections have been necessary but burdensome on company resources. The use of robotic technologies can reduce excess labor costs and employees can be deployed to undertake more complex functions, improve returns to the company and increase job satisfaction for employees. Skilled and experienced employees can be assigned to complex tasks rather than mundane, repetitive duties such as reading needle gauges during a routine inspection. For repetitive tasks robots step in with repeatability and accuracy, saving the organization time and money while simultaneously reducing errors and employee fatigue.
Robots can make facility rounds and deliver real time feedback to control room personnel. Programmable robots can be rapidly reconfigured to perform a wide range of tasks and can perform the duties of multiple employees, tirelessly working long hours at a continuous pace and under demanding conditions.
Studies have shown that gas releases and even fires often go undetected. Without early detection and timely mitigative action these can escalate into large gas releases or explosions with high potential for injuries, fatalities and economic loss.
The chance for catastrophic error and missed opportunities for detection are dramatically reduced when robots survey facilities at pre-determined intervals. Robots can perform repetitive tasks consistently with or without the assistance of employees, executing tasks with precision and accuracy every single time!
Well equipped robots can be programmed to detect anomalies when performing tasks. Consider a robot that is executing its mission of reading gauges and the captured image is analyzed on the fly and reported instantaneously to an alarm system rather than delivering the image to the operator for interpretation and raising an alarm if the reading is out of range. During its mission, the roving robot is able to simultaneously manage:
Enhanced worker safety
The application of robots in hazardous work environments can relieve humans of dangerous tasks making them a first line of defense in case of a gas leak, fire or other hazard. Robots that are certified for use in hazardous locations can be deployed for firefighting operations and gas leak detection.
Robotic detection of a hazardous situation and alarm initiation before employees are present can be life-saving and robots can optically identify a man-down situation and send a notification to first responders.
Remote Inspection of Facilities
Businesses are embracing solutions for safe and flexible inspection of high risk and unmanned facilities. Hazardous area certified robots are the best answer to providing the same level of technical in-depth inspections with real time collaboration. Operators can safely monitor inspections and guide robots to safely observe high risk and inaccessible locations. Real time feedback helps supervisors take mitigative actions before situations escalate.
Robots can “bring the expert to the site” without the risks and costs of physically having the expert at site. In addition to effective inspection of high risk and remote locations the data generated can provide accurate evidence for compliance needs.
Logging and Reporting
Operators can review live or recorded reports to ensure that the tasks are being completed successfully. After emergency incidents these records help companies prove they are following required safety procedures and can be used by safety personnel to review and optimize company procedures.
Industrial robots can report multiple types of data input wirelessly through LTE/4G and Wi-Fi. The gathered information can be stored on private or secure terrestrial servers and in distributed cloud servers.
Hazardous area certified Robots
Robots are now available for use in classified Hazardous Locations (Explosive Atmosphere). The certification has enabled robots to be deployed in Oil and Gas facilities and other areas where flammable or explosive vapor, dust and liquids can be present. Robots will continue to evolve and be embraced across many segments of the industry, aiming to provide precise, repetitive support and by increasing employee health and Safety.
Robots certified for use in classified Hazardous Locations (Explosive Atmosphere) are now available thus providing the opportunity for robots to be deployed in Oil and Gas facilities, grain handling and other areas where flammable gas, liquid, vapor or dust may be present. Other areas may be poorly suited to humans due to extreme noise, heat and humidity.
A Safer Future
Robots will continue to evolve and be embraced in many industries to perform repetitive and dangerous tasks precisely and continuously while improving employee health and safety.