Safety on the factory floor

IECEE certification brings benefits to industrial automation

By Claire Marchand

The development of automation throughout the 20th century brought enormous changes to the industrial world: some jobs disappeared, others underwent major transformation, new ones were created and, most importantly, the interaction between man and machine was altered forever. In recent years, the emergence and proliferation of robots on the factory floor has raised automation to a new level.

Valmet cars assembly The automotive industry, for instance, has been transformed radically by the development of automation

Safety, reliability and quality through automation

The advantages of having automated systems were soon recognized by industry. The systems enabled human operators to be replaced in tasks that involved hard physical or monotonous work, or those being performed in hazardous environments including nuclear facilities, underwater or where there was a high risk of fire. Automated systems can also undertake jobs that cannot be performed by human beings because of excessive demands, for example where extremes of speed, size, weight or endurance are called for. Automated processes often achieve more consistent quality and reliability in the assembly chain than humans are able to replicate.

Automation changed the industrial landscape

The rapid evolution of information and communication technology (ICT) in the second part of the 20th century enabled engineers to create increasingly complex control systems capable of being integrated fully with the factory floor.

The automotive industry, for instance, has been transformed radically by the development of automation. Over time, the food and pharmaceutical industries and other manufacturing companies have also relied heavily on automation to produce higher quantities and at lower cost. Today, most sectors of industry use at least some element of automation.

IEC standardization plays major role

The IEC has a number of Technical Committees (TCs) that prepare International Standards connected with specific areas of industrial automation. IEC TC 65: Industrial-process measurement, control and automation, provides many of the Standards that are relevant for industry. IEC TC 2: Rotating machinery, IEC TC 22: Power electronic systems and equipment, IEC TC 44: Safety of machinery - Electrotechnical aspects, IEC TC 66: Safety of measuring, control and laboratory equipment, and TC 121: Switchgear and controlgear and their assemblies for low voltage, all play important roles in this field.

Specific certification for industrial automation

Most of the International Standards developed by these IEC TCs are already integrated within services provided by IECEE, the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components. However, the complexity and sophistication of today’s systems and equipment in industrial plants requires a specific approach to be taken in terms of safety and security. To provide improved response to industry and market needs, IECEE has a service (INDA) entirely dedicated to industrial automation.

Safety and functional safety

In industrial plants, overall safety needs to be more extensive than is traditional with safety: it also includes functional safety and has to meet very strict requirements.

A standard definition of safety might be protection from an unacceptable risk of physical injury or from impairment to the health of people, caused either directly or indirectly by damage that occurs to property or to the environment.

Functional safety is the part of overall safety that depends on the correct operation of a system or equipment in response to its inputs. If a potentially dangerous condition is detected, a protective or corrective device or mechanism may be activated to prevent hazardous events arising or some mitigating feature may reduce their consequences.

Neither safety nor functional safety can be determined without taking into consideration the system as a whole as well as the environment with which it interacts.

Benefits of INDA

The INDA product category has benefits for industry as well as for IECEE CBs (Certification Bodies) and TLs (Test Laboratories):

  • it provides a platform offering progressive support of global recognition and acceptance of industrial automation products;
  • it allows for the sharing of expertise, knowledge and tools that enable third-party CBs to deliver compliance services pertaining to the functional safety of industrial automation products;
  • it provides easier and faster market access for industry, eliminates the need for multiple testing and ultimately drastically reduces the costs associated with the global rollout of products

IECEE facilitates access to market…

A CB Test Certificate is a global passport that allows products to be accepted in all IECEE member countries. It is well known that global acceptance is a reality, even in countries that are not part of the IECEE community. “One test, one international certificate” opens the doors to the global market.

…through the CB Scheme…

The IECEE CB Scheme provides the assurance that tested and certified products meet the strictest levels of safety, reliability and performance in compliance with the relevant IEC International Standards. It helps reduce costs and time to market, eliminates duplicate or multiple testing and provides a high level of confidence for manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike.

…and the CB-FCS

The CB-FCS Scheme for Mutual Recognition of Conformity Assessment Certificates for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components is an extension of the IECEE CB Scheme in that it also includes factory audits and inspections. It goes far beyond mere product testing by including a complete quality system and surveillance methods at the factory that manufactures a certified product. This is of interest to manufacturers who need to provide proof that products manufactured in a given factory offer a consistent level of quality over time.

The IECEE website provides a full list of IEC International Standards currently available in the INDA product category.

Valmet cars assembly The automotive industry, for instance, has been transformed radically by the development of automation
Control system Control system on an injection molding machine and robot (Photo: KraussMaffei)
UR in Action Robots are being developed that can work alongside humans without safety fencing or protection (Photo: Universal Robots)