Improving Line Safety and Efficiencies With Advanced Equipment Automation

Like any industry predicated on production, tissue manufacturing and converting presents a certain amount of peril to workers. The amount of equipment and humans on a production floor alone can make for hazardous situations, not to mention the often heavy, sharp, and quickly moving parts within that equipment that workers must be cognizant of at all times to prevent injury if safe practices and machine safety procedures are not being followed or used.

While human error and unanticipated events will always introduce a certain amount of risk, it’s incumbent upon tissue manufacturers and converters to provide safe working environments. Abiding by OSHA regulations is a given, but how safety training is done and choosing to use equipment with automated safety features is largely in each facility’s control — and essential for properly mitigating risk.

Train To Gain

Relying upon workers to be accountable for their personal safety is a small and sometimes erroneous step toward creating a facility that is safe and safety-conscious. Overlooking the importance of getting and keeping workers on-board with universal safety training procedures can be a costly mistake for tissue manufacturers and converters.

Recent United States National Security Council data show that an employee workplace injury requiring medical consult and treatment costs an employer an average of $32,000 USD, and a work-related employee death about $1.2 million USD. These figures encompass medical expenses, lost wages, administrative expenses, and other employer costs, but they do not accurately reflect the physical and emotional distress to injured employees and their families. They also do not capture the cost to your reputation should workplace accidents mount.

Safety training that focuses on the basics such as job responsibilities, operational specific tasks, proper personal protective equipment (PPE), converting machinery operation and maintenance, lockout/tagout procedures, etc., is a strong start in giving workers the knowledge they need to keep themselves and those around them out of harm’s way. However, to provide a comprehensive approach to facility safety, consider including:

  • Clear communication of the chain of company key decision-makers to alleviate reporting confusion and guesswork among employees in the event of a critical situation.

  • Ongoing training of management-level employees with regard to identifying, evaluating and eliminating potential hazards and employee exposure to them.

  • A commitment to “creating safety” throughout the company by making it a top-of-mind priority for all tasks. It may be as simple as employees choosing to wear the proper PPE protection when performing a job function or non-routine task, or as complex as developing a plan for handling hazardous materials.

Automation’s Role in Safety

Safe practices work hand-in-hand with safe equipment. Machine guarding and other specific safety features that cover hazardous equipment parts to prevent operator injury has long been an effective industry standard.

However, the advent of equipment automation has provided additional opportunities for tissue manufacturers and converters to improve the intrinsic safety level of machines and systems (due to less operator/maintenance interface)

Blade replacement and format changeovers — particularly precarious tasks for operators — are now automated in some converting equipment, which contributes to keeping operators and maintenance out of danger and improving production efficiencies. Valmet offers two such machines:

179AX Log Saw

The 179AX Log Saw is the first to allow fast and automatic blade replacement. The task can be started with the simple touch of a button from the HMI or via remote control through All-In-One if the machine is part of a line equipped with this particular smart application. The operator is never required to enter the machine for blade replacement or grinding wheel adjustments. Further, the five-slot blade warehouse can be loaded while the machine is running to reduce blade replacement time by up to 90% and automatically accommodate diameter changes — significantly improving production efficiencies without the need for line downtime and providing less personnel interface with the equipment.

Casmatic Carbon T Wrapper

With 100% operator-free automation, the Casmatic Carbon T Wrapper offers the highest safety standards. The Trolley One Touch — a proprietary robotic mechanical arm designed by Valmet’s engineering team — completely automates format changeovers, thereby reducing required changeover times by 80% versus traditional machines, and virtually eliminates operator setup errors.

Keeping workers safe and production lines moving are ongoing goals for tissue manufacturers and converters, and automation is becoming increasingly integral to accomplishing both. For more information on the 179AX Log Saw, Casmatic Carbon T Wrapper and other Valmet innovations, contact us.