Machine safety and counterfeiting are two completely different topics that are nonetheless closely linked. Manufacturers are presenting their latest ideas for safety at HANNOVER MESSE 2011 and showing how businesses can protect themselves from counterfeiters.
Occupational accidents are expensive: millions of work days are lost each year in the European Union due to employee injuries during maintenance work. In some European countries up to 20 percent of all industrial accidents can be attributed to insufficient or non-compliant maintenance procedures, according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). The agency is rolling out information campaigns in an effort to reduce the number of workplace accidents by 25 percent in the next few years.
But campaigns alone are not enough. Machine and facilities manufacturers are also constantly pursuing new solutions to make their machines safer and maintenance more predictable. "This topic is of central interest to many companies exhibiting at HANNOVER MESSE from 4 to 8 April 2011," said Oliver Frese, Senior Vice President of HANNOVER MESSE. The latest Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC concerning operation of manufacturing facilities came into effect in January 2010, and manufacturers and operators are required to ensure that their machines meet the new requirements. The legal requirements for CE certification play a key role here. If they are not met, the consequences for the operator can be severe, possibly even leading to criminal prosecution.
Solutions for safe machines vary widely. In addition to more proactive measures, condition monitoring systems help contribute to better safety. They monitor the condition of components and systems and provide the facility operator with specific maintenance alerts to prevent sudden breakdowns, which account for a disproportionate number of workplace accidents. "The Motion Drive & Automation forum in Hall 24 at HANNOVER MESSE addresses various CMS topics in power transmission and control, pneumatics and hydraulics," said Mr. Frese. "Attendees can gain practical information about overall facility safety as well."
In addition to CMS, manufacturers are increasingly integrating safety technology into their modern automation systems. Suitable fieldbus solutions eliminate the need for parallel signaling systems. Secure bus and automation systems have even more to offer because they enable cost optimization, increased reliability of the entire application and reduced energy consumption. A further benefit is that here is only one system for both regular and safety automation, and therefore only one user interface. This reduces user errors. Integrated safety systems, machines and facilities do not require as many different types of control cabinets, and it is easier to adapt them to new safety requirements later on.
Counterfeiting is also a major issue when it comes to the safety of machines and facilities because counterfeiters are rarely concerned with meeting accepted safety standards. This is why machine manufacturers have developed special features integrated into their products to reveal counterfeits. Watermarks, RFID tags, patterns printed in special colors or biomarkers can expose imitations. At Identification, Vision & Protection in Hall 17, producers of industrial labeling and identification technologies display their innovations for product tagging and identification for protection against counterfeiting.
Counterfeit products are not just a safety problem: German mechanical and plant engineering companies estimate annual losses of more than €7 billion due to counterfeiting. Counterfeits can also damage a company's image or even lead to unjustified claims from customers who purchased an imitation product in the belief that it was genuine. Everything gets copied, including replacement parts, components and even complete machines. Two-thirds of German plant engineering firms say they have already been negatively impacted by counterfeit items, but only 10 percent of the cases are actually identified.
Deutsche Messe, as the host of HANNOVER MESSE, takes product piracy at its events very seriously: "As a preventative measure, every exhibitor must declare that their exhibits do not infringe on any brand or product rights," said Mr. Frese. "If a case of counterfeiting is exposed during a trade show, first we try to discuss it with both parties." This mediation often proves successful, at least in the short term, with the guilty company voluntarily removing the exhibit from its stand. If a situation cannot be immediately resolved through mediation, it usually leads to injunctive proceedings by the tribunals responsible for the specific competition or patent issue – and often very quickly, as rapid access to the appropriate legal authorities is generally ensured during the trade show.
In the end, manufacturers and workplace safety officials share a common goal: making machines safer and preventing counterfeits. Only in this way can the number of workplace accidents really come down in the next few years.