Safety Gate Automation: 4 Keys to Success
Guest blog by Aaron Conway from MHI member company, Mezzanine Safeti-Gates
Speed and efficiency is a goal of any business today, especially in material handling, distribution and manufacturing. Customers today want to ensure they are operating at their highest levels, and given this goal and the rise of available technologies, automation is top of mind for most of our customers.
However, automation of safety equipment is not always top of mind. In fact, manual operation of our safety gates used to be our first recommendation, and it is still a very popular and viable option. We also recognize that power operation and complementary technologies for safety equipment is often needed for automated applications and processes. While many facilities are undergoing changes to include automated processes, safety of employees is still of utmost importance.
More companies are looking to ensure safety equipment, including dual-gate systems for fall protection, around pallet drop areas makes a positive impact rather than impede automation or efficiency. Any technology used for safety gates must be designed in a fashion to help companies speed their operations, especially those that incorporate AGVs and lift trucks, without compromising safety.
There are many different ways to configure power and technology, from push button stations to remote control operations. Whether you are retrofitting power to existing safety gates or planning to purchase new systems, keep these four key points in mind to achieve success.
The first thing to keep in mind when you look to power operate a safety gate is that it is a commercial motor that works for your environment. You must ensure it has enough horsepower to match the expected use of the safety gate. If your application is very repetitive, you’ll want to make sure it can provide speed as well. Size and placement of the motors can also be an issue, so it’s important to discuss these issues before choosing a motor.
Environments Matter Too
Where is the application located? Is it in a climate-controlled environment that is extremely hot or cold? Is there a need for rinsing the environment? Ensure the motor that you use is able to operate within any conditions that may be present in the facility. Motors are available in water- and explosion-proof options, and numerous controls, such as flashing lights and caution alarms, can be added.
Capture the Signal
Power operation alone is not enough to ensure your speed and efficiency is at its highest. Technology is needed to allow the safety gates to communicate with other plant equipment and software, and we offer our safety gate customers integration options with many different technologies.
For example, controls and sensors integrated with power operation on our safety gates send AGVs a signal when the ledge gate is up, telling it to load material to the pallet drop area. After the pallets are loaded, the sensors from the AGV send a signal to the safety gate to use the motor to close the ledge-side gate so employees can work with the material.
Radio frequency is often used to allow the safety gates to communicate with wireless radio frequencies on lift trucks. When the lift truck is ready to replenish the pallet drop area, the lift truck sends a signal to the safety gate to ensure the ledge side gate is raised. Ince the area has been replenished, another signal is sent to the safety gate telling it to close the ledge side gate so employees can access the material.
Sensors on safety gates can also be wired into a facility’s software system to integrate with processing computers in order to track materials and determine which areas must be replenished. These are just a few options and applications; each system can be tailored to the facility and company’s needs.
Sometimes, another eye on things is helpful. When you add power operation and other technologies to safety gates, it is important to utilize built-in safety features like photo eyes. This helpful technology can detect the presence of a person or object and prevent the gate from opening or closing. An adjustable clutch that engages if the gate makes contact with another object can also be included.
Remember, when added to any new or existing safety gate model, power operation and technology can save time and provide efficiencies while keeping employees safe. Commercial motors, wireless controls, sensors and software integration can make the operation of a safety gate seamless with automated operations. Choose wisely.