By ABB Low Voltage
Safety fencing provides a simple and effective protection from danger. A new approach to fence design helps make it easier to design, purchase, install and maintain safety fence systems.
Probably the most straightforward and effective safety measure to protect people from process-machinery dangers is perimeter guarding. While other, more technically-complex devices and systems are ripe for technology advancements, the simplicity of perimeter guarding (safety fencing) makes it seem like any advancement would be small and incremental. That is exactly why the people who developed an interesting new approach to safety fencing are especially proud of their development.
“When we describe it to people,” says Darrell Burkeen, one of the developers, “one of the most common responses we get is, ‘Why didn’t someone think of this already?’ As someone who’s been in this industry for over 25 years, I don’t have a good answer! It seems so obvious in hindsight.”
What Burkeen and the other members of his engineering team developed is a vastly simplified, standardized fencing system based on a small parts list that includes a single panel width of 1,500 mm. The simplicity of this system, America’s Quick-Guard™ (AQG), overcomes the two major shortcomings to traditional technology: purchasing complexity and deployment time.
Piecing Together the Protection
Designing a traditional steel or aluminum fence enclosure requires selecting the required components from a catalog or list that includes a large number of items. That process typically starts with a sketch or drawing of the desired layout with dimensions and required features like doors and safety devices. Those requirements are communicated via an RFQ to the distributor who creates a CAD model of the system and responds with a quote, bill of materials and estimated delivery date. Depending on the parts required, complexity of the system and level of customization needed, that delivery date may be further in the future than desired.
“I spoke to an engineer who described how a customer – a major automaker – became very frustrated with delays in receiving a fence system,” recalls Burkeen. “That delay became the sticking point preventing startup of a new production line.”
That’s not an uncommon situation. Perimeter guarding is a small portion of the overall project and is often one of the last items to be ordered. Because of this, it is one of the most time critical systems to completing a project.
With just 14 components, specifying a fence system is far easier. Based on the dimensions and configuration provided by the user, the distributor can quickly and easily build the bill of materials.
Lead time for delivery is also greatly shortened. Because of the compact list of components, distributors can easily and affordably stock the entire product line.
Ease of Assembly and Modification
The short parts list of AQG components – panels, posts, doors and bracket kits – practically eliminates any confusion or head-scratching during assembly. The single, standard 1,500 mm AQG panel can meet the design requirements of most system layouts.
In cases where smaller panels are needed, or when on-site adjustments are required, the width can be shortened using bolt cutters to cut the mesh and a chop saw to cut the channel. On-site modifications to steel fence systems often require torches and/or welders.
The time required to mount safety e-stops and sensors is also reduced when compatible Jokab components are selected. Many of them include quarter-turn fasteners that quickly lock the device to the aluminum frame with no drilling or special mounting plates. Unlike steel fence, where attachment points for components and devices require drilling, tapping and repainting.
The AQG panels add durability with a design that locks the screen into the T slot along all four edges. When a fencing system is damaged, repairing traditional aluminum or steel fence components may be done relatively quickly if it’s a standard part and the distributor has it on hand. With AQG components, it’s easy for the replacement to be on hand and available for delivery.
As your process layout grows or changes, an AQG fence system can easily be enlarged or adapted to meet the new requirements. That short, standard list of components ensures that the existing panels and posts can be repurposed and reconfigured, and that new components will perfectly fit.
Good Fences Make Good Safety
A fundamental concept of process improvement is that, no matter how good a process is, there is always room for improvement. That’s also proven true with safety fencing.
The development of ABB’s America’s Quick-Guard™ represents a large and significant new improvement in the way perimeter guarding is brought to the market. AQG was designed by safety experts with the machine safety integrator in mind. The simplicity of AQG helps ensure less complexity and reduced delays, from design through delivery and assembly, with costs that are comparable to traditional aluminum fence systems.
Product and process facility managers, and the integrators who provide them with their safety systems, will want to explore the benefits of AQG in their next safety fence design.