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Integrate Control and Safety and Unlock Hidden Potential

Integrate Control and Safety and Unlock Hidden Potential

Protecting people, work-in-progress and equipment.

Machine designers and manufacturers have an awesome responsibility: keep operators safe and keep production flowing. In increasingly automated environments, maintaining safety and productivity is more challenging than ever before.

  • Machines now operate autonomously
  • Humans work side-by-side with robots
  • Complex systems have a large number of safety-related I/O points

The growing use and complexity of automation is why so many of our customers are opting to integrate control and safety.


The socially-distanced factory is now part of the new normal.

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There’s another reason why companies are jumping on the integrated control and safety band wagon: COVID-19. Supply chain gaps, social distancing and employee protection has accelerated industry-wide efforts to automate more and more production processes. Pervasive automation requires an even greater focus on safety for workers who interface with and control automated systems. The more complex the automation is, the more challenging the safety becomes.

Thanks to advances in technology, however, companies can now:

  • Integrate machine control and safety on one platform
  • Transport control and safety over one network
  • Program both within one software environment

Integrating control and safety onto the same network:

  • Enables engineers to assess risk and define functional safety requirements early in the design process to achieve a higher level of safety
  • Improves machine communication, because equipment control and safety are both handled in one programming environment
  • Makes it possible for control software to monitor each line component in real-time

Instead of simple “go” or “no go” controls, operators have more sophisticated safety controls that allow them to respond to problems in a more intelligent way. They can actually segment or separate discrete parts of the process. For example, if one part of the process is having an issue, rather than shut the whole machine down in an uncontrolled way, operators can bring the problem section to a stop with a predefined safe speed. This allows for quicker machine startup one the problem is fixed and reduces wear and tear on the mechanical system.

Operators can also adjust other sections of the process individually, commanding upstream and downstream machines to:

  • Continue as normal
  • Slow down or
  • Idle to create or clear backlog

This more granular control reduces the impact of a single down machine on the overall process. In addition, since all components are on the same network, operators can easily pull detailed status/alarm data from devices. This data can be served up to the HMI, SCADA, BMS or even an email to the maintenance team to further reduce downtime.

Of course, there will always be a place for traditional standalone e-stop and safety relay circuits. But in highly automated environments, integrated control and safety is the future of machine design. It keeps operators safe, which should always be the main concern. It also keeps machines safe. Machines that can run in a safe-state, even during normal operation, can be protected from mechanical or electrical damage. This is no small thing.


Integrating safety leads to revolutionary new benefits that deliver ongoing value.

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Ongoing value beyond safety

In addition to preventing machines from being damaged or destroyed, integrated safety and control also:

  • Reduces scrap — When safety is integrated, machines can be stopped in a controlled fashion and material can be held in place instead of scrapped.
  • Saves floor space — When safety is integrated, companies can reduce hardware and wiring and free up valuable real estate on the warehouse floor.
  • Streamlines engineering — With one platform, one network and one software environment:
    • Machine design is simplified
    • Programming is faster and easier
    • Commissioning time is shorter
    • Training is streamlined and
    • Scaling safety is possible

Integrating control and safety also increases overall productivity. Designing safety into machines improves:

  • Machine uptime, because there’s no need to power off and then power up the machine when it’s in a safe state
  • Troubleshooting, because control and safety data travel on the same network, awareness of the entire system is enhanced and more advanced diagnostics are possible
  • Management, because the same software is used for all, ongoing maintenance is significantly easier

Finally, when safety travels on the network, valuable data can be collected, analyzed and used to provide a safer and more efficient environment. There is no data when you hard wire safety.


Rather than something that is added once equipment is in place, safety is built-in to every component during machine design.

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Safety by design

When it comes to machine design, safety shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should not be something that is added once the production equipment is in place. Rather, comprehensive safety should be built into every component from the beginning to reduce risk upfront and avoid accidents and litigation later.

Smarter, connected components with improved processing power and advanced communication capabilities can create more intelligent systems that allow you to attain ongoing safety and productivity. What should a total safety solution include?

Look for an integrated safety controller that delivers functionally safe machines on one platform, over one network, using one software, while maintaining functional separation between control and safety. Even though there are independent controllers for process and safety control, both should:

  • Sit on the same platform
  • Share the same core components
  • Be programmed with the same software
  • Travel on the same network and
  • Communicate with each other through a shared high-speed data bus that is tightly synchronized and not affected by I/O and network traffic
    • There should be no wiring or gateways between the two controllers, so there are no unnecessary points of failure.

When the main process and safety functions are physically separated at the controller level but integrated at the network level, information can be shared for greater visibility and rapid problem resolution.

A total safety solution should also include:

  • Integrated Safe Torque Off (STO) on servos and on inverters, so operators can safely stop the drive without disconnecting the main power, ensuring maximum safety and efficiency
  • Integrated safely-limited speed (SLS) function on inverters that monitors speed, so that the predetermined speed limit is not exceeded
  • Integrated CNC safety functions including safety signal comparisons, speed monitoring between the command speed and the actual speed of the servo and spindle motors as well as redundant energy stop
  • Integrated robot safety functions that limit the speed, range of movement or torque of the robot when safety sensors are activated, allowing robots to work in close proximity to humans


These essential safety functions enable collaborative human-machine operation.

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Built in versus bolted on.

When safety is built-in up-front instead of bolted on after the fact, machines can be designed with safe operation as a foundation for streamlined implementation and enhanced safety on and around machines. Functional safety at the machine level that can also tie into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) network and allow for more:

  • Intelligent safety that can support visualization applications for safer training in hazardous environments
  • Interactive safety that allows maintenance teams to monitor and diagnose events over a single network — even if equipment is from different vendors
  • Collaborative safety that leverages safety sensor data, machine reaction time and safe motion functions to provide safe operation without hard-guarding

While the fully integrated approach can cost more than basic safety devices, the cost is offset by the higher installation and maintenance costs of basic safety components.

As you’ve just learned, there are significant and ongoing benefits for companies who integrate control and safety. If you’d like to protect your people, your works-in-progress and your equipment, check out our on-demand webcast.

View the Webcast




Aga ZupancicAga Zupancic

Product Manager (PLC/IPC)
Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc.

Rob RuberRob Ruber

Senior Product Manager (PLC/IPC/HMI)
Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc.

Tom BurkeTom Burke

Global Strategic Advisor
CC-Link Partner Association

Dan ZachackiDan Zachacki

Sr. Product Marketing Engineer (Servo/Motion)
Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc.

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