Although equipment safety standards applied throughout Europe originated here in the United States, they are not (yet) enforced here. This as a paradox.

Founded in Germany in 1938, Schmidt Technology sells presses and other assembly technology worldwide. We’ve been in the North American market for over 15 years.

Most often, our equipment is part of a human-operated workcell. Due to regulations, but also to provide the best possible safety for the operator, CE-compliant, TUV-approved control systems are required in Europe. Even though the standards applied throughout Europe originated here in the United States, they are not (yet) enforced here. I see this as a paradox. The standards are recommended-not mandated-and yet, safety is supposed to be a high priority in this country.

Based on what I hear from experts, these safety standards will soon become mandatory in the United States. What’s more, since equipment is often transferred from one plant to another worldwide, I believe we will soon see similar safety standards enforced in every industrialized country.

Ironically, the fluid-control components on presses and other pneumatic and hydraulic equipment have made little, if any, progress over the past 20 years from a safety and reliability standpoint, while the electrical and electronic side has advanced considerably. There’s a lot of room for improvement in fluid controls, in the form of redundancy, monitoring and other technologies.

In light of these facts, I believe we may be forced to make some big changes over the next few years regarding safety. One problem, of course, is cost. Can U.S. manufacturers afford the increased cost, in the midst of an economically difficult time? Well, the Canadian Standards Association has put its foot down anytime we sold product for use in Canada, so Canadian manufacturers are familiar with a higher cost.

Where do you see safety standards going in the next few years? Do we have a choice? What are your thoughts?

Martin Frischknecht is president of Schmidt Technology, which manufactures presses and other assembly technology. He can be reached at 800-959-1218.

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of guest spots by industry experts that will appear regularly on ASSEMBLY’s blog page. Check back frequently to read more commentaries on automated assembly, machine vision, robotics and ergonomics.