A colleague recently pointed me to a Manufacturing Business Technology article, Red alert: Increase in process automation heightens need for safety-related systems. The article points to a recent Frost & Sullivan study which predicts the market for safety-related systems used by process manufacturers will more than double from 2006.
Quoting from the account of this research report:
It says users will welcome systems that address the underlying challenge of minimizing the trade off between process uptime and process safety. In addition, users will favor vendors that have significant technical experience in installing complex integrated safety solutions that monitor safety and non-safety functions while reducing the costly channels of diversified communication.
Over the past several years of blogging, I’ve discussed safety instrumented systems and the associated global standards, IEC 61508 and IEC 61511 on numerous occasions. Newer architectures like Emerson’s smart SIS incorporate digital communications so that the complete safety instrumented function (SIF) can be continuously diagnosed to help the function perform when it should and not when it shouldn’t.
Rather than being prescriptive and instructing process manufacturers what to do, the safety standards are performance-based. IEC 61511 allows you to investigate the alternative solutions for the right safety instrumented function for the safety integrity level (SIL). This means that more engineering work may be required to investigate these alternatives to find the best solution.
This is great news for the engineering community because they get to do the engineering. However the bad news is they must do the engineering.
As process manufacturers address their risk-mitigation strategies and comply with the IEC 61511 standard, they will continue to work closely with those that can provide the technical expertise required throughout the safety lifecycle, from front end engineering and design to ongoing system maintenance.