COVID-19 has changed how the manufacturing industry views security and safety in factory floors and warehouses.
Manufacturing facilities have traditionally leveraged solutions such as video cameras and analytics for safety and security, precisely in that order. So, the challenges that have stemmed from COVID-19
are in line with the primary function to help keep employees safe.
“The dilemma within this space is that each and every manufacturing facility is very different in their needs and approach,” said Stuart Rawling,
VP of Technology and Customer Experience at Pelco
. “Facilities that are handling live animals for processing will have a different process in place than a food processing plant that cans peaches, for instance. But they all share the same focus: to keep their employees safe and keep the risks down.”
Risk assessment, as it stands within this industry, remains a crucial part of the equation. And the added concerns around not only keeping production up and running but also the threats of COVID-19 exposure and outbreaks means that these facilities have an added complexity in identifying and leveraging technology that aids in the safety component
Safety in manufacturing with fewer employees
Several challenges arise when new COVID-19 regulations require the density of people on-site to be low and human interaction limited, according to Johan Akesson, Director of Business Development for Industry and Critical infrastructure at Axis Communications
“Fewer people mean fewer eyes to monitor for threats to employee safety or if unauthorized people enter the premises,” Akesson added. “Monitoring access to certain areas is critical to prevent intrusion, theft, or even sabotage. For example, the deliveries and collections areas – where visitors and suppliers frequent – can be a source of concern, especially for some industries, such as the food production sector.”
Maintaining employee safety also becomes more challenging with fewer people on site. If an incident occurs, there are fewer eyes on the factory floor to assist and raise the alarm. Also, having temporary replacements of individuals who don’t know the workplace and its policies becomes an additional safety concern.
Security threats in manufacturing
While the current health crisis has impacted “normal” life in many ways, the conventional threats to factories still exist and need to be addressed along with the added factor of increased compliance. Access control, video, and intrusion are still the main pillars of security.
Bruce Montgomery, Business Development Leader at Honeywell Building Technologies
, pointed out that many factories need to address how they comply with new policies and regulations, such as initial health screenings and social distancing. The good news is that with some minor adjustments, many of their “traditional” security tools and technologies can be leveraged to address these concerns and help bring people back into buildings.
“Security cameras, advanced video analytics, and connected sensors situated throughout a building can provide insight into how spaces are being used to predict where and when occupants interact or congregate,” Montgomery said. “These foot traffic patterns can inform settings for a variety of devices – like ventilation and temperature controls – as well as address compliance with new policies like social distancing guidelines. Access control technology can prevent unauthorized or at-risk people from entering a building, or specific areas of the building, to curb the spread of illnesses when required without the need for manual inspection.”
Montgomery gave the example of a customer in the food manufacturing segment, with whom they are working to conduct initial body temperature screening. Employee access to the site is granted based on that daily screening.
“The factory can also discretely inform an employee if they need further testing and manage site access,” Montgomery said. “Video analytics can also help building owners maintain compliance with guidelines such as social distancing or PPE protocols. Security alerts can notify facility managers to crowds or chokepoints. Video forensics can identify wherein a building an infected occupant spent time for contact tracing.”
Solutions to rebuild employee trust
The most critical priority for manufacturers now is to get back to what they were before while following all health guidelines. For this, they need employees back to work, and they need employees to feel safe at work.
Montgomery concluded on this point, adding that all of that is necessary can be done with limited human labor, granting staff time to focus on other critical tasks. Employees will need to know their employer is looking out for their well-being first and foremost, so communication will be vital to keeping confidence high as employees return to work.