Machinery safety first
Christopher Herre works as project manager and machinery safety expert at Semcon. And he is a generalist. A proud one. Read Christopher’s story about what happens inside of him when he enters a production facility and how he helps Semcon’s customers to get on top of their machinery safety.
I’ve always struggled with finding that thing, that one thing that gets the fire burning inside and the desire of putting all my time and effort into that………one thing. I mean CAD-design is fun, programming is fun, simulation is fun, project management is fun… For me that list is quite long. I sometimes felt like this was something negative, that you had to choose that one thing to specialize your competence to be valuable as an employee. That is of course not true, and I have to say that I now have come to peace with that feeling. I am a generalist, a proud generalist with strengths that I try to leverage in my profession.
My road to Semcon
I must admit, the lack of that fire-burning-inside-thing, was not completely true since I at least found a technology area that really caught my interest. Every time I enter a production facility, something happens inside of me. All the cool stuff put together to make an efficient automated or semi-automated production! About twenty years ago I was eager to start my journey in automation and mechatronics at Chalmers. This was absolutely the right place for me. When I graduated five years later as a Msc in mechatronics I found my way as a project engineer where you did a little bit of everything. Technical support and CAD-design of customized conveyor systems and manual production systems, project management and CE-marking. I also found it very pleasing to get that motor moving or make those sequences happen, which got me into servo motors, PLC- and HMI- programming.
Certified machinery safety expert
Later, I saw some gaps in the industry when it comes to the safety of personnel working with production equipment. Imagine that feeling when you can make a super nice equipment from a functional point of view, but also be very proud of delivering a safe equipment that will cause no harm to the personnel interacting with it. All this, without hindering the useability and production capability. This was when I got my certified machinery safety expert diploma.
I have now been with Semcon since spring 2021. The culture, variety of tasks and customers as well as the ability to be in control of what assignments you take on, is very appealing.
Putting safety first is putting people first
Many companies that have a profile where safety comes first, has also shown to be very successful. My focus now is on machinery safety. To help customers get on top of this important topic and to develop this into Semcon’s portfolio. By increasing the awareness of the importance of a systematic approach towards safety, this is also to put people before technology. My philosophy is to take machinery safety from a side activity when developing production equipment, to that leading process. Machinery safety regulations, directives and standards sets the framework and ballpark for further development, and inside that ballpark you can do whatever you want!
Safety and heavy automated machinery
My recent assignment was actually not within production development but within automated vehicles/solutions in confined areas like quarries. These off-road solutions for haulers also need to be CE-marked according to the machinery directive. This is a challenging task. Suddenly you have a heavy automated machine “on foot” in quite high speeds instead of a stationary machine which most often can be enclosed and protected while in operation. The challenges are very much the same as for “on-road” vehicles, but confined areas are more of a controlled area with fewer interactions and with trained personnel. That’s why the time to market could be faster than for “on-road” vehicles.
Before there are sensors and AI that can be completely trusted the interaction with personnel needs to be kept at minimum but cannot completely be excluded. There are many challenges such as protecting a large autonomous operating zone, safe interaction with the vehicle during loading/unloading, wireless E-stop system and geofencing with integrity. Another philosophic question to dig in to is what is safe enough in this very much new technology where few standards and regulations have been developed yet.
How to be successful as a consultant
I think the most important personal attributes as a consultant in every challenge you take on are to be curious, dedicated and not being afraid of leaving your comfort zone. This will take you, your competence and your self confidence to new heights. Don’t forget that being a generalist can be your super power and prioritize people and safety first, then technology.
Title: Project Manager and Machinery Safety Expert
Education: Msc in mechatronics, Chalmers University, Gothenburg
Worked at Semcon since: April 2021
I have the most fun at work when: I get to spend the time to solve a problem that will make the life easier for the people involved