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Sending out the right signals

09 August 2023

With its new 'key-in-pocket' solution, Pilz offers a system for maintenance safety that incorporates the eSIGN LED signal tower from WERMA as a visual display

EXTENSIVE MACHINES and plants often have poorly visible or dangerous areas that are secured with protective zones or fences. This places special demands on safety: It is important that only authorised persons have access for maintenance work. At the same time it must be ensured that when setting up for new jobs or restarting the plant, no more people are in the hazardous area.

As a leading supplier of automation products, systems and services, Pilz offers a system for safeguarding maintenance with the new key-in-pocket solution. Pilz relies on the new eSIGN LED signal tower from WERMA as a visual display – this shows the current status brightly, clearly and luminously.

Simply safe maintenance

In order to protect employees, certain parts of a machine or production plant are protected by a cell (e.g. robot cell). If a person needs access due to necessary maintenance, the machine must be stopped – only then is it possible to enter the cell. When entering, the person signs in with his personal transponder in a 'safe list'. As long as at least one person remains in the danger zone (or a person is entered in the 'safe list'), the machine may not be restarted.

Pilz's key-in-pocket solution ensures that only authorized persons are allowed access, only suitably qualified persons carry out the work involved and the number of people within this cell is documented to prevent the machine starting prematurely and putting people at risk. The machine or system can only be restarted after all persons have been logged out of the safe list in the danger zone. Central management of the safe list offers advantages, especially for large plants. For example, a person does not have to leave the cell at the same door through which he or she entered the cell. This offers a significant time and flexibility advantage.

The key-in-pocket solution focuses on maintenance protection, which, in addition to access authorisation, also ensures protection against unintentional starting of the machines. It is designed specifically for plant and machinery with hazardous areas, which are protected by safety fences. With this solution, Pilz provides a digital maintenance safeguard that flexibly meets both safety and industrial security requirements: key-in-pocket ensures that the machine does not restart during maintenance work and that unauthorised persons cannot gain access.

In this way, key-in-pocket offers an economical, efficient alternative to mechanical 'lockout-tagout' maintenance locks, which are fitted to all safety doors. As the plant can be entered or exited at different safety gates, the Pilz solution offers staff greater flexibility and therefore considerable time savings during maintenance.

Maximum safety for employees, uncomplicated identification and process reliability, plus seamless documentation of maintenance times and access - key-in-pocket offers a wide range of benefits.

Identification and Access Management (IAM) helps solve daily challenges of responsible persons in a company. It primarily serves to protect employees (prevention of accidents and damage), but liability risks (responsibility), data protection (know-how) and productivity (machine breakdowns) also benefit from such identification and access management. Pilz has a wide range of authentication products for these solutions, which functionally ensure a safe environment (employee protection), only allow access to qualified personnel (productivity and liability) and are tamper-proof (data protection).

This makes it possible for companies to provide clear identification for specific tasks and access to machines and systems, to check qualifications and training, and to authorise authorisations and access based on these. The respective status can be easily and quickly displayed visually via a signal column. The identity of a person is stored on personalised transponders, the so-called key. Depending on the access rights stored, access is granted to the identified person via the key devices. This can be, for example, the start of machines, the selection of operating modes or even manual access via door systems.

Signal tower as HMI

Within the key-in-Pocket solution Pilz uses the eSIGN signal towers from WERMA at all access points. Thanks to the electrical modularity, the signal tower can be configured completely freely. This transforms a classic traffic light solution into a completely customer-specific interface. In combination with the key-in-pocket solution, the eSIGN signal tower can not only indicate the status of the installation, but also whether access to the danger zone is granted, whether access is available for the necessary activities and also the number of persons currently present in the danger zone.

In this way the WERMA signal tower assumes the role of a human machine interface and enables the user to communicate with the access system, the access options within the cell and provides information on the status of the machine or plant. This combination creates a customised system of individual components that offers real added value for customers.

Criss Baumeister, product management I.A.M. solutions at Pilz says: "When we were looking for a combination device with a high level of functionality and customisability, which would logically expand our key-in-pocket solution, we came across the eSIGN signal tower from WERMA."

He adds: "After WERMA has been a reliable and innovative partner for us for many years, it was immediately clear that we were looking for further cooperation. During the project it was confirmed that the joint development with WERMA is un-bureaucratic, fast and solution-oriented. This motivated everyone involved."

The decisive factor for the use of the eSIGN was above all the possibility of realising a mushroom-specific display of the statuses on the large illuminated surface. "With the eSIGN, WERMA offers us complete flexibility in the design of the signalling. This allowed us to select colours and illuminated images that were ideally suited to the application, offered a high level of information content and also generated strong attention."

Baumeister adds: "At the same time we have created a signalling system that can only be found at Pilz and provides a unique selling point for our product. The powerful combination of customisability, design and signalling effect convinced us and fits perfectly with our claim of 'Making the Difference'."

With the eSIGN signal tower WERMA sets a new standard in industrial signalling. The full-surface signalling in combination with the versatile customisability with various modes, illuminated images and sounds make the eSIGN unique. The robust industrial design and simple configuration software once again prove the versatile application of this new signal tower from WERMA.


Key Points

  • The new key-in-pocket safeguarding solution from Pilz uses WERMA's eSIGN LED signal tower as a visual display
  • Thanks to the electrical modularity, the signal tower can be configured completely freely for a customer-specific interface
  • The WERMA signal tower assumes the role of an HMI and enables the user to communicate with the access system