Pilz Releases New “Key In Pocket” for Machine Maintenance Safety

March 02, 2023 by Damond Goodwin

Machine maintenance safety is a major concern for manufacturers, and Pilz hopes to increase efficiency through the use of card readers to reduce cost and improve the process over traditional methods.

Machine maintenance safety is an important part of any manufacturing process. Traditionally, manufacturers relied on the “lock out, tag out” (LOTO) method for keeping workers safe from machine startup during machine maintenance or repair. 

New technology has been developed, however, to help reduce the cost and complexity needed for worker safety in these types of scenarios. Pilz, a leader in safe automation technology, has rethought the traditional LOTO method of machine safeguarding with their latest access permission system PITreader. 


lock out tag out loto method for machine maintenance safety

Manufacturers traditionally rely on “lock out, tag out” methods for worker safety during machine maintenance and repair. Image used courtesy of Adobe Stock


Safety During Machine Maintenance

During normal operation, there are safeguards in place to keep workers from coming into contact with dangerous equipment, such as physical fences, light curtains, sensors, and doors. When the system is being worked on, however, normal safety protocols are often no longer viable or in place. This leaves workers exposed to the machinery should it become energized while they are working on the equipment. 

LOTO (where workers individually lock the electrical box that feeds the machinery) is an effective way to keep workers safe, but it can be cumbersome and inefficient. This is especially true should workers leave the plant after their shift without removing their lock from the equipment. Certain protocols need to be completed before the equipment can be energized again, and the lock needs to be physically cut off the electrical box. This can lead to increased downtime and wasted labor.    

Pilz PITreader access permission system

Pilz'  access permission system effectively safeguards against accidental startup while increasing ease of use for operators and maintenance personnel. Image used courtesy of Pilz


Pilz’s “Key In Pocket” Machine Safeguarding    

Pilz’ new access permission system, the PITreader, allows only authorized users into the area without using keys and locks. The system can effectively safeguard against accidental startup while workers are present. 

The current PITreader card unit can be used with RFID-capable cards and card readers. In addition, the PITreader sticker is able to be used with the current PITreader or as a standalone unit. The transponder can keep track of access capabilities for operators. This allows workers to identify themselves to the PITreader card unit for the appropriate access to be granted. 

This helps to keep the integrity of the plant security system while increasing the ease of use for operators and maintenance personnel. If the plant is already equipped with RFID-capable cards, there is no need for additional cards to be used. The same RFID cards can be used for multiple functions. This helps to reduce further the amount of time necessary for machine access authorization. 

Pilz PITreader access permission system with RFID card and reader

The same RFID cards can be used for multiple functions for plants already equipped with RFID-capable cards. Image used courtesy of Pilz

The system comes with the PIT-reader S version as an option. The PIT-reader S version helps users integrate OPC UA standards into their safety processes, making it possible for increased safety and connectivity. With a software solution called PIT Transponder Manager (PTM), customers can easily graphically manage users and permissions. This helps reduce the time needed to change information within the system.   

The User Authentication Service (UAS) software tool helps simplify the use of the PIT reader for companies with more than one system in their plants. In addition, the PITreader can be used with the Pilz configurable small controller PNOZmulti 2 or the automation system PSS4000.  


Ensuring Safety and Efficiency

Pilz "key in pocket" system gives customers the unique ability to save time and improve machine maintenance efficiency with the use of their card reading system. Workers can enter and exit the work area while the reader monitors the process, ensuring all workers are out of the area before the machinery can start again.