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Locking In Technology

Locking In Master Lock by Josh Serbus article banner
Article by Joshua Serbus, Consultant, SafeNet Consulting

As one of the “New Guys” at SafeNet Consulting, it was an honor to land a challenging greenfield project for a legendary Security Manufacturing Company in the Midwest. I had only joined the firm months earlier, but my proficiencies in Microsoft’s tech stack and years of experience made me ideally-suited for the endeavor.

The Challenge: Lockout-Tagout

As you can imagine, a large manufacturing company has buildings full of specialized heavy machinery. To ensure workplace safety and to avoid injuries in such an environment, OSHA requires that a Lockout-Tagout procedure be followed. In a nutshell, if a machine is shut OFF for servicing or any other reason, the master power switch gets switched to a LOCKOUT position. The switch then has a TAGOUT tag with the locking time along with the name/phone number of the person who locked it. This prevents a different worker from accidentally unlocking the machine and starting it while servicing is in progress, which could result in serious injury.

Historically, these switches operated “Analog,” with workers locking and tagging out the old-fashioned way, by hand. This procedure lacked security and accountability, which compromised employee safety. The companies safety officers, managers and workers needed a more comprehensive, real-time account of locked and unlocked machines.

A tech-driven solution was the answer – with Bluetooth-operated locks and a custom-designed mobile app that would not only talk to the switches, but also populate their database with the content needed for overall facility safety management. Intuitive ease-of-use was imperative for all workers using the mobile app to 1. Power down the machine and lock it; 2. Digitally tether the employee to the Bluetooth switch and machine being serviced; and 3. Unlock and power up the machine for resumed normal use.

Joining Forces

This company reached out to SafeNet and assigned me as the Consultant for the six-month project. The team, which included an internal Project Manager and Solution Architect, kicked off the job by getting acquainted, assigning roles, and establishing milestones. And with that, we were off and running.

My Role

I had the pleasure to use my expertise in Azure DevOps and the standard library to create the application software to fulfill every objective. Since it was a new-state project, there were no legacy systems in play, which is always a liberating scenario. The journey of going from proof-of-concept to seamless completion couldn’t have been better. As I wrote the code and pushed it up for smoke tests it was like being in Consultant heaven.

That’s a Wrap

When we finished up completion of this project, we didn’t hit our milestones… we PRECEDED them! I owe this to the constant collaboration among team members along the way. With daily scrum calls, agile methodology and the use of a Discord Server, fluid communication kept the project humming along beautifully.

And in the end, our client not only had their ideal solution, they also owned technology they could extend to other manufacturers in need of a secure, easy-to-use, digital lockout/tagout system. Lock On!

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