By Nate Burton, AEM Technical and Safety Services Manager

Most disciplines experience a period of substantive advancement early in their history.

Driving development are scholars and industry leaders. American engineer W. Edwards Deming pushed forward improvements in quality, while Peter Drucker is widely considered to be the father of modern management theory. In marketing, Harvard University professor Theodore Levitt spurred advancement and guided the maturation of his field.

For heavy equipment product safety and compliance, the efforts and contributions of several have benefited many over the years. Practitioner expertise honed by collaboration transformed the practice and industry capability. Now, as the off-road equipment industry drives safety forward, it’s important to honor someone who has paved the way for the work being done by the safety engineers of today. 

For his impactful work, along with his unwavering support of industry over the years, product safety guru Steve Burdette was honored last week at the 2018 Product Safety and Compliance Seminar.

Advancing Product Safety

Burdette, by his own admission, sort of stumbled into product safety work for AEM member CNH Industrial in the early 1990s. Since then, though, his efforts to integrate product safety with product development have had transformative effects on equipment manufacturing.

Nearly two decades ago, several changes across the industry – coupled with ever-increasing scrutiny by regulators and trial attorneys – drove the development of a uniform methodology grounded in decades of practical experience by manufacturers. The inaugural EMI Product Safety Seminar served as the initial effort on the part of industry stakeholders to share methodology and best practices with one another, and those in attendance identified the need to consolidate and simplify them to be scaled to any organization. The methodology would incorporate guidelines for utilizing standards, regulations and hazard assessment to reduce product hazards by design. Furthermore, the methodology provided guidance to sustain hazard awareness throughout a product's lifecycle.

Burdette then responded by creating a revolutionary tool that would have a lasting impact on how manufacturers approach product safety.

The tool was a simple matrix that allowed design engineers to proactively integrate product safety with product design and development. On one axis of the matrix was a timeline of product development from initial concept through completion, while the other axis represented increasing levels of product safety and compliance. The idea was to weave product safety considerations throughout manufacturers’ development process that continued throughout the complete product lifecycle— a revolutionary concept at the time.

Worthy Of Recognition

Advancing product safety has provided Burdette with more satisfaction than just about anything else he’s done in a professional career that has spanned six decades. Given all he’s accomplished, along with his foresight, passion and service to others in advancing the field of safety and compliance, he's worthy of recognition. And his employer, CNH Industrial, along with many others in the industry who lend their talents to further industry product safety, are worthy of thanks, too. Their valuable knowledge, best practices and information – developed over decades – served as the foundation for this year’s Product Safety and Compliance Seminar.

Now, as those in attendance at last week's seminar resume their work and continue their efforts to advance heavy equipment product safety and compliance, they – along with everyone else in their respective organizations – should remember to heed the wise words of Burdette: “You’re not finished with a product when you design it or manufacture it. It’s yours until it ends up in a scrap pile somewhere.”

 Subscribe to the AEM Industry Advisor for information related to product safety and compliance.