Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

If you are of a certain age, like me, you will remember curling up of an evening in front of the fire, turning on one of the 3 TV channels available in the UK at that time and waiting, in anticipation to hear William Shatner as James T Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise, voicing those words. At the time, men (and it was men) were boldly going into space – orbiting the earth; landing on the moon.

Fast forward half a century – people, men and women, are still boldly crossing frontiers in a plethora of different sectors. Including Process Safety. Since it’s inception, Process Safety has followed a dynamic trajectory: evolving with technology, disrupting in response to incidents, to arrive in the 2nd decade of the 21st century in pretty good shape. On a rolling average basis, the number and impact of Process Safety Incidents have been steadily declining over the past few decades.

However, the rate of change of applied technology is rapid and probably accelerating. In order to prolong the improvement trend, the clearer our vision of the near future of Material Processing and Transformation, the better able we will be to boldly stride towards it.

At Hazards 28, Shahana Buchanan, Head of Process Safety for Nestle, gave a stimulating keynote address in which she described (with a Scottish twist) the evolution of industrial processes to the present day and beyond. There is much to look forward to in the industrial near future, but it will not be without risk – unless we decide to abandon manufacturing altogether. Some of the key themes will be:

  • Ever increasing automation – hardware and software
  • Changing nature of threats – cybersecurity, man/machine interface, new processes/new threats (e.g. Additive Manufacturing – direct metal laser sintering, Nanotechnology)
  • What won’t change and why – including the ongoing need for curious, creative, communicative and empathic professionals
  • Remodelling PHAs for the near future – leveraging advances in AI without relying on them
  • Learning from industries already inhabiting in our near future trajectory (Aviation?, Semi-conductors? Etc)
  • Impact of Industry 5.0 – the internet of things; personalised manufacturing; man/machine interaction; industrial upcycling
  • Novel Techniques to support manufacturing – Cloud Computing; Next Level Robotics; Augmented Reality


The future is uncertain, but, with a bit of preparation, it can be bright. Beam me up Scotty – I’m ready for the ride.