Industrial computing on the manufacturing floor has evolved since early commercial applications were installed across aerospace and automotive industries in the 1960s. What’s changed and what are the challenges faced by manufacturing firms reliant on industrial computing as part of their day-to day operations?
Industrial computing has become the cornerstone of manufacturing processes worldwide, building on its early years as a bit part player to become an essential feature of the modern manufacturing floor. It’s fair to say that there aren’t many manufacturing firms left that operate without using a computer as part of their setup.
The growth in has been driven by the need to improve productivity:
- To meet the demands of an ever-changing market.
- To remain competitive in a fiercely contested industry.
As a result, computer controlled stations have basically become a ‘must-have’ requirement on the manufacturing floor. Consequently, computer use has expanded into many areas of the manufacturing cycle.
Everything from administration, data collection, shipping logs, product design and product building is likely to involve a computer controlled system to carry out a required function. In fact, it’s hard to imagine modern manufacturing surviving without the influence of industrial computing, emphasizing just how integral it’s become in the current era.
In a nutshell, you can’t escape the reality that computers are the future of the manufacturing industry. Just look at this list…
- CAD (Computer-Aided Design)
- CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering)
- CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing)
- CAPP (Computer-Aided Process Planning)
- CAQ (Computer-Aided Quality Assurance)
… And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how many computer-based processes now exist that are associated with modern manufacturing techniques.
The Challenges of Industrial Computing in Manufacturing
While computer use in manufacturing has undoubtedly advanced the industry, getting to the point where computers can be used in an industrial setting has not been without its challenges. In fact, it remains a challenge for many manufacturing firms even now.
The emergence of industrial computer panels and is proof that a problem exists in terms of sustaining computer use in an environment as hostile as the manufacturing floor. It’s never been the case that you can simply integrate a computer-controlled system on the manufacturing floor and that’s it…
…No, to get to the stage where computer use has become widespread in industrial settings, manufacturing firms have had to turn to robust solutions to ensure computer longevity and to protect the production line in its entirety. After all, the case for many manufacturing enterprises now is that if the computer stops, so does production.
That’s a scenario every manufacturer wants to avoid. However, the sheer volume of products available designed to protect computers used in industrial settings can make it difficult to identify a solution that offers a blend of robustness, flexibility and value for money.
Consequently, a number of manufacturing companies will avoid investing in computer protection altogether because concerns over quality, price and practicality become a barrier.
Ultimately, this has led to a new breed of challenges for industrial facilities, including IT downtime, a problem that costs manufacturing firms thousands of dollars every year. For most manufacturers, downtime is the single biggest source of lost production time. Downtime is more apparent when a computer fails because it’s highly visible.
There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing an industrial computer sat idle and it’s becoming a common problem as more and more manufacturing firms neglect to factor in computer protection as part of an integration.
Unfortunately, this has left industrial computing on the manufacturing floor in a vulnerable state. Rather than computers , for some facilities, the exact opposite has happened because systems lack the necessary protection to survive a long-term stint in a manufacturing environment.
Therefore, industrial computing has left some manufacturing plants in dire straits, counting the cost of computer downtime, not only from a financial point of view, but from a reputational point of view too.
Overcoming the industrial computing challenge
Sadly, a small minority of manufacturing firms have abandoned industrial computing or at least downsized the number of computer-controlled systems on the production floor, preferring to cut their losses as they view it as a cheaper alternative to investing in protection.
However, any savings made by these manufacturing firms are short-term and ultimately, come at the expense of productivity and advancing their manufacturing operation. Reneging on computer protection is like pulling the marketing budget to cut costs, it’s a backwards step.
Overcoming the challenges facing industrial computer use in manufacturing requires an environmental enclosure to maintain those computer-controlled systems, it’s as simple as that.
Why? Well something’s got to give. Manufacturers either have to invest in protecting their capital investment or continue to face downtime misery, and with IT downtime costing the average manufacturing firm $5,600 minute and 87 hours in lost productivity per year, the future state of industrial computing in manufacturing rest on manufacturers addressing this conundrum.
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