Integrating new machinery in the factory floor can be an exciting endeavor. With each new addition of industry 4.0 hardware such as an industrial grade computer or IoT software comes promises of optimization, increased efficiency, and even more increased profits. 

However, it goes without saying that not all industrial manufacturing equipment is created equal. Rather, not all industrial equipment manufacturers are created equal. Attention must always be paid to just how trustworthy a factory equipment supplier truly is and whether or not their offered equipment actually stands to benefit your specific operation. Unfortunately, it’s at this crucial step where we see many small and medium-sized manufacturers compromise in order to save money

And, while we’ve seen some changes in this mindset thanks to 2020’s placing emphasis on proper supply chain resiliency and self-sufficiency, recent enthusiasm for advanced industrial manufacturing equipment needs to be properly guided to ensure adoption of these solutions actually benefit you in the short and long term.

To that end, below we’ve included a few key questions to ask yourself, your team, and industrial equipment manufacturers when vetting new industrial manufacturing equipment to ensure that sustained value can be drawn.

Is the Industrial Manufacturing Equipment Built to Last?

With manufacturing, commercial grade hardware and software just doesn’t get the job done for several reasons. Industrial manufacturing equipment needs to be properly fortified against the several damaging variables that are present in the average manufacturing workspace. Industrial equipment manufacturers know this and that’s why many end up using shiny marketing terminology like “rugged” and “waterproof” to entice buyers. And while there’s nothing wrong with using these phrases, it’s your job to parse the fluff from the substance and determine whether these claims are legitimate.

Is that rugged windows tablet really “rugged”? What kind of drop testing has it undergone? Does the device have an IP rating you can use to see just how much moisture it’s protected against or is “waterproof” just being used as a subjective term? Of course, trustworthy industrial equipment manufacturers will be transparent about all of this, in fact, it’s often a good sign they’re partners you’ll want to work with if they are. 

Confirming whether or not a device, especially computers and tablets, are built with fanless designs can also be a quick indicator of quality. Fans will often draw in debris and damage the internal components of a device, causing frequent breakdowns and downtime. If you work in an environment where debris such as metal shavings and sawdust are common, something like a fanless industrial PC will last you much longer than a consumer-grade product. The right supplier of equipment will understand this and make efforts to create a fanless solution because of it.  

How Will This Industrial Manufacturing Equipment Integrate Into Your Business?

If that first question was posed to determine whether a piece of industrial manufacturing equipment is capable of being deployed in a general factory floor, this question is more about determining whether or not it can integrate within your floor specifically

The average factory floor isn’t just deploying equipment in a vacuum. It’s deploying equipment into an infrastructure that’s already housing countless machines, sensors, and software and each new piece added to that puzzle needs to be compatible with everything already in place. Failing to plan for that compatibility can result in a loss of productivity or even smart capabilities such as predictive maintenance and inventory tracking altogether. 

That said, if you know you have legacy hardware that makes it harder to find new machinery that’s compatible, you need to ensure you’re working with industrial equipment manufacturers who can meet those needs without compromising quality. Consider working with suppliers who can deliver more customizable solutions such as custom mini PCs that can be created with legacy ports that meet your particular plant’s needs.

Any new piece of hardware will also need to be compatible with software you use to draw in data from IoT sensors. That means it also needs to be able to house peripheral devices you use to draw in and store that data such as RFID scanners in the case of something like asset management.

What Kind of Maintenance Can You Expect?

Machines break down. That’s just the nature of things. Accepting this doesn’t mean going full nihilist and working with any and all factory equipment suppliers. If anything this just emphasizes the importance of working with industrial equipment manufacturers that:

A.) Offer low failure rates for their equipment

B.) Provide fast turnaround on maintenance and repair services

Consider asking your manufacturers about their product fail rates. Those with confidence in their products will likely have that data on hand and will proudly share it with you. 

On the topic of customer support, it’s important to know more about any product maintenance services that are offered by your considered manufacturer. What kind of turnaround can you expect should the worst occur and you need to send a product back? Are their products manufactured in-house or do you need to wait for them to send the product back to an off-sourced factory before you get your machine back? All of this can have a direct impact on how much downtime you experience in the case of a breakdown. 

What Fortifications Against Cyberattack Risks Are in Place?

Like we mentioned, the average manufacturing plant has several interconnected devices all of which share important, sensitive data with one another. Naturally, keeping up to date with cybersecurity best practices and keeping all of these devices properly protected from data breaches is in your best interests. Industrial equipment manufacturers that can’t promise insurances against these expensive cyberattacks are opening you up for these breaches. All it takes is one compromised device across a network of properly fortified ones to function as a gateway for cybercriminals. 

Always check to see what your considered factory equipment suppliers are offering to protect you from attack. If you use RFID hardware or CaC readers to authenticate employee identities, do their machines offer compatibility with those peripheral devices? Better yet, can their devices be customized to include these peripherals inside the machine itself? All questions worth asking.

Industrial Equipment Manufacturers Need to Earn a Place on Your Floor

Successful manufacturers understand that their facilities and operations are special – they require specific equipment tailored to meet their needs. Keeping this philosophy in mind, the best decision makers understand that factory equipment suppliers need to prove their case as to why their hardware/software belongs on their floor. Remember this mindset when asking questions the next time you plan on investing in industrial manufacturing equipment. For more information on hardware you need on your floor, speak to an expert from Cybernet today.