Tag Archives: industrial tablets

Industrial Tablets for Construction

The 8 Best Uses for Industrial Tablets in Construction

Either your company already has industrial tablets for construction work and wants to know how to deploy them to maximum effect, or you don’t have them and are considering an upgrade.

No matter what stage you’re in, know that the right application of a handheld, rugged tablet can cut through a lot of the fuss and muss that comes with the paperwork, scheduling, planning, and ordering that can trouble even the most well-organized construction site.

Plus, they’re usually tough enough that if you drop them or accidentally bang them into a girder, they’ll probably be okay.

1) Belly Up to the Internet

Unless you’re only using your industrial tablet to play Solitaire, one of the most important uses for an industrial tablet in construction is to access the internet.

While WiFi can work in a pinch, and with the right infrastructure on the site, a tablet with 4G LTE capability is going to be your best bet for always-on connectivity.

The internet isn’t just for cultivating a mean Instagram feed — it can help for taking notes, looking up replacement parts, finding vendors, sending messages to your crew, and pulling up maps for delivery routes, nearby hardware stores for the little stuff, and any other local needs you or the crew might need.

2) Declutter Your Blueprints and Plans

Juggling rolls of blueprints? Constantly scrabbling for plans in some dusty file cabinet or tossed into the back of a truck? A rugged windows tablet near at hand allows you to pull up plans in seconds, even if you’re in a cherry picker or up on the 50th floor.

That’s also where a tablet beats a phone — the large screen makes it much easier to read the smallest details of a plan. Plus, if the industrial tablet is installed with AutoCAD, you can even alter or fix plans on the fly as needed — no long walk back to the office trailer necessary.

3) Tracking Drivers and Deliveries

Waiting on a vital delivery to continue a project? Need to know what kind of progress the driver of your gravel truck is making?

The GPS and internet connectivity of an industrial tablet allow any supervisors to keep a close eye on incoming and outgoing traffic. Important deliveries for parts and materials can be tracked at any time with the tablet, so you can keep a tight rein on time estimates for both the crew and the company.

Tracking drivers and company trucks has become a commonplace practice, allowing dispatchers and managers a birds-eye view of the transportation fleet. With an industrial tablet near at hand, you’ll be able to know which drivers are running late, which are the most efficient, and just where they are on the road when you need them.

4) Ordering Made Easy

Need more sheetrock? Did someone buy spools and spools of the wrong gauge wire? Out of water bottles for the crew? Instead of putting together a list and ordering back at the office at the end of the day — and hoping you didn’t forget anything — an industrial tablet can allow you to order whatever you need right now.

If a contractor needs more drill bits, tap a few keys on the tablet and get back to work.

The transaction is also digitally recorded and available at any time — no need to collect receipts from gofers and fish them out of a back pocket or from under a car seat.

5) Untangling the Schedule

Construction doesn’t always happen on a clean 9-to-5 basis, and it doesn’t all happen at one stationary work site. Construction workers aren’t always full-time, 365 workers either. To add to the scheduling frustrations, sometimes crews have to wait on each other before they can work — the drywall can’t go up until the electrical or insulation is done, for instance.

Sometimes, weather or traffic concerns can cause delays and play havoc with a schedule. That’s where an industrial tablet at your side comes in extra handy — pull up the work schedule at any time to know exactly who is supposed to be and where. Make alterations as the circumstances demand — you can even configure your scheduler to send notification via email or text to any workers who have been affected by the change, depending on the software you use.

6) Signing Legal Documents

E-signatures are more official and protected than ever before — they are, in fact, just as legally binding as a standard signature in ink.

The first benefit is a physical space thing — instead of having to carry a pen and contracts around, any worker, delivery driver, or contractor can sign the appropriate spot on the digital document right from the tablet.

The second benefit is that, surprisingly, digital esignatures are actually far safer than a signature on a piece of paper. They’re easy to track — most esignatures have built-in metadata tags that record when and where the document was signed, and by who. Plus, since those documents can be stored in encrypted folders, computers, or cloud services, they’re a bit more difficult to steal, destroy, or alter.

Lastly, consider the speed: ditching the paper chain leads to a massive boost in productivity. Did an architect sign off on changes to a plan? Simply email it to all involved. Done. Without the tablet, the long journey begins — the party in question receives the document, prints it out, signs, then either scans in and emails it or has to fax it over. The whole process is barely one step removed from a carrier pigeon.

7) Using Video to Show, Not Tell

Don’t let the video camera on your industrial tablet go to seed — it can be a valuable tool on any construction site.

First off, the built-in, front-facing camera is perfect for video conferences on the go. Need to talk to a contractor, an investor, the architect, or a city official? Construction sites are rarely set up for such communication, but a 4G LTE-connected device can push you into the 21st century in a portable and easy-to-use way. Face-to-face communication is sometimes the best way to get a message across — it’s easier to misinterpret the tone of an email or text than to misunderstand someone’s facial expression or the timbre of their voice.

Video conferencing adds a nice personal touch that can’t be replicated with text or just audio.

Of course, unlike many modern businesses, construction work isn’t just numbers on a spreadsheet — you’re building something physical, something large, and something highly visible. If the boss asks “how’s progress” you can literally flip the camera over and walk them through the state of the current job. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is priceless for communication.

8) Discover 3D Volumetric Measuring

Add-ons like a RealSense 3D camera, and corresponding software, can allow you to use the tablet to take three-dimensional pictures of a physical space.

Need to know how much insulation an irregular-shaped room needs, how much concrete you’ll need to lay a four-inch sidewalk slab in a thirty by twenty-foot oval, or how much dirt to fill a trench? Grab your industrial tablet, affix the 3D camera, and allow the computer to record the work space in question and do the calculations for you.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Industrial tablets, when used properly, can transform a construction site and save workers a lot of time and hassle they would have spent wrestling with the small stuff. Many tablets even have built-in barcode readers and RFID scanners, and can do double duty for inventory and asset tracking around the job site.

For more ideas on how to use industrial tablets for construction, or for deploying other rugged mini PCs, contact Cybernet Manufacturing today.

photo by david henrichs at unsplash

Can Smart Farming Solve the Food Crisis?

According to the “World Population Prospects” report published by the United Nations, Earth may play host to 9.7 billion people by 2050. With hunger already a problem in both developed and undeveloped nations (though at differing levels), how can food production match food needs over the next 30+ years?

Can technology like GPS, drones, industrial tablet PCs, and “Internet of Things” devices help bridge the gap between food production now and food production in the future?

Increasing the Number of Farms Isn’t Enough

Land is already at a premium anywhere with the proper climate and soil for farming, and simply increasing size may not be the best option. Environmental concerns, lack of available land, and water access could all stand in the way of a “more is more” approach.

Instead, farmers will have to increase the yield on their current farms to keep up with global demand.

Reducing Crop Waste

They’ll also have to reduce the waste — as it stands, 150,000 tons of food in the United States is wasted through either spoilage, harvesting mix-ups, transportation errors, or consumer waste. These numbers are even higher in countries with less technology, less infrastructure, and a broken “cold chain” that is unable to keep produce consistently refrigerated for long trips.

While farmers can only claim a portion of the responsibility for wastage, an increase in efficiency at the growing and harvesting level could massively increase effective yield. It will also mean that the water, fertilizer, and time being wasted on crops that end up in the garbage will be better used elsewhere.

Smart farming technologies are perfect for increasing efficiency, yield, and reducing waste.

Agricultural Drones

With farming, as in all things, knowledge is power. The power to increase yield, reduce waste, and in general do more with fewer resources. To this end, gathering data is key.

Using drones for agriculture is one of the many new applications for unmanned vehicles.

For Gathering Information

Agricultural drones analyze soil properties, cataloging data like soil erosion, moisture levels, and nitrogen content, and they do it all from the air and at a far greater speed than a person taking samples on the ground. This reduces time spent gathering this data by hand, and does it far more accurately and with a larger sample size.

With this data, a farmer would know where irrigation is problematic before it becomes a problem, or figure out which area is in desperate need of fertilizer before the crops start to yellow.

Some drones even use infrared sensors to detect how green crops are, detecting signs of unhealthy or diseased crops while there’s still time to do something about them.

For Protecting the Crops

Some drones can even be fitted with sprayers, and are far more accurate than most mass crop dusting methods for distributing pesticide. This accuracy also generally means they use less pesticide, which is good for the budget and for the environment.  

The best part is that many of these agricultural drones don’t require special control gear. Instead, a rugged industrial tablet PC or industrial all-in-one computer can be used as a control device, offering up photos, video, and all of the data collected in the drone’s flight.

All of these drone tools really come down to one purpose — keeping crops healthy and alive no matter how large the farm, thus reducing waste and increasing yield.

RFID Tags for Tracking Livestock

“Radio-Frequency Identification,” or “RFID,” is used in industry and hospitals to keep track of inventory, important assets, and (in the case of healthcare applications) even people and their conditions.

Improving Animal Health

Tagging livestock can provide many of the same benefits. A farmer with an RFID equipped industrial tablet can scan the RFID chip on the animal in question and get a full report of activity for that animal.

When was the last time it was vaccinated? Is it time for a check-up? What about cleaning, or milking, or when it’s mating season is? How has its weight changed compared to last year? Compared to the average weight of all other livestock?

You could even use livestock tags to track pregnancy and general population growth. Traits and genetic markers (both positive and negative) could be tracked through livestock “family lines,” providing more info about what to expect with each individual animal. This could be especially useful when animal husbandry is actually part of your business, like horse breeding.

Sick animals can be identified and separated according to their needs, and thus easily identified by their ID tag. Their treatment could also be logged alongside their ID, so a quick scan can tell a vet exactly what’s been done (and what still needs to be done). Even medication frequency, and a log of medication use, could be slapped right alongside all of the other data on the animal.

Healthier Animals Means Higher Production

While all this could certainly be documented in the past, being able to just hold up an industrial tablet to the cow or horse and find out everything about them in seconds is a far more efficient and user-friendly method.

With this level of care and health monitoring, livestock are more likely to live longer, be healthier, and produce more. And since food production is going to have to step it up to meet demand, RFID tags could have a long-lasting effect on yield in the meat, egg, and dairy industries.

Smart Farming with the Internet of Things

Drones can be expensive, so when looking for smart farming solutions there are plenty of small, connected devices that can perform similar operations.

Soil Sensors

Soil sensors can be placed in strategic locations around the farm and can feed regular updates on H2O and nitrogen content right to a device like an industrial tablet PC. The data won’t be quite as detailed as aerial drone data, but it’ll still give a great picture of the soil composition without breaking the bank.

This data can reduce resource consumption — why water an area that’s already plenty moist? Or, on the flipside, maybe a section that isn’t scheduled for watering is unseasonably dry. Having that data at your fingertips could save an entire field of crops that might have otherwise died.

Weather Stations

Weather sensors and weather stations can be placed around the fields, providing up-to-the-second data on wind speed, wind direction, temperature, and humidity. Connected sensors, like the soil sensors above, can beam the information right to the farmer’s tablet or anywhere they’ve mounted a touch panel PC for other farm operations.

Having an accurate picture of the current weather could improve pesticide spraying operations, crop watering, and a hundred other processes.

Over the long term, the weather data can be collected and used to predict future trends, as well as to help calculate why certain years may have had different crop yields.

This kind of information can even be shared with other farmers, creating a fully connected community.

Feeding the Future

Sustainable farming practices and smart farming technology could provide for the additional 2 or 3 billion people coming our way without even digging up another plot of land.

To learn more about how industrial tablet PCs and the internet of things can improve smart farming, contact Cybernet today.

ant-rozetsky-140870-unsplash

4 Ways Specialized Industrial Computers Increase Safety Levels

Safety incidents in factories, manufacturing, and construction have been dropping since the ‘70s, which is fantastic news.

However, manufacturing and especially construction still have mortality and injury rates three times higher than the average of all industries put together. This is hardly a surprise, considering the heavy-duty equipment involved, but it can still be improved.

Specialized industrial grade PCs are leading the way forward, letting the machine take the risk while the human operator stays as safe and in-control as possible.

Properly Grounded Computers Save Lives

Though, as mentioned above, injuries are down overall, electrical fatalities actually had a 15% jump higher between 2015 and 2016, the date of most recent data.  As the amount of electrical equipment in the workplace increases in industry commiserate with the rise in automation, safety becomes even more important.

Industrial computers and equipment are everywhere, but luckily much of the danger from electrocution can be mitigated through the use of DIN rails.

What is DIN Rail?

DIN stands for “German Institute of Standards.” This doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you speak German – the original name was “Deutsche Institute von Normen.”  DIN is a standardized structural rail used to mount electrical equipment.

DIN rails are handy for installing a lot of electrical components in the same area. The rail can hold electrical breakers, terminal blocks for wiring, power supplies, and even heavier items like computers in certain configurations.

Other than ease of install and access, a DIN rail also serves to create a chassis ground for all equipment on the rail. This means that should a short occur and any equipment on the rail become energized, it will seek the nearest ground through the rail instead of, say, through a worker’s fragile human body.

There are modern industrial mini PCs that are designed to mount right to standard DIN rail. These computers are used for things like inventory, CNC machining, manufacturing processes, and even clocking in and out, and as such are in frequent contact with workers.

Should a DIN-mounted industrial computer take a jolt, though, the DIN rail is more likely to catch the brunt of it than an employee. Think of DIN rails as not only convenient hardware but as a lightning rod for keeping workers safe.

Computers Are Improving the Lockout / Tagout Safety Procedure

A large number of industrial accidents occur when it comes time to repair or service potentially dangerous equipment.

Turning off equipment isn’t enough. Saws, automated construction machines, meat grinders and cutters, industrial drills, bailers, and anything using a large amount of electricity (or compressed air, or steam) are all potentially fatal at any given time. One careless button press, switch flip, or plug-in could easily maim or kill the worker who’s repairing or cleaning the machine.

That’s why the concept of lockout / tagout was invented. In a nutshell, lockout / tagout is used to make sure that the machine being serviced is not only shut down, but has been physically prevented from being turned on by an actual lock. It also catalogs who was responsible for the lockout, and on what conditions (and by whom) it can be unlocked and safely used again.

Digital Lockout / Tagout Procedures

That’s where modern industrial grade PCs and industrial tablets come in.

With an industrial tablet and the proper software, it’s possible to create a custom QR code that lists every step of the lockout / tagout procedure for that particular machine. The QR code is then placed somewhere highly visible on the machine. The worker with the tablet can then scan the QR code of any machine and get step-by-step instructions for how to lockout that particular machine.

Software can even show the user if the machine has already been locked out, it’s normal maintenance schedule, machine audits, and whatever else you choose to include, depending on the software. It can even send an email or notification to the workers affected by the machine’s shutdown to let them know.

CNC Machining is Safer for Metal Shop Workers

Metal shops use two kinds of tools: manual, and CNC. Manual tools aren’t necessarily hammers and hacksaws – they can be powered, heavy-duty machines. Manual just means the operator does all of the work by hand.

CNC machining (“computer numerical control”) is instead automated and uses a CAD program or other set of directions to cut, shape, or detail metal per specifications. In theory, a CNC machine only needs an operator to put the metal in place, equip the right bits and tool in the machine, load the program, and step away.

While CNC machines are specialty equipment, they generally use an industrial panel PC as the brain of the device. The advantage of industrial computers is that, if they’re IP65 rated, they can withstand water sprays (from jet-cutting devices) and dust intrusion (from metal shavings and the like) coming from the metalworking process.

Precision is one of the main benefits of CNC machines, as is standardization. However, CNC machines (and the industrial grade PCs that run them) also work to protect workers from dangerous industrial accidents.

Instead of having to lean over a manual lathe or a drill, the operator can stand at the nearby computer, often behind the machine’s shield or guard. Fatigue, a cause of most industrial accidents, isn’t a problem since the CNC machine is doing the hard work.

Tracking Employee Locations in Emergencies

Some facilities are so large that tracking employee location can become a problem, especially when an accident or emergency occurs.

Back in 2005, a woman named Geetha Angara was killed at the Passaic Valley Water Commission facility in New Jersey. At first, it appeared she disappeared, and it took 25 hours to find her body. This incident inspired the use of RFID tags to track workers, especially in dangerous environments.

If all of the doors and gates in the facility — or at least the doors at major choke points — required an RFID tag to open, you could use that data to determine exactly where every employee is, and where they’ve been throughout the day.

This information could then be used by an industrial computer to map out employee locations and even send a warning or alarm if a normally-mobile employee hasn’t gone through a door in a while. If an employee goes missing, the system will know exactly where they’ve been, and the last known door or fence they used.

Protecting the Human Resource

It’s easy to think of industrial computers and power tools as implements to make work easier and faster, but they can also make work safer.

Reducing industrial injuries and accidents is everyone’s responsibility. Contact Cybernet to learn more about using industrial grade PCs and industrial grade tablets to integrate cutting-edge safety features into your workplace.

 

HMI panel and industrial computer

3 Benefits of Using HMI Panels and Industrial Computers in Metal Shops

Metal shops are some of the most hazardous working environments—rotating heavy metal objects at high speeds (3000 RPMs!) can be dangerous if improperly handled, but using proper safety protocols has been a standard practice for metal shops for quite a long time. Still, there are ways to increase safety within a shop by evaluating the technology used. Plus, machine shops typically have requests from customers to produce metal parts with extremely high tolerances, sometimes parts that manual methods can’t accurately produce. More sophisticated metal shops use HMI panels to control machinery in order to shape the metal to specification. Here are three ways computers have improved metal shops and their machining methods.

Metal can be Cut via CNC

A manual lathe is a very common machine used to shape metal into a variety of forms; however, they’re known for being very dangerous if not used properly. A hydraulic clamp suspends a piece of aluminum, steel, or another metal, and starts spinning the metal at very high speeds. Then, a machinist controls an arm and slowly guides a diamond-tipped insert into the surface of the metal, chipping off slivers and shards. You may likely see the problems here already; the metal chipped off is typically very hot and gets flung around because manual lathes aren’t often housed inside protective barriers. A machinist has to guide the arm into the metal to properly shape it. It requires a lot of hand-eye coordination skill controlling the lathe to properly shape parts—or else a potential part is rendered to scrap.

Machinists can use an HMI panel to control a CNC machine in order to automatically shape a part. It requires less time and experience than manual machines and can produce parts with higher tolerances, more consistently, at a quicker pace. The part schematics can be entered into the resistive touch screen PC on the CNC and then the raw metal can be cut automatically without having to train employees how to properly control it. The part is made, time is saved, and safety is higher!

Bending Metals with Industrial Computers

Not all metal shops are focused on shaping parts! Some actually take damaged and bent parts in for repair. Propellers, for instance. Rather than haphazardly hammering a propeller back into shape—a practice that won’t yield successful results quickly—many metal shops use an industrial computer to scan the damaged propeller, compare it to an original model, and then control a hydraulic machine to bend the propeller back to its original state. A machinist can use an HMI panel to track and adjust the propeller so it’s reshaped for proper use. It’s a much more effective (and cheaper) method of restoring damaged propellers instead of machining an entirely new set of blades.

Temperature Changes Abound

The inside of a machine shop can have extreme fluctuations in temperature. The cutting process alone can produce incredible heat that could potentially damage electronic equipment like a computer. Beyond that, the temperature inside of a machine shop can be greatly influenced by the temperatures outside. Hot and humid conditions in the summer months can wreak havoc on internal components. In the same way, colder weather in the winter months can lead to hardware failure.

That’s why industrial computers are manufactured with high-quality military-grade components with very stringent tolerances and metals that resist warping. These kinds of metals are resilient to small and even large fluctuations in temperature changes. The benefit is that the computers last longer with better quality transistors and capacitors, and a higher Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) rating of 50 thousand hours. Machine shops often run these computers at all times to maximize their production rate. These kind of builds are necessary for production sustainment. It’s best for businesses to invest in industrial computers since they fail less, expanding the time between each purchasing cycle, and thus saving money and time.

Industrial computers and HMI panels benefit machine shops in a myriad of ways; more accurate part machining when they’re coupled with CNC machines, higher safety standards, and saving the business time and money with higher quality materials that withstand temperature changes. If you’re serious about getting the best quality computers to run your metal shop, consider investing in an industrial computer today. Contact us for more information.

 

 

industrial tablets and medical tablets

Understanding Tablet Battery Life: Not All Solutions are Created Equally

Mobility in the workplace is crucial to boosting productivity. Ask any construction worker or physician using a tablet how their operations have improved and they’ll easily give a laundry list of benefits—time is money in the workplace, and saving one saves the other. However, changing to a mobile workstation can also present a new set of problems that can be pain points for professionals on the go. Battery life is probably one of the most common complaints with any mobile device, whether that be for personal or commercial use. But simply choosing a commercial grade tablet that boasts the longest battery life can end up causing a host of new problems that end up costing you more in the long run. A recent report by VDC Research shows that 18 percent of consumer-grade tablets fail every year when used in the workplace—that’s just one metric a business faces when insufficient tablets are used on the job. Here are a few more pain points to consider.

Understanding your Processing Needs

Scour the market to locate the best rugged tablet and you’ll find a vast majority use low-powered, compact processors. They’re great for running a quick app to check sports scores and what new 5-star restaurants are in the area, but those processors aren’t built for running sophisticated business software meant to track metrics, project progress, or other important business-related numbers. The wrong tablet in the hands of a professional can be frustrating—unresponsive applications, hefty load times, the works. We hate loading bars just as much as you do.

Address that problem early. Find a rugged tablet with an i5 or i7 processor. Your complex software will operate a lot faster than any tablet with the consumer-grade processor. While a more powerful processor can drain a battery faster, hot swap technology means you can just swap depleted batteries for charged ones without having to turn off the unit. Plus, any future upgrades to your software won’t mean you’ll need a new tablet upgrade for at least a few years.

Your Environment Impacts Readability

If you’ve held a mobile device recently (and you likely have), you probably recall squinting or moving to shadowy areas just to properly read what’s on the screen. We’re sure some professionals in the past have shielded the sun or find a darker area of their working environment—a heavy annoyance if you’re working on a construction site during mid-day or you manage a mobile medical unit trying to process patients. The reason for this is that a lot of commercial grade tablets choose to sacrifice screen resolution and brightness to preserve battery life.

The best rugged tablets have a high resolution of 1920 x 1200 and a “nits” emittance of 400 brightness—one of the highest brighest ratings for tablets available today. Brighter screens and higher resolutions are much easier on the eyes. You’ll likely experience fewer headaches and fewer frustrations.

Commercial Tablets Can Get Bulky, Quickly

If a physician is using a medical tablet, they’re a step ahead in maximum efficiency. Same can be said of a warehouse worker using an industrial tablet. However, their evolving task lists might require the use of different peripherals like barcode scanners, RFID readers, biometric security devices, and other equipment to do their job efficiently. External peripherals like an RFID scanner can increase the bulk of a medical tablet. Commercial grade tablets have limited ports, which in and of itself can make it difficult to connect peripherals like barcode and RFID scanners. And if you do manage to connect all of your devices, the tablet itself becomes bulky, and you know have two or three extra devices that you have to purchase and properly maintain.

Skip the tool belt approach by finding a tablet that has all the peripherals included in the design! All three components can be wrapped into the design for a rugged tablet so you don’t need to carry around devices to plug in or store away, risking time drain or possible peripheral loss. Not to mention that plugging in external devices to a tablet is going to contribute to battery drain anyway.

Solving the Battery Issue Without Sacrificing Functionality

After working ten hours with two hours to go on an exhausting shift, flashing battery lights and notifications that your tablet needs an immediate recharge are not welcome. Work has to be postponed to restore the tablet to a full charge. We’re sure there are cases where the internal battery for an industrial tablet malfunctions, the power shuts off, work is lost, and the battery is sealed inside, impossible to remove without voiding the warranty or cracking open components. If the tablet is out of warranty (or voided), it’s usually a costly repair. Once more, time and money are lost and your business suffers.

Resolve that potential roadblock by using a tablet with swappable batteries. There’s virtually no downtime when there’s an extra set of charging batteries that can replace one at the first sign of battery drain. Extra batteries can be charged at a central location and be quickly swapped out for a drained battery in seconds without having to power off the unit. This eliminates both downtime and the need to worry about battery life completely. In theory, a tablet with hot swap batteries can run 24/7 so long as you keep the extra batteries charged and ready.

The bottom line is time and money are at risk if you only consider one thing when purchasing a tablet for your business. Think about what the needs of your business are and what the potential pitfalls might be if you settle on a budget tablet. Cybernet features both a medical grade and an industrial grade tablet that are ruggedized and have a robust component integration, powerful internal processors that beat out consumer choices, swappable batteries to increase uptime, and high-resolution screens with above average brightness. Contact us to learn how we can customize our solutions to meet your unique needs.

 

 

military grade computers in automotive industry

Military Grade Computers and Their Role in the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry constantly adapts with new methods of manufacturing as technology improves. Using this new technology requires the use of hazardous equipment, such as furnaces and welding robots, in order to successfully manufacture an automotive body frame. The intent is to drive cost down and automate all processes possible, but that isn’t always the easiest task. It requires the right kind of computer—an industrial computer—to automate a process while remaining sturdy enough to last a long time. Here are a few ways the industrial computer plays a role in how automotive factories have altered methods of construction for the better.

Heating Processes and their Affect on Military Grade Computers

One of the more common practices in automotive build is a process called “hot stamping.” It’s a technology developed in the 1970s requiring a shaft of steel to be heated at its austenitization (hardening) point. That temperature is generally around 900 degrees Celsius. No doubt the furnace that generates this heat is somehow insulated, but a temperature like that will undoubtedly affect all metals and tolerances in an automotive factory—including metals inside of a computer. The continual heating/cooling process over time can easily take a toll on any device (especially when it relates to an automotive setting), and so naturally you’ll want something resilient against temperature changes.

The best way to avoid this constant temperature warping is to trust in a military grade computer able to withstand temperature changes. Controlled furnaces are just one device able to affect the heat dispersion in an automotive warehouse, so a computer that can function around welding, heating metals, and extremely hot temperatures is ideal.

Automotive Industry Painting Procedures

Military grade computers aren’t just built to withstand high temperatures. Typical factories have time-intensive painting processes for an entire auto body that can easily take 14 hours to complete for a single body. The painting process runs through several sub-processes that wash, bake, sand, treat, clean, coat, dry, and wax the auto body. A computer with open air vents nearby wouldn’t last a week in any of those environments!

That’s why military grade computers are sealed and fanless. Ingress of any kind—whether dust, paint, soot, tiny metal shards, whatever the foreign item—can sentence the shelf-life of a computer to much shorter than it’s typical life expectancy. It’s important to get the proper computer with the proper enclosure to work around these environments, or else the automated assembly line won’t be automated until a new computer is in place.

Military Grade Computers and the Terminal Block Feature

Seeing how a car is made is the best way to learn how a car operates. Fortunately for us, a lot of dangerous processes and heat-intensive mechanics are behind glass walls where automated assembly is completed by robots. However, in order to control these metal behemoths a computer must be in close proximity—away from the people operating them. That’s why some of the industrial computer models feature terminal blocks for remote power and access. Standing behind a protective barrier, a factory worker could flip a switch and start up a military grade computer with the terminal block feature, engaging the automated assembly line without needing to risk life or limb around several robots.

DIN Mountable Computers

With the presence of potentially hundreds of electrical devices manipulating car parts, welding, spraying, cutting, heating metal, and maneuvering independently, electrical configuration must be incredibly complex. One loose ground can spell a power disaster, so it’s important all components—including the industrial computer—are grounded properly in addition to all electronic components running the factory. Installing an industrial computer on a DIN rail is a proper method to ensure the computer is grounded properly. It saves space too. A military grade computer isn’t designed to just sit on a shelf—ensure that it’s in the right place for safety and longevity.

 

Extreme heat resilience, enclosed environments, operation close to manufacturing, and proper electrical handling are important requirements for a military grade computer.  Choosing less expensive computers that can’t stand up to harsh environments like what you’d find in an automotive factory bring on hidden costs like repairs and replacement computers. Make sure your automated processes stay automated by selecting a military grade computer able to operate an automotive factory. Contact us for more information.

 

Farm to Table: How Industrial Computers are Improving our Food Supply Chain

Two of the largest problems in the food manufacturing industry are traceability and safety. The ability to track food from farm to table is vital in order to ensure food safety and to avert financial disaster in the event of a recall. It’s a question of the supply chain process and how well those processes can be automated. The government estimates there’s around 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually, with about 128 thousand of those cases turning into hospitalizations, and 3 thousand of those being deaths. There’s a vast range of food-related bacteria that can cause many diseases, and the unfortunate part is we can’t eradicate all of the illnesses, but what we can do is take proper precaution against them so that we see a reduction in cases. Food manufacturers are turning to industrial computers and rugged tablets both in the field and in the processing plant to help automate the supply chain and provide full transparency into how the food you put on your table got there. The challenges in accomplishing this are process automation, reduction in infectious diseases from food handling, and keeping food manufacturing computers functional at all times. How do we combat these problems?

Maximizing Yield with Industrial PCs

Contrary to popular belief, farmers are quick to embrace technological advances. The need to increase yield while maintaining the same footprint is essential not just to stay afloat financially, but to feed a population that is growing by the year. Automated farming sounds like something from a sci-fi novel, but it is already here. Farmers are using industrial computers to run a number of automated processes. Things like irrigation systems, drone monitoring of fields, alarms and sensors that track livestock can all be controlled by industrial computers. These computers need to be able to run 24/7, process large amounts of data, have the connectivity to work in more remote locals and still withstand environmental challenges. To put it bluntly, you can’t walk into your local electronics store and walk out with a computer capable of this job. Industrial computers are engineered with military grade components designed for 24/7 operability and have rugged casings to protect against harsh weather.

Achieving Lot Traceability in the Field

In the event of a food recall, lot, bin and serial traceability is crucial. Being able to identify which batches are contaminated and which are safe can be the difference between tens of thousands of dollars in losses compared to millions. The further back in the supply chain you are able to trace the source of a contamination, the better. A rugged tablet with an integrated barcode scanner can help provide insight right from the fields. These tablets are designed to withstand dust and dirt. They can hold up against drops and shock damage. They are even waterproof. Using one of these tablets in the field, you can scan an invoice as produce is put on a truck. Now that produce is timestamped as having been picked from a specific field on a specific day at a specific time. When that produce arrives at the manufacturing plant it is scanned again upon receipt and traceability from the first leg of the supply chain is complete.

Process Automation with a Touch Screen PC

There are a number of regulations that food manufacturers need to follow in order to stay compliant with the FDA. Some products might need to be steamed. Other might need to be kept in freezing or near freezing temperatures. Bio-waste needs to be properly disposed of, and the plant itself needs to be regularly disinfected to prevent the spread of dangerous bacteria. All of these are conditions that would wreak havoc on a commercial grade PC. Human Machine Interface or HMI computers are engineered with industrial grade components to withstand these conditions. They are designed with touch screen interfaces to easily start and stop processes and keep plant operations automated and running smoothly. As central points of control, these HMI computers need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly. That’s where IP65 certification comes into play. IP65 is a designation that means a computer is water resistant, and can withstand regularly cleanings. This is extremely important in a food manufacturing environment to prevent the spread of disease and keep vital hardware up and running at all times.

Once food is processed and packaged it can be traced all the way back to the field in which it was grown. Industrial computers are helping food manufacturers increase yield, track supply and process food safer. All of which results in higher quality food finding its way to your kitchen. Cybernet manufactures a complete line of industrial computers meant to meet these challenges. For more information you can visit our website or contact us here.

ERP Software with business tablet PC and mini computers

How ERP Software is Changing Industrial PC Demands

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is a product that operates on several different business operational levels to streamline and unify processes such as project management, accounting, manufacturing, customer resource management, and others. As technology and software development grows, ERP software complexifies and requires stronger computer hardware in order to operate without hitches. It’s necessary to have sufficient hardware—running an office without powerful computers can quickly flip an office into turmoil (pretend your own office has broken accounting computers and you’ll get the idea). The software is so highly complex that it takes implementation teams to install the software and ensure all managed processes are functioning properly, and implementing software on underpowered, old computers doesn’t bode well for business. Granted ERP software has turned more user-friendly than in the past, but that still dictates what’s necessary for computers today. Here are some ways that ERP software has changed for the better and what’s necessary for a business to stay on top of the growing software model that ERP uses.

Advances in ERP Software Require a Touch Screen PC

Even with decades of development efforts, ERP is still incredibly complex software requiring implementation teams for different-sized projects. However, there’s been a higher demand for more user-friendly support.  ERP software has trended towards a more visual look instead of a text-based appearance, increasing the demand for larger screens with touch screen capability. Some ERP software has developed a model that’s touch-screen friendly, and naturally those software product models need an industrial touch screen pc. For instance, a company called Software 21 has upgraded their ERP product, Flexgen 4, to integrate touch screen controls so that their data collection operations are more efficient. Another company called Forge Technology Partners recently developed a touch screen application that manages timesheets, tracks job performance, and keeps employee information updated. Combining this technology with an industrial pc is vital. You need a computer capable of surviving the harsh environment of a shop floor and manufacturing plant. But it also needs to have the advanced functionality of commercial grade PCs. Resistive touch screens might be an older technology, but with the safety requirements in most industrial setting, a touch screen that works with a gloved hand is likely required. Industrial PCs are designed to marry functionality with rugged components, something you simply don’t get with a Tier 1 computer manufacturer.

ERP Software Needs Mobility

Technology has shrunk to a point where a large population of individuals carry around fully-functional computers in their pockets. Naturally, the ERP market changed with the advent of smartphones and tablets and their integration into business enterprises. In order to stay relevant ERP developers aren’t just limiting themselves to strict desktop software. The development of mobile apps and the adoption of those apps among end-users has become common place. The ability to access ERP software in the field while on an industrial tablet can be invaluable. Imagine a salesperson being able to remotely access inventory data or project accurate lead times in order to close more sales. Or a foreman on a job site being able to order materials and access project workflows from their mobile device. All of this is possible with mobile applications provided you have the hardware necessary to run them.

ERP on a Business Tablet PC for Warehouse Operations

A common use of ERP is inventory tracking. That’s not always an easy task, especially if the mobile tablet you’re running the ERP software on doesn’t feature a barcode scanner. Tablet PCs without barcode scanners suffer problems of higher inventory costs, possible human error problems, lower tracking rates for documents and products, and decisions from management with incomplete data samples.  When tablets include barcode scanners,  employees can scan barcodes to track a wealth of information. Plus, the good news is this technology has spread into all sizes of enterprises as tech has evolved into smaller, cheaper solutions. Management can keep tabs on low inventory, count discrepancies, reduce shipping problems, manage materials inventory, track labor hours and rates, and other important business metrics. A business tablet PC with an integrated barcode takes ERP systems to higher functionality.

However your ERP has evolved, it’s clear that ERP drives what’s necessary for hardware. With visual enhancements, ERP requires a more touch-screen oriented design. Mobile and cloud-based ERP systems are becoming the standard for use on business tablet PCs and similar devices. Stay ahead of the curve with business and see what options you have when upgrading to a robust system of computers to support your ERP system. For more information you can visit the Cybernet website or contact us here.

HMI computers industrial panel PC

The Human Machine Interface and the Role Industrial Computers Face

Human Machine Interface (HMI) is an important concept to be aware of in today’s industrial automation IT world. Technological innovations and advances have pushed automation’s boundaries close to near-perfect operation within industrial warehouses and manufacturing plants. We’re seeing these pushes both on a software and hardware level. Developments in artificial intelligence software are getting more sophisticated, so naturally the hardware must scale with the demands of software. However, there still must be a “starting point” in the pathway from device controller to automation result, and that’s where HMI plays a part. It’s a concept that has evolved over time as an overarching idea that incorporates all functionality of a given production system into a single user interface that can be controlled by simply touching an industrial touch panel PC. It’s the combination of a graphical user interface, an automated production system, and its supporting software that must operate in synergy to be fully productive. These HMIs are becoming more important with the onset of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the desire to fully automate processes. However, not just any device will operate in the manner an HMI needs.

HMI Computers Must Be Compact

Warehouses come in all shapes and sizes, but regardless of the configuration of a warehouse it’s important to find an industrial touch panel PC capable of being installed in an area that’s non-obtrusive to traffic. A retail computer purchased off the shelf and then stored on a warehouse floor will undoubtedly get kicks and light shock damage. Populate an entire warehouse with computer towers, and you’re bound to see a hardware failure within the first three months. Small form factor design with a flexible open frame, wireless technology, and a fully integrated resistive touch screen are necessary components for a proper HMI computer. Why a resistive touch screen if it’s older technology? Capacitive touch screens won’t function with gloves. If you’re in an industrial warehouse, we’d recommend using gloves. We’d also recommend a resistive screen so you won’t need to remove them.

An Industrial Touch Panel PC Must Be Resilient

Temperature changes, sparks, disruptive noises, dirt, soot, chemicals, flying objects, shock damage, and other hazards are a concern for computers in warehouses. Workers can’t operate computers if they’re too close to an entity producing extremely hot or cold temperatures, so HMI computers must be resilient to extreme temperature changes. Thankfully, industrial computers are. Several industrial computer builds are encased in aluminum housings and constructed with military-grade components that have a Mean Time Between Failure of 50 thousand hours, much more than a consumer-grade computer. You’ll need an HMI computer resistant to all hazards to keep longevity. Combining metal enclosures, military-grade components, and resilience in extreme temperatures creates the perfect trifecta for longevity when it comes to HMI computers.

Industrial Computers Need Wireless Tech

A common problem with consumer-grade wireless devices is shoddy WiFi. Home routers drop wireless signals because of attenuation; wireless tech in HMI computers may do the same if the wireless range is too weak over the wireless “path,” or it’s blocked by warehouse walls—a concept known as a Faraday cage. Ensuring your next industrial touch panel PC is equipped with some of the strongest wireless capabilities—an Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7260 Plus Bluetooth card—will reduce if not remove spotty wireless connections. Plus, if a keyboard and mouse are needed they can connect seamlessly with the HMI computer via Bluetooth. 

Industrial Panel PCs Need Mountability Options

For your next industrial computer deployment, it’s a strong idea to ensure all of the above are addressed, but that doesn’t address where your panel PCs might reside. What’s the solution there? An IT professional can’t leave them dangling from power cables or thrown about a warehouse floor, so a VESA mount is necessary to keep them clutter free. Using a standard 75/100m VESA mounting holes, staff can keep panel PCs out of the way by mounting them to the wall.

Adhering to specific hardware design and a set of features that expand productivity are what businesses should look for when it comes to HMI computers. At Cybernet, we’ve engineered a full line of industrial PCs that meet these standards and excels in the warehouse. Contact us today to find out more details.

tough tablets

Industrial Tablets vs Off-the-Shelf in the Field

Since 2010, Apple has seen tremendous success after the corporation released it’s first iPad tablet, launching a new market and being the trendsetter in a new line of mobile technology products. As recent as 2016, Apple’s global market share has reached 25 percent for tablets, leading Samsung by approximately 10 percent. It’s clear that this market has seen tremendous growth and application in the past 7 years—Apple sold more than 40 million iPads alone in 2016. However, what we’re looking at is largely representative of the consumer market for tablets and not the industrial market. It’s likely the case that an industrial company settled on Apple products for mobile productivity in the past, but there’s an important financial factor that’s hard to see on a day-to-day basis; the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is an estimation of expenses related with buying, deploying, using, and then retiring of a piece of equipment or product. Industrial companies focus a lot on TCO, but consumer grade tablets aren’t best in the long run for industrial companies. Generally the TCO for a tough tablet is lower (better) since they last longer. Here’s an in-depth look at why.

Tough Industrial Tablets Utilize a Hot Swappable Battery

If you’ve ever tried to remove the internal battery for a tablet, it was probably a frustrating and educational experience. Most tablets are sealed, so battery removable and replacement either requires someone who has experience getting into the innards of a tablet, a trustworthy individual with a steady set of hands who can learn quickly, or device shipment to the manufacturer who can replace the battery if the tablet is within warranty. If it’s not within warranty, expect to pay around 100 USD for a battery replacement and a turnaround time of 3-5 days with no promise of restoring all the previous data. If you’d prefer to remove and replace the battery yourself, kits often cost around as much as a manufacturer’s price for a battery replacement anyhow. That’s not a strong outlook for a business, especially if the tablets have no backstock, leaving at least one employee with no way to be productive. Or, you could just swap out the removable battery on the tough tablet instead and resume productivity. Not only does this removable battery functionality affect TCO greatly, it prevents production downtime. Plus, if a battery doesn’t hold a charge, others are available to purchase. The hot swappable battery function justifies the cost alone. It can take productivity from a few hours to a full work shift—or more, depending on how many people on different shifts use one tablet. One tough tablet with three batteries can be used continuously over the course of an entire day instead of three separate tablets in use, each potentially lasting the time span of a shift and then stored away to charge. Again, industrial tablets have a lower TCO.

Tough Tablets Need Tough Glass, and More

Some tablets use Corning’s Gorilla Glass, an alkali-aluminosilicate sheet of glass that is highly resistant to scratches, direct damage, and drops. Gorilla Glass has become a staple in tough tablet and smartphone manufacturing, but it’s not indestructible and a lot of videos have surfaced online demonstrating it can shatter if a tablet is dropped in sensitive areas—usually a corner. Industrial tablets are known to use Gorilla Glass and often have housings to protect the corners, which iPads and other consumer-grade tablets lack. Sure, a CFO can get protective cases for tablets too, but a rugged case can hit the wallet at about 80 USD—another cost consideration when going with consumer tablets. Why buy more when an industrial tablet comes with the protection? The last accidental drop a warehouse needs is one that shatters the glass on a tablet, potentially rendering the device useless. Tough tablets are built to withstand shocks and vibrations.

Tablets Tend to Bend

A quick search online reveals that consumer tablets aren’t the most resilient to warping. Some have actually shipped bent in the past, and others warp so much the glass actually shatters. Couple that in an industrial warehouse with temperature changes—not a favorable result. Even aluminum and stainless steel are known to warp a few microns because of temperature changes in machine shops, so we’ve come to expect sheets of silicon, aluminum, and glass to do the same. Industrial tablets are built to withstand temperature changes, vibrations, shocks, and accidental damage, extending their life beyond what a consumer would expect. Built with industrial-grade components, these tough tablets have a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) timespan of six years. Consider that the original iPad released in 2010—several models of the iPad have been released between then and 2017, suggesting that one industrial tablet will last longer than several iPad generations. Again, lower TCO for the industrial tablet.

Capacitive is Great Technology—but Not For Industrial Tablets

Working in a warehouse often requires gloves—regular gloves, unless you buy capacitive-knit gloves (which are expensive and don’t provide much protection), don’t work on capacitive screens. Capacitive technology uses the electrical charge from our hands to actually register a change in voltage, thus changing the elements on screen. With a gloved hand, the electrical charge doesn’t register. Consumer grade tablets usually use capacitive screens, so a gloved hand won’t work. Industrial tablets use resistive screens so a gloved input can actually register. Sure, employees can take off their gloves and work with a tablet screen, but that’s quite a tedious annoyance.

These reasons clearly outline why tough tablets are the best choice for an industrial setting. Consumer grade tablets warp easier, batteries aren’t easily replaceable, gloved hands can’t interact with their screens, operational life is shorter, and there’s a higher TCO. Consider that the MTBF for an industrial tablet is longer than the lifespan for several generations of iPads and other tablets! You don’t want your employees to suffer productivity downtime over charging batteries or sending a broken tablet off to a manufacturer over one drop—unless you prefer spending more money over time.