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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.

 

The iPad Versus the Industrial and Manufacturing Industry

There is no doubt that the iPad has its place in the world of consumer electronics.  Apple and mass media marketing have done wonders to ensure you believe the best tablet out there is the iPad.  This is partly due to the genius of Apple itself.  Marketing is large part of the iPad’s overwhelming popularity, but there’s also functionality to consider.  It is hard to believe Apple when they make claims that the iPad is “ahead of the game” in the realm of portable and tablet technology.  When compared with industrial tablets or rugged PCs, the iPad quickly falls short.  If you work in an industrial sector, try to imagine bringing your iPad into the volatile world of manufacturing and industrial work.

If you work in an industrial setting on a daily basis, it is easy to see how things can go south quickly, especially with a consumer-grade electronic.  This is a demanding environment and it isn’t one that is easily navigated by the iPad.  In the world of commercial and industrial enterprise, rugged tablets are the logical choice.  A rugged tablet gives you durability, power and reliability – everything you’ve come to expect in the digital age.  A rugged tablet is specifically designed for this type of environment, and it is not only functional, it’s also the most capable option.

Durability

There are a lot of options for durable cases with iPads, but when push comes to shove, they could never withstand the daily abuse of a rugged work environment.  When you’re working in a challenging environment, you want a tablet that will hold up to the abuse you’ll be putting it through on a regular basis.

IPads are not equipped for manufacturing and industrial work activities, plain and simple.  As a consumer grade electronic, the harsh nature of the commercial work environment would put an iPad through the wringer.

It’s glaringly obvious that the iPad isn’t rugged or tough.  It may be slightly durable, but that doesn’t mean it can handle the industrial applications that require a true rugged tablet.

Functionality is also compromised, as well. In warehouses and other industrial workplaces, it is sometimes necessary to wear work gloves while on the job. You cannot use an iPad with a glove on your hand, but many rugged tablets are designed to be used with gloved fingers.

In these particularly rugged work environments, contact with moisture and fluid is always a possibility. An iPad is not waterproof, while many rugged tablets are. They are specially made to protect your software and applications against the elements of the humid, gritty work atmosphere you encounter on a daily basis.

Applications & Software

 We all know that the iPad can be great for playing games or other entertainment apps. Even basic office applications can be utilized on an iPad device. However, in the commercial work environment, rugged tablets accomplish the workload by utilizing applications made to keep your business running smoothly.

You can find applications that help with productivity, inventory, time sheets, accounts and more.  Some of these applications even include warehouse or scanning software, or other ways to manage your work orders.  They provide true streamlined workflow from the main warehouse floor to the backroom industrial office.

There is no doubt that there is a place for iPads, but it is obvious that the industrial world is not it.

The Role of Industrial Computers in Industrial Automation

Industrial automation, as the name suggests, refers to the automation of industrial processes.

It may be understood as an umbrella term for automation of design, manufacturing and monitoring processes and techniques, across the industrial spectrum, be it engineering, civic, defense, medical, retail or home automation, to name just a few.

Automation has shaped our perception of these industries, and as such defined our relationship with them.

Computers and industrial automation cannot be understood in isolation. Not only have computers directed the trajectory of industrial automation, but developments in the latter have also in turn influenced advancements and improvements in computing processes. This symbiosis is so deeply inset in the modern world, that no longer are questions about the significance of computers in the industry relevant; this significance is a given.

There is, however, one development in the field of computing that deserves mention on account of its highly sophisticated synchronization with the requirements of industrial automation. This development is the arrival of the industrial computer.

Industrial computers come in various shapes, sizes, configurations, and capacities, depending upon the aspect of industrial processes they are meant to handle. Between compact fanless rugged PCs, panel PCs, and highly scalable models, industrial computers can safely handle automated manufacturing, assembly, monitoring and remote access for any industry.

Manufacturing

Industrial computers are ideal for high volume manufacturing that transcends the limits of human labor.

Industrial PCs with state-of-the-art configurations and highly robust physical forms are used in factories to create and assemble the components of complex equipment with perfect precision, and also run automated quality checks at very high speeds.

Automobile and equipment manufacturing industries have greatly benefitted from the development of rugged and powerful industrial computers.

Asset Tracking

One of the primary benefits that industrial computers bring into the equation, is their ability to monitor any given processes or components for possible discrepancies.

This is not limited to quality control; in fact, industrial computers are immensely popular in the day-to-day functioning of industries such as retail and healthcare. This is because they facilitate the tracking of assets, both on-site and remotely, and the efficiency and accuracy with which they do so makes them irreplaceable.

Compact touch panel PCs can easily be integrated into a teller’s counter, or scaled up to make the most of a monitoring center, giving any industry immense flexibility to design their asset tracking processes as per the environment within which they function.

Simulation and Visualization

Scientific advancements today owe a major component of their success to industrial computers.

These powerful systems emulate real-world situations, making it possible to analyze risks, extrapolate possibilities and test any system within any framework, at little to no risk of adverse impacts. The capability of an industrial computer to simulate and generate realistic visualizations of possible outcomes finds application in a wide range of industries, ranging from geology and mining, to mechanics and engineering design, right up to surgical simulations and real-time medical imagery.

The Future of Industrial Automation

Industrial computers came into existence as a response to the growing need for evolved and sophisticated automation, experienced by every industry with a global consumer base. They are, therefore, inseparable both from the modern definitions of these industries, and the future that awaits them.

To learn more about how industrial computers can improve automation in any business, visit Cybernet Manufacturing today.