Industrial automation, as the name suggests, refers to using industrial computers in order to  automate industrial processes.

It may be understood as an umbrella term for computer 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.

Computer 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.

The Role of Computers in Industry

Smart manufacturing, and subsequently, the use of computers in industrial manufacturing has continued to see consistent growth as more and more computer automation use cases make themselves known. According to a report by BDO, at the start of 2020, industry 4.0 strategies were being implemented by one in three manufacturers- a significant rise from just one year ago where that number was closer to 5%. 

These findings aren’t surprising either, when you consider how the enhancing role of computers in industry can be observed from practically every step involved in the manufacturing process.

1.) 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 benefited  from the development of rugged and powerful industrial computers.

2.) 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.

3.) Simulation and Visualization

Scientific advancements today owe a major component of their success to computers in industry. . In conjunction with digital twin software, devices such as din rail computers can create a powerful computer automation system in which devices and production processes can be meticulously tested in simulated real-world situations. This makes it possible to analyze risks, extrapolate possibilities and test any system within any framework, at little to no risk of adverse impacts or financial investment. 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.

4.) Predictive Maintenance

As computer automation continues to advance, manufacturers are beginning to discover more and more innovative applications across the many steps involved in manufacturing. Using a combination of IoT-enabled machinery, edge computing, and industrial grade computers, many have even begun to predict when and how their machines will break down in the future, allowing them to catch and alleviate the problem before it has a chance to cost them significant capital.

As sensors on factory floor machinery capture data on performance and productivity, it’s sent over to an industrial computer where it can be quickly stored. From there, if a machine is suffering slowed production, predictive maintenance software can analyze performance for insight into why. Once a diagnosis is formed, employees can be automatically notified on their workstations or industrial tablets, allowing them to begin repairs or order replacement parts and machinery before their floor suffers a more costly breakdown. 

5.) Employee Safety

Computers in industry can also be leveraged to enhance manufacturing employee safety in the often unpredictable manufacturing workplace. Models that are designed fanless prevent the circulation of things like debris, moisture, and also bacteria that could otherwise risk infecting floor-level employees. 

Not only that, by employing a little computer automation as well, plant leaders can set automatic reminders for employees to disinfect and clean machinery after it’s been used.  These reminders can be set to send whenever IoT sensors report that a machine has started to be operated or even after it’s been used. Using a shared dashboard, employees can also confirm that they disinfected their machinery right from their workstation or tablet as well. 

6.) Automated Documentation

Despite many of the steps involved in manufacturing being very physical, the field has its fair share of documentation and paperwork. And as we see more and more manufacturers becoming more self-sufficient, the industry has evolved in such a way that many are beginning to embrace the retail side of product creation as well. 

To that end, computers in industry have also been employed together with robotic process automation to streamline processes such as bill of material (BOM) creation and invoice generation. Using information stored by industrial computers and IoT sensors, these crucial documents, that are often rife with human error, can be filled out automatically, enhancing both efficiency and accuracy in the process as a whole. 

The Future of  Computers in Industry

The role of computers in industry   grew and evolved in conjunction with the growing need for evolved and sophisticated computer automation, experienced by every industry with a global consumer base. These devices  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, contact Cybernet Manufacturing today.