The automotive industry invented automation: it’s no surprise that they’ve embraced industrial computers faster than any other field of manufacturing. 

Because automotive manufacturing requires flexible solutions that can pivot with the adoption of new technology (both in the cars themselves and in the manufacturing process), industrial computers have to be agile, tough, and simple to use. 

Luckily, there are multiple types of industrial computers, tablets, and HMI panels, each option giving any automotive factory a whole suite of options to exactly match their budget and factory needs. 

A Streamlined Manufacturing Process

It’s often the job of a single plant to produce a variety of models. As such, manufacturing has to be modular, simple to program, and quick to retool and adjust on the fly. This is exactly where industrial computers shine.

Many automotive manufacturers are using industrial all-in-one computers equipped with RFID scanners to track a car’s place in the manufacturing process. These systems can read these RFID tags of each model, compare them to a central database, and grab the correct parts each and every time from the inventory.  This creates fewer mistakes, less downtime spent repairing those mistakes, and one less thing to worry about come inspection time. 

Increased accuracy means less time wasted troubleshooting problems and more time spent rolling perfectly-constructed cars right off the assembly line.

And considering how additive manufacturing (or industrial 3D printing) has revolutionized the tooling process for automation. A few industrial 3D printers in an automotive plant can churn out all of the parts necessary for adjustments in the assembly line at any time. 

Improved Factory Working Conditions and Safety

Factories (of any kind) don’t exactly have a sterling reputation for safety and cleanliness in the eyes of the public. Of course, modern technology like robots, HMI panels, additive manufacturing, computer-controlled environments, and other quality-of-life improvements have transformed factories into far safer and more pleasant workspaces. 

According to OSHA statistics, worker deaths on the job are down by almost 63%, from 38 deaths a day in the ‘70s to 14 deaths a day in 2017.

One of the ways industrial computers have contributed to the safety of automotive manufacturing is through the HMI panel, or human/machine interface panel. An HMI is essentially a central control computer that allows human workers to monitor, adjust, and even outright control the robotic and mechanical components that are putting cars together. 

However, the main safety benefit of the HMI panel is that moves the worker away from the most dangerous areas of the production process, namely the swinging arms and welders, while still giving them tight control of the machines.

The increase of interconnected sensors also means that catastrophic errors in the production line, the kind most responsible for injuries, can actually be predicted by HMI panels and stopped before they happen.    

Increase in Productivity

Industrial panel PCs and interconnected sensors have paved the way for Industry 4.0, or the “fourth industrial revolution” as its often called. 

A completely interconnected smart factory works great for automotive manufacturing — because cars are so complex and made of so many different materials and moving parts, the ability to constantly monitor every detail is exceedingly helpful. 

Industrial internet of things devices further cement this interconnectivity, and with industrial computers and panels serving as the brains, greatly expands on productivity and efficiency. 

The automotive assembly line of the future — of the present — comes with fewer injuries, less downtime, machine learning to predict slowdown and errors, more modularity, faster processing speeds, more integrated inventory systems, and faster computers overall. 

The productivity gains from even one of those factors is tremendous. The productivity gains from all of them combined? It can be difficult to fathom. 

The Rugged Features of an Industrial Computer

The conditions on an automotive factory floor aren’t meant for the meek — the temperatures vary wildly, machines and parts whip around violently, and the air is often choked with dust, dirt, metal shavings, and other grit.

On top of these highly-damaging conditions,  an automated assembly line operates for long periods of time. Some even operate around the clock at all times. This means that industrial all-in-one computers must be tough enough to stand up to both the harsh environments and the long hours. 

That’s why industrial computers, especially those meant for automotive manufacturing, are made with military-grade parts that can stand up to impact and extreme temperatures. 

These parts also allow the computer to run 24/7 with extremely low downtimes, which is a huge boon especially for automotive plants looking to achieve lights-out operation now or in the future. 

The Human Touch

Back in the late 1800s or the early 1900s, the founder of Toyota Industrias, Sakichi Toyoda, coined the term “autonomation,” meaning “automation with a human touch.” While industrial computers and automation are only going to expand in the future, the importance of the human element will never go away. 

Automotive manufacturing is a precision process, one that marries the best of human engineering and computerized efficiency. 

To learn more about the use of industrial computers in the automotive industry, and the specifications and customizations needed to get the job done, contact Cybernet today.