In food manufacturing environments, computers need to operate reliably, often 24/7, so that production lines keep moving and to meet deadlines. This is a particular challenge in food production, where stringent regulations, dust buildup and regular washdown make the manufacturing floor a hazardous place for PCs. Here are three ways that businesses can tackle the problem.
1. Keep Your PC away from the Manufacturing Floor
You could sidestep the hazards of the food manufacturing floor by putting your computers somewhere else. Doing so means you keep your computers in a clean, dry environment, allowing you to use any computer you want, without the risk of damage. By using an ordinary PC, you also save the money you would have spent on more-expensive industrial computers.
However, if your objective is to maximize efficiency, then this is a flawed strategy. The time it takes your employees to walk from one place to the next will soon add up, reducing productivity. You’ll also have to contend with hygiene issues. Staff might spread dust and by-product in other areas as they walk to and fro, or you could have the problem of them leaving and re-entering sterile areas.
Of course, you could extend your sterile areas to include the room your computers are in. However, you’d simultaneously extend the requirements of the manufacturing floor to those rooms, such as the need to jet wash equipment, defeating the point of removing your PCs from the floor in the first place.
For most manufacturers, keeping computers off the shop floor isn’t a sustainable solution to the problem. It wastes time, hinders productivity and creates extra problems that the next two solutions solve.
2. Use a Purpose-Built Industrial Computer
Purpose-built industrial computers, aka industrial panel PCs, are all-in-one solutions to the problem of protecting computers in manufacturing environments. Typically, they’re a computer built into a sealed body that provides protection from liquid and dust. Industrial PCs are robust and reliable. You can place them exactly where you need them, providing your employees with the greatest productivity savings in harsh conditions. However, they do have drawbacks.
First, panel PCs limit your choices, tying you into the specifications of the computer built into the sealed body. Even if you find one that meets your criteria, you could experience compatibility and integration issues if you install one alongside your existing systems. Second, these sealed units can be difficult to repair and update, often requiring a specialist engineer to do so. This involves extra cost and, importantly, increases production downtime while you wait for an engineer to be available. Third, if the computer breaks beyond repair, then these all-in-one units require you to replace the whole thing—again, at extra cost and increased downtime.
Finally, industrial PCs are expensive. This might not be an issue if you’re persuaded they represent a good long-term investment. However, the drawbacks will leave many business owners wondering if this is the case.
3. Protect an Ordinary PC in an Industrial Computer Enclosure
An industrial computer enclosure houses an ordinary computer in a robust, protective body, converting an office PC into a reliable shop-floor unit.