(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the April/May 2019 issue.)
Food safety is one industry that stands to gain significantly from cloud computing and storage, mainly because this approach to handling data leads to more accurate traceability for continually improving food safety through its ability to accumulate data and make it readily available for analysis and response. Given the endless number of variables in food processing from the loading dock to the receiving dock, cloud computing enables the process of keeping food safe to go to more of a granular level. This ability gives significant opportunities to analyze product status en route and to intercede the moment adverse conditions are detected.
The use of cloud computing at a plant automatically means the operation has moved on from pen and clipboard recordkeeping, or at least at some locations, has to. Many operations still use this means, though computing devices are gradually retiring these manual methods.
The problem is that writing down data and then transferring it onto some form of a ledger is in a word, routine. Even the many operations that were using IT to accumulate and analyze data, the means of collecting it were rudimentary.
Humans don’t do routines well; they can get bored with them and often neglect to do the job correctly. Computers, however, are made for routine.
The Place for PCs in the Collection Picture
Naturally, the kinds of computing devices that food processing operations use for data collection are transformative. At first, management discouraged smartphones and tablets on the plant floor, regarding them as distractions. Over time these devices became regarded as business tools for their ability to on-the-spot enable technicians and inspectors to send data into the enterprise, analyze that data and anticipate problems.
Over the past few years, a growing number of operations use stationary panel PCs along the production path. Indeed, though infinitely more costly than the clipboard, the payback on panel PCs is the heightened ability to avoid the mega-costs of being among the roughly 200 recalls that can take place in a given year while protecting the company’s investment in its valuable reputation.
Industrial panel PCs are the backbone of modern processing data collection and data analysis. Built to reliably withstand the rigors of long-term operation in even the most extreme work environments, the design of these devices enables them to be a versatile solution for data collection while being useful for years regardless of advances in computing technology. Panel PCs bring many benefits to the food processing operation.
Ready to Do the Same Job Repeatedly
In many food processing operations, mobility is not necessary, except in the case of preventative equipment maintenance or for inventory in the warehouse. Say for example a receiving dock door location can expect a steady flow of thousands of pounds of bananas. The operation needs a computer at that location to ensure the product arrives in perfect condition. The panel PC needs to be at that place to do the same function over and over again.
Proximity to the Operation
Panel PCs can be located near the site of the action, whether it is the loading dock, the production line, or packaging. This proximity to the action puts anyone in the facility in the know what’s going on at any location at any moment.
If the product is using barcodes, RFID tags, or QR codes to implement traceability, that data can be captured right on-the-spot, right when the action takes place. These tags might be right on the product and affixed to tubs or containers.