Problem Identification: This study is intended to highlight the risk to IT computing in the physical shop floor environment.

Background: In manufacturing two variables are in play physical placement of IT tools in non-sterile environments and must be considered in the build and scale of IT systems. This paper identifies some of the leading environmental risks to computing on the shop floor.

After a decade of consulting and managing critical IT infrastructure into the small to medium sized manufacturing business several patterns began to emerge from the engagements of these firms. Network Elites and previous subsidiaries began to see similar wear and decline patterns in the IT infrastructure of these SMB manufacturing firms.

After analyzing the data from the placement patterns of the IT infrastructure in a SMB manufacturing facility, it soon became apparent of the criticality of the placement to the efficiency and longevity to those systems. Not having strategic placement of your IT infrastructure will increase the chances of failure and having to replace expensive IT equipment in addition to the headache of downtime for workers and machinery.

  1. Place large data equipment such as servers and networking infrastructure on the shop floor. Even in an enclosed space on the shop floor there is a larger amount of dust and other particulates in the air which then are induced into the equipment through the air cooling process. This cause overheated of the machine a degradation of performance and can lead to machine failure.
  2. Place IT equipment in a high traffic area on the shop floor. We have diagnosed multiple outages from computers running machinery being continually bumped out of service through foot and fork lift traffic.
  3. Place dangerous or explosive chemicals near IT infrastructure. Explosions and fires have been caused by static and mechanical sparks from IT equipment in too close of a proximity to combustible fluids.
  4. Place IT control equipment like laptops and towers next to high vibration machinery. Although these IT systems are built to withstand a certain amount of vibration, typically the amount of tolerance is very small compared to the industrial sized vibrations that manufacturing cutters and stamping machines can make. This can lead to drive failure and internal board fracturing which leads to overall compute failure of the machine.
  5. Not have your shop floor computers secured via firewalling and antivirus. Also, lock down ports to minimize USB induction of potential threats is a recommended best practice. We have observed intrusions through shop floor machines being unsecured.
  6. Place shop floor computing near high heat sources including against external western facing walls. Heat is a leading cause of circuits degrading and performing below speeds and capacity. If you have high heat injection or furnace machines, consider a centralized control system platform at a minimum safe distance.
  7. Not have recommend power sufficiency through outages. Many production sites are subject to power surges and power outages and must have a proper regulation and back up in line. Sudden power surges or computing shut offs can damage the performance of the control and production machines causing significant damage or reboot delays.
  8. Have your IT controls systems in a damp or wet environment. If your shop floor and offices are in flood plain, move critical infrastructure off sight to higher ground or a more stable environment such as a data center or into the cloud. Shop floor systems that cannot be moved should be in a sufficiently dry enclosure and elevated in case of flooding.

Conclusion: Certified site surveys and recommendations for compute placement along with security validation are part of IT best practices on the shop floor. Network Elites can help decrease the chance of compute failure and decrease costly delays and downtime through recommendations.

* This environmental impact of shop floor IT infrastructure was conducted on the behalf or Network Elites through a multi-year study of multiple manufacturing facilities and subsidiaries. This information is copy written and intended for the private use of Network Elites customers and prospects. Under no circumstance can this information be disseminated without prior written consent.

*Sources National Academy of Sciences and Network Elites.