It is an accepted norm that tablet PC’s can now be used in a business environment, gone are the days when tablets were considered purely a consumer product. With the advance in technology now allowing industry standard devices such the Microsoft Surface Pro to be taken into clean room GMP A (ISO 5) productions areas. It is now possible to have full PC functionality in a completely portable device
The Caitron Cleanroom GMP tablet is a fully GMP grade A production area compliant unit with a stainless steel IP69 enclosure. It also retains the Microsoft Surface (which it is based on) Pro forward and rear facing cameras. The power and USB connections are provided by an innovative GMP compliant magnetic connector.
There are a number of considerations to be made to help select the correct type of device for your production area, such as:
What will the duration of use be?
If usage is sporadic and not continual then a tablet PC can be an effective solution, however if the usage is continual over a shift, or multiple shifts then the battery life (or lack of) will be a limiting factor.
Does the device need to be portable throughout your production area or is it limited to certain areas?
If it MUST be portable and will be used at multiple points of the production area, then a tablet would be a suitable option.
Can you afford for people to be distracted by looking at a device whilst moving through the production area?
This is a tricky point as of course the response to this question will (or at least should) be of course not, however if in the production are there are set viewing points or docks then the risks can be minimised. The only way to completely avoid this is by using fixed HMI terminals
Do you expect for the operator to carry the tablet whilst viewing and working on it?
The consideration here is the weight of the tablet as this can lead to fatigue for the operator. Again, one way to mitigate this is to provide docks at the various relevant points of the production area to avoid the operators having to work on the tablet whilst carrying it.
How much data needs to be displayed?
Fixed HMI’s such as the Caitron Industrial Solutions CR series (shown below) provide larger touchscreens (up to 24” screen size) and allow more data from your MES (manufacturing execution system) and can even be doubled up to provide two displays from the one PC.
The 24” CR series Caitron Industrial Solutions HMI has been independently certified by the Fraunhofer Institute as suitable for use in GMP Grade A/B cleanrooms.
Whilst not a legal requirement in placing equipment into GMP production areas, this certification does give the onsite compliance lead peace of mind (and certificated evidence) that the GMP compliance of the HMI is of the highest order and has been tested to ensure that it will not cause any hygiene compliance issues.
Caitron Industrial Solutions are listed as Nymi technology partners, meaning the Nymi biometric authentication band has been approved for use with Caitron HMI’s.
Some other points to be aware of are the increased strain on the upper body caused by bad posture whilst using tablets for extended periods. This strain can be avoided by using fixed terminals which have mounting systems that have been ergonomically designed to avoid causing these issues.
It is also recommended that if there is to be extended periods of using tablets with repeated keystrokes that external keyboards are utilised and, in both cases, (tablet and fixed HMI) these repetitive motions (leading to RSI) can be minimised with biometric authentication devices such as Nymi. Which allows for logon and signatures to be entered with a simple swipe of the device on the fixed HMI or tablet.
An important consideration when selecting the type of HMI in production is often down to cost, with tablet PC’s costing considerably less than fixed HMI’s. Added to the fact that in theory you could substitute more than one fixed HMI with one tablet PC. However, this does not tell the whole story. When the lifecycle of a tablet PC is taken into account (around 2-3 years) compared the that of the fixed HMI (8-10 years) and also the simple fact that tablet PC’s are considerably more likely to be damaged whilst in service due to being dropped etc. Then the chasm in cost between the two types of solution starts to thin.