It’s not all that often that you hear a story with a lot of drama and surprise that also highlights the advantages of a modular panel PC. We speak with IT professionals every day, and their hardware problems are pretty mundane. Questions range from simple configuration questions to complex, application-specific and environmental challenges. We’ve heard a lot of interesting justifications for choosing one PC over another. But, there are a few stories that really stick with us. One tale in particular illustrated an instance in which a modular approach might have saved one IT manager a lot of headaches. We hope it was an isolated incident!
By modular we mean a panel PC that is constructed by combining distinct systems:
- Industrial PC that provides the processing and I/O
- Touchscreen display
Simple, right? The idea is that individual systems, the PC and the display, though physically one unit, can be serviced or replaced individually. It may seem obvious but, until recently, it’s been far from the norm.
Panel PCs: Feeling the Pain
We worked with an IT manager at a food production facility a few years back who was interested in refreshing the HMI systems in all of his facilities. After listening to his various qualifiers (splash proof, touch screen, quick installation in a pre existing cabinet, low processing needs, one com port and either wired or wireless connectivity), but from the start, an all-in-one solution wasn’t an option that he was open to.
“No Way to All-in-One”
In the course of the conversation, he revealed a disgruntled employee story. In a dispute, the employee plunged a carving knife through the screen of one of their inventory management systems. Luckily, no humans were hurt. Because they had been using all-in-one panel PCs, the entire unit had to be replaced. The production facility managed their workflow with paper until a new unit arrived. Harking back to the age-old question, “fax-scanner-printer combo or buy separately?”, he had a ready response, “No way to all-in-one.”
This was unfortunate, because a panel PC would have been a perfect hardware fit for his application. Fit or no fit, he remembered the downtime and budget pressures. He had to replace the entire system when it was only the screen that had fallen victim of the unfortunate stabbing.
He would have preferred the installation convenience of a panel solution. However, there was nothing on the market at the time that would give him the maintenance flexibility he needed. The only choice he had was to purchase his new PCs and displays as separate units. As a result, he installed the displays where necessary and wired them to stand-alone PCs. This option served him well in the end, but the installation was problematic from the start, given existing space constraints.
Of course, not every panel PC in the field is at risk for death by stabbing, but this incident highlights why this idea of modularity in panel PC design could prove useful for manufacturers and integrators, as well as end users. Had the IT manager held a few modular displays in stock, he could have easily swapped out the damaged screen. With a quick replacement he would have been back up and running in minutes (disgruntled employee notwithstanding) without the need to replace the entire system.
Modular Panel PC – the Answer to Our Panel Prayers
Our partners at Cincoze offer a line of touch screen panels with the option of attaching either a PC or stand-alone monitor module using a patented connection interface.
It’s nice for us to finally have a solution to recommend to clients without having to coach them through processing the all-in-one or not dilemma. Now we can confidently say, “Well, why not both a panel PC and a relatively low replacement cost.”
Ready to dive into a modular panel PC? We can help! Contact our team of solution experts today.
Note: This article posted originally on January 5, 2015 and updated for content on March 15, 2021.