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Got Dust? Comparing the Annual Cost of Ownership of 4 dust protection strategies in the manufacturing sector

By ·Categories: I/O HUB, I/O Manufacturing·Published On: February 7th, 2014·5.9 min read·

Recently we talked about the 4 strategies for dealing with dust in a manufacturing environment:Annual Cost of Ownership for dust protection solutions

  • Cleaning
  • Ripping & Replacing
  • Enclosing
  • Going Fanless

Today we are going to be a little more structured . . . formulaic even. I want to breakdown and compare the annual costs of solving a dust problem in different ways.

To illustrate, we’re going to walk through a cost analysis and see which method has the lowest annual cost of ownership.

Note though that ACO (Annual Cost of Ownership) and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) calculations can be complicated, so if you begin to apply these concepts to your own situation you may need to adjust to your specific circumstances and perhaps throw a variable in there that I don’t account for.

Hypothetical Company: Buy Cycle
Description: Buy Cycle is bike manufacturer. They specialize in inexpensive aluminum frames. Pieces are cut, shaped and welded on the factory floor. Computer systems live right on the production floor controlling precision machines and serving as design aids.
Environment: Manufacturing
Particulate: Aluminum (filings and swarf), paint
Average workstations cost (without peripherals): $350
Workstation count: 75
Annual technology budget: $8,000
Average IT salary: $40,000

CleaningCanned Air Dust Cleaner

The first option Buy Cycle is looking at is having their IT person (and their team) clean each PC by hand, on a quarterly basis. This involves taking the PCs offline and vacuuming them out. IT, as you might expect, is not enthused but were willing to entertain the calculation.

Labor Costs: 1 [Hour IT] x [Number of Systems] x [# of Cleanings]
Buy Cycle’s IT team thinks taking a system offline, cleaning it, and then bringing it back online in an hour should be a little more time then they need, but better safe than sorry. Their hourly rate works out to about $19.20 (that’s the average salary of $40,000 divided by number of hours in a work year, 2080). The number of systems is 75 and they require 4 cleanings per year. A few calculations later and that comes to: $5760 per year.

Hardware Costs: [Number of systems] x ([cost of system] / [PC Lifecycle])
To get an accurate look at the annual ownership costs, they also need to factor in the cost of the PCs. Really quickly, that’s 75 systems, at $350 with a lifecycle of 3 years (based on standard PC warranty), or $8750 per year.

Total Annual Cost
Now, as you recall, the annual Buy Cycle technology budget is $8,000 at Buy Cycle and totaling these up they get a good look at the cost of cleaning them hand: $14,425 per year. Needless to say, the IT team is happy to see this is outside budget.

Rip & Replace:Pile of old PCs

The second option Buy Cycle is considering is replacing everything on a cycle. Using some rough numbers based on PC failures, they determined that the average period a PC lasts in their environment –without being touched– is a year. After that point, something would fail, usually thanks to the aluminum dust. Considering that, this is the cost equation they saw for Rip & Replace.

Labor Costs: 1 [Hour IT] x [Number of Systems]
Starting with the same $19.20 and 75 systems, the installation costs are $1,440. 1 hour is probably a generous estimate, but Buy Cycle’s IT pro expects to be able to roll out several at a time, so an hour is a good average.

Hardware Costs: [Number of systems] x [cost of system] x [Replacement Cycle]
With the total systems at 75 and the cost at $350, the big factor is how often they will be replacing them. Buy Cycle’s IT was leaning towards 1.25 times per year, but settled on 1 for a total of $26,250.

Total Annual Cost
Adding cost and labor together, for a total of $27,690, it’s a pretty expensive option for the up and coming company. However, this cost does not factor in any warranty, lease or return programs offered by PC manufacturers. Buy Cycle will look into this –if the other options don’t work out– but the size of the unvarnished number was enough to give the Finance team a heart attack.


The Aluminum dust is very tough on cases, and paint periodically can spill, so Buy Cycle is considering upgrading to enclosures as well. Locking their PCs in a box to protect them from harsh environments seems like a quick fix, but it is a bit more complicated. Let’s take a look.

Labor Costs: 3 [Hours IT] / [Enclosure Lifecycle / PC lifecycle] x [Number of Systems]
Putting enclosures into the mix increases the IT time to 3 hours, including installation, placement and setup time for a PC. In turn, that gets spread out over time, and divided by the Enclosure lifecycle (10 years in the case of Buy Cycle’s enclosures) and the PC lifespan (3 Years). This reflects that once the enclosure is in place, it is there through several iterations of PCs. And of course it is multiplied by the number of PCs, for a total of $1,346.

Hardware Costs: [Enclosure Cost] / [Enclosure Lifecycle] x [Number of Systems]
The enclosures Buy Cycle was looking at are IP65 $300 boxes, and would be mounted to a wall. Breaking down that cost by its lifecycle (10 years) gives us the fractional cost ($30), and multiplying by the number of systems gives us the total of $2,250. Not bad so far.

Hardware Costs, part 2: [Number of systems] x ([cost of system] / [PC Lifecycle])
Finally they needed to factor in the PCs that will go into those boxes. The Math should look familiar at this point. It’s 75 systems, at $350 with an average lifecycle of 3 years, or $8,750.

Total Annual Cost
Buy Cycle’s annual cost –labor, PCs and enclosures included– comes to $12,345. Despite being an interesting number, it lands outside their budget. They will likely have to prioritize which PCs would get enclosures or give up the IP65 rating. Sub-optimal to be sure.

The ML300 NUC, Orange and BlackGo Fanless:

Buy Cycle’s final option is to replace their existing PCs with Fanless ventless units. In theory this is a good fit. Fanless, Ventless systems are designed to keep the aluminum out of their systems, but at what cost?

Labor Costs: 1 [Hour IT] x [Number of Systems]
Fanless systems are no more difficult to install than standard systems, so the time table stays fairly standard. While Buy Cycle wants them mounted as well, this will not impact time too much, and comes in at the familiar $1,440.

Hardware Costs: [Fanless System Cost] / [Fanless Lifecycle] x [Number of Systems]
This is where it deviates a bit. The Fanless systems Buy Cycle looked at are $437.50, about 25% more expensive, but not an uncommon price hike. However, they have a 6 year lifecycle. Multiplied by the 75 total systems, the annual cost is $5,458. So far so good.

Total Annual Cost
The resulting annual cost is a reasonable $6,898. This is under Buy Cycle’s annual budget of $8,000 so could be the winner.


Given the options, Buy Cycle will probably go fanless. The benefits are inline with the price, in a really positive way. Admittedly we are a bit biased, but plug your numbers into the equation and see what comes out the other end. Give us your feedback on ways to improve the formula. Also, Keep an eye out for a Logic Supply calculator that will do the math for you. Coming soon to a Logic Supply blog near you.


About the Author: John Donoghue

A former Content Manager for OnLogic, John has a diverse background in technology and writing, and enjoys the opportunity to bring those two passions together. He has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Saint Michael's College and loves to tinker - be it with photography, technology or the great American novel.
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