Why Your Operations Need IoT Condition Monitoring

Posted by Rebecca Skubish on Mar 1, 2022 7:36:13 PM

Whether you are in manufacturing, logistics, tech or utilities, condition monitoring is a practice that is consistently needed. Can you imagine having equipment that’s not working, but you’re not aware of it?

We can. 

Happily, IoT condition monitoring allows you to see things as they’re happening. 

Condition Monitoring: With & Without the IoT

Condition monitoring, as we already know, is the practice of tracking certain aspects of a machine to prevent equipment damage. Parameters that might be condition monitored include but are not limited to the following…

  • Temperature
  • Vibration
  • Lubrication
  • Imbalance
  • Humidity

And more. 

The whole point of condition monitoring is to improve the longevity of machines that your organization operates. 

Before the IoT, manufacturers have made efforts to perform condition monitoring for their machines. Considering that many manufacturers are currently powered by legacy equipment not connected to the IoT, such practices of condition monitoring still occur today. 

To make sure that machines were still working, manufacturers would  - and still - depend on industrial machine repair services. These industrial machine repair services “could cause long downtimes, unnecessary expenses, and real risks resulting in continual extra efforts.” In addition, the maintenance of machines - without the IoT - has been mainly reliant on maintenance schedules and repair plans. 

It’s not a stretch to think that this is more or less an outdated process of condition monitoring machines, even if there are several industrial machine repair services that get the job done. 

The world has changed while machines have not. 97% of all Americans “own a cellphone of some kind” and 85% of them own a smartphone. Because of this massive mobile adoption, many are used to the capability of doing most tasks from their smartphone; whether it’s writing this article, purchasing a flight, or even attending a doctor’s appointment

While many machines are still legacy equipment that’s not IoT-connected, there’s no reason to think that manufacturers aren’t ready for technology that makes it easier to perform condition monitoring. If we’re able to do anything from our devices, shouldn’t we also be able to monitor critical equipment using the Internet?

Platforms like Atomation have a solution that makes it as easy to check on your machines as it is to log onto your Gmail. 

In the image above, there’s a list of several machines that this Atomation user has. More specifically, this is a list of the latest reports of condition monitoring for that manufacturer’s machines. Users of such platforms can organize reports by reading types (periodic, post-event, trigger, etc), by location of the machine, by the machine’s name, and the data being collected like the temperature, the machine’s weight at the time of data collection, and the machine’s battery. 

A dashboard like Atomation’s makes it easy for anyone, even for those who have limited experience in condition monitoring for machines, to understand the state of their equipment and what they should do next. 

In the image above, we see an example of condition monitoring for vibration. There are five instances in which the machine’s vibrations are higher than normal. Seeing this data makes it extremely easy for the manufacturer to detect what’s wrong using the data. What was happening at the precise moment that these data points were captured? For this machine, all five recorded high vibration alerts occurred when the machine was not balanced properly at a higher operating speed. 

Data is helping us understand the story. 

Speaking of which, data collection is one of the biggest reasons why IoT condition monitoring is such a powerful tool for manufacturers. 

How are manufacturers able to collect data and use it for insights?

In the manufacturing space, there’s a new wave of sensor technology that is built for manufacturers who don’t have IoT-enabled equipment. Manufacturers who have legacy equipment are today able to collect data on their machines without needing to replace them. They can do this by purchasing sensors such as Atoms; these sensors constantly collect data the manufacturer wants and reports that data into dashboards akin to the images displayed previously. 

There are different Atoms that are made for different environments and types of machines. The AT-U 2.0c model is made for “harsh indoor and outdoor environments.” Its sensors include temperature, humidity, tilt, vibration, impact, and EMF. Under optimal conditions, the AT-U 2.0c lasts a minimum of five years. 

That’s a long time to condition monitor legacy equipment without having to replace it!

The AT-U 2.0c (we call it the stand-alone) is not only for manufacturers: it’s for any organization that requires the threshold-based monitoring of equipment. Another excellent use case is utility poles. Utilities attach Atoms to distribution poles and the Atoms detect when a pole is down, tilted, or impacted much faster than traditional reporting. Atom owners also get alerts to their mobile devices if something occurs in the field, including the detection of the presence/absence of EMF, which can tell if the lines are still energized. Our latest stand-alone unit incorporates a camera, giving our customers a true snapshot of what's happening in the field when a trigger event occurs. 

Where else is this wave of IoT-connected sensors making an impact?

  • Barns: Mechanical subsystems in barns are difficult to condition monitor without hardwiring necessary equipment, which can quickly be expensive. Installing Atoms barns provides data about the health of their livestock. Atoms can monitor fans, feed motors, pumps, generators, and heaters in barns and production agriculture environments.  
  • Post-Sale Monitoring: A printing machine company needed a way to monitor their machines after the equipment was sold. Atoms provided a solution - printing machines sold to customers would have Atoms installed on them so the company can monitor issues, identify operational abnormalities and proactively sell ink when hours in operation show that the ink is low. 

The Atomation platform allows the collection of data from connected sensors and devices to be streamlined and reported as determined by the user.

Conclusion

Benefits of the IoT have been obvious in consumer spaces. Advancements in sensor technology now make these benefits available to a broader audience that includes critical industries, machinery, and equipment. 

Utilities that power our homes, printing machines that produce what we read, agricultural fields that produce our food - they all can utilize condition monitoring of their machines and equipment to improve operations and performance.  

Technologies such as the Atomation platform make it easier than ever to successfully and simply monitor critical equipment using the IoT. 

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