Data Makes All Difference

In the old days, factories relied on manpower to monitor the health of production equipment. Equipment errors and failures would be logged manually once an operator caught the issue. Maintenance and repair would follow – with employees relying on visual diagnostics. Without much to go on to diagnose machine malfunctions, minor and preventable issues snowballed into major problems.

Production has come a long way. Now, machines are equipped with sensors that send a constant stream of data to command centers and monitoring equipment. Many factories want to implement process visualization systems without making changes to their existing infrastructure. For a few factories, wired solutions make sense. Factories with complex layouts or insufficient space tend to turn to third party wireless solutions.

Those were the days.

In-house engineers or third party solution providers use a combination of sensor equipment, wireless communication devices, proxies, gateways, and software to create real-time monitoring systems of connection status, alarm status, and cycle times of connected machines. Raw sensor information is pushed from communication devices using protocols like Bluetooth Low Energy or WiFi to proxies and gateways, and from there, to cloud storage, from which software is able to pull data and create compelling analyses.

Improving Production Schedule and Productivity

The soldiers on the ground of a real-time monitoring systems never tire and are incapable of human error. This diverse array of sensors are able to monitor all the critical vitals comprising the network of machinery in a factory. Below is a list of some of the most common sensors and their function. Together, these sensors serve as critical touchpoints for determining machine maintenance schedules, allowing management and engineers to predict equipment failures before they become a source of production loss.The ability to predict malfunctions lowers machine downtime.

Accelerometers
Accelerometers measure motion or changes in velocity over time. Cell phones, laptops, and cars all use accelerometer data to promote safety and protect devices from sudden falls. In industry, these sensors can detect sudden faults in production line and send alerts to personnel through custom applications. They allow you to determine if an object is moving uphill, whether it will topple if it tilts x-degrees, or whether it’s moving horizontally or angling downward.

Temperature Sensors
Temperature sensors measure, you guessed it, temperature. These sensors can turn your beacon into a weather station or quality assurance monitor for cold chain production.

Ambient Light Sensors
Ambient light sensors measure any changes in light due to the open doors, switched lights, and people passing between the sensor and a light source. They can act as a security measure to ensure that rooms are not tampered with and to detect the presence of persons within a building after hours. They are also tools for industrial efficiency and can work together with software to dim and brighten electronic displays and monitors according to presets.

Magnetometers
Magnetometers refer to individual sensors used for sensing magnetic fields or to systems which measure magnetic field using one or more sensors. In industries, these sensors can measure the magnetization of a magnetic material like a ferromagnet. Their data can also detect sudden failures in equipment which rely in part on magnetization.

Pressure Sensors
Barometric pressure is the force exerted by the atmosphere at a given point against an object. Fluctuations in barometric pressure are usually a sign of changing weather conditions. In production, changing pressure can impede sensitive processes. Changes in pressure within chambers can alert industries to equipment failures and inform management decisions.

Location Sensors
Location sensors work through tri-lateration between three or more beacons and can also function as part of a mesh network to allow for real-time visualization of moving components and products along production lines.

Bringing Factories to Life

Taken together, all this sensory data brings production lines to life – allowing management to visualize bottlenecks and potential areas for schedule improvement. By preempting equipment failures by noting the vibration or temperature of machinery, downtime is saved and injuries may even be averted. Since wireless equipment depends on software, it stays relevant for much longer. Process visualization along production lines is a tool giving management an extra dimension of perspective over equipment and employee productivity. As Bluetooth LE and other wireless communication technologies continue to improve in concert with software capabilities, management decisions will become easier than ever.

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