The job of a maintenance supervisor is never-ending because the question of equipment failure is not if but when.

An engine will sputter, a boiler will breakdown, or a crank will jam in spite of long days spent conducting inspections, instructing technicians, and overseeing renovations.

For technicians already armed with a careful eye for detail and rigorous maintenance schedules, condition monitoring IoT systems are yet another tool to help mitigate the risk of downtime.

There’s a large variety of sensors that can be used to monitor equipment. Selecting the right device to meet performance and cost constraints requires understanding the operating environment as a whole.

The 7 Questions You Need to Ask

Before you start building an IoT system for condition monitoring, ask yourself these 7 questions:

  1. Assets: What equipment do you want to monitor and how you will use the data?
  2. Data Variables: What information do you want to collect about your equipment?
  3. Performance: What is the sensing range for your data?
  4. Data Sampling: How often do you plan to review your data?
  5. Connectivity: Do you have an internet connection in the area of the equipment?
  6. Power: Is there a power source near the equipment?
  7. Environment: Is your equipment indoors or outdoors?

A Real World Example: How an Injection Molding Company Minimizes Downtime

Image of maintenance supervisor with condition monitoring system

Monica is a maintenance supervisor for a medium-sized injection molding company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Currently, her team inspects equipment according to the manufacturer guidelines and have to be physically present. Monica has asked the IT department about developing a condition monitoring system in-house, but it is overloaded with other projects. Let’s see how she gets ready to build her own condition monitoring IoT system.

1. Assets: What equipment do you want to monitor and how will you use the data? The best place to start is equipment that is both critical to your operations and currently has a low level of visibility. Outlining how you will use the data will help you evaluate the ROI post-implementation.

Monica chooses to start with 2 water tanks and 2 gas tanks. Ensuring the fluid in the water tanks is at the correct temperature is vital for the cool down step of the mold manufacturing process. The gas tanks store Nitrogen gas, which plays a critical role as a propellant during the injection molding process. Monica wants her team members to receive SMS alerts when the temperature and pressure values are outside of the safe bounds, so they can take action immediately. By taking fast action and minimizing downtime, they can keep production on schedule and maintain good client relationships.

2. Data Variables: What information do you want to collect about your equipment? While you can collect a wide variety of data about your equipment, select just the information that will enable better decision making. Setting up a system in phases is often more helpful than trying to build a complex system at once.

At the outset, Monica chooses to remotely monitor the temperature of the water tanks and the pressure of the gas tanks. Once her team adapts to the new condition monitoring system, she would like to add a fill level sensor and a pump to create an automatic tank filling system.

3. Performance: What is the sensing range for your data? Specifying the sensing range required will help you choose the most cost-effective solution.

The temperature sensors need to be able to take readings between 45-400 °F. One gas tank needs a sensor rated for 0-200 psi, and the other for 0-800 psi.

4. Data Sampling: How often do you plan to review your data? A general rule of thumb is that the more frequently you want to review your data, the higher your hardware and system operating costs will be.

Previously, Monica’s team inspected the water and gas tanks twice at the beginning of each 8-hour shift. Monica and her team only want to review the data 3 times a day, but still want to receive alerts as soon as the sensor data is outside safe bounds. 

5. Environment: Is your equipment indoors or outdoors? Outdoor environments require more hardy hardware and generally have more limited options for connecting the devices to the internet.

The water and gas tanks are all in one room inside the plant.

6. Connectivity: Do you have an internet connection in the area of the equipment? How your sensors connect to the internet affects the hardware available to you and its power consumption.

Yes, there is Ethernet and WiFi available inside the room.

7. Power: Is there a power source near the equipment? If no, your sensors will need to be battery powered.

Yes, there are outlets with available plugs near the water and gas tanks.

Summarizing Monica’s Requirements for Sensors

Based on Monica’s answers to the 7 questions, she can determine the requirements for her sensors:

  • 1 hardwired temperature sensor with a range between 45-400 °F for indoor operating conditions
  • 1 hardwired pressure sensor with a range between 0-200 psi for indoor operating conditions
  • 1 hardwired pressure sensor with a range between 0-800 psi for indoor operating conditions

Temboo can find sensors that match your requirements, or you can look on the websites of major hardware distributors, such as DigiKey and Arrow.

Temboo’s IoT Solution for Condition Monitoring

Here is what our team at Temboo put together for Monica with an estimated cost of $400:

Image of Dallas Semiconductor Temperature Sensor2 Dallas Semiconductor Temperature Sensors

Image of TE Low Cost Industrial Pressure Transducer

2 TE MSP300 Pressure Transducers

Image of Texas Instruments SimpleLink WiFi CC3220SF Development Board

4 Texas Instruments SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3220SF LaunchPads

Image of Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

1 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (to transfer data to Temboo’s servers via Ethernet)

By operating these devices with Temboo’s Kosmos all-in-one IoT system, Monica’s team has an condition monitoring IoT system with powerful tools:

  • View sensor data from any desktop or mobile device
  • Set SMS and email alerts, and control actuators based on sensor values
  • Get sensor data predictions based on machine learning algorithms
  • And many more!

Ready to build your own IoT system for condition monitoring?

Your IoT system for condition monitoring can be ready to launch in as little as two weeks. Submit your answers to Temboo’s 7 system guideline questions to get started today.

Complete our 3 minute questionnaire.

Want to learn more about how other manufacturers are using Temboo to monitor equipment and improve their operations? Check out our Global Garden Products case study or email us at hey@temboo.com.

Posted by:Sarah McMillian, Product Outreach

Sarah is on the Product Outreach team at Temboo. Using her background in mechanical engineering, she helps manufacturers and other types of businesses do more with IoT. Sarah keeps podcasts on tech + society in heavy rotation, and has worked in four continents.