Figure 1. Whether it’s a large refinery, a remote municipal lift station, or a commercial craft brewery, all these facilities have systems and equipment that need to operate within a specific range of parameters. (Image: FXQuadro/Shutterstock)

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) advances have long been the province of large enterprises. These businesses have the investment to pay for the strategy, sensors, edge devices, and data analytics capabilities required to power IIoT services such as condition monitoring. They also have teams that can support these strategic initiatives.

Now, broader availability of sensors, evolving capabilities, and new digital platforms and tools are making IIoT capabilities more readily available and easy to manage with small teams. As a result, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can now gain the same digital capabilities their larger peers already benefit from.

Condition monitoring is the process of observing equipment to detect changes that could indicate an impending fault. Teams can use condition monitoring technology to remotely oversee equipment for signs of atypical vibration, pressure changes, position changes of key components, speed of equipment, fluid properties, temperature changes, and humidity, as well as to gain an overall picture of operating conditions. By so doing, teams can take immediate corrective action when sensor data indicates machine stress, as well as schedule preventive maintenance to keep equipment operating in peak condition.

“Whether it’s a large refinery, a remote municipal lift station, or a commercial craft brewery, all these facilities have systems and equipment that need to operate within a specific range of parameters,” said Erin Byrne, chief technology officer for TE Connectivity’s sensors business unit.

“When that equipment is not performing properly, productivity and sustainability are reduced, and you risk a breakdown that can range from being merely annoying to, in the case of an oil or gas facility, a potential environmental catastrophe if it results in a spill or excessive emissions,” said Byrne. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and that’s where industrial and commercial condition monitoring comes into play.”

Organizations that deploy IIoT condition monitoring technology achieve multiple business gains. A Deloitte paper found that predicting failures with advanced analytics and taking action can increase productivity by 25 percent, reduce breakdowns by 70 percent, and lower maintenance costs by 25 percent.

IIoT sensor trends, such as low power requirements, wireless capabilities, digitization, miniaturization, ruggedization, and sensor fusion mean that these sensors can be leveraged for more use cases, placed in tight spaces, and can provide exceptional performance in harsh environmental conditions. Low voltage requirements eliminate the need for new power management technology, while wireless configurations make IIoT system installation simple, quick, and inexpensive.

Teams can also use digital technology to monitor equipment remotely and make production adjustments using an app on their smartphones.

“Recently, at TE, we collaborated with Preddio Technologies to improve condition monitoring and make it widely available for smaller-scale applications. Our joint solution can now be installed in even the most remote locations. With the combination of Preddio’s wireless technology and cloud-based analytics, along with our low-power sensors, remote monitoring is now possible for operations of all sizes,” said Byrne.

We utilize our own patented long-range Bluetooth 5.0 advertising technology to provide high bandwidth data to mobile devices and gateways up to 1000 ft away, and sometimes even greater, depending on the environment. For greater distances or environments with significant noise, we leverage LoRaWAN as back channel.

Sensor sampling rates are based on the application and types of signals measured. Millisecond rates can be achieved for dynamically changing signals. Meanwhile, alarms and threshold information are stored on the device, to limit data amounts and processing complexity in the cloud.

We provide our own mobile app, a digital twin-focused cloud dashboard, and standard API to export data for further analytics.

Our solution is focused on alerting end users to rapidly changing trends or known failure modes that are typically only discovered manually after they have happened. We use multiple sensor inputs located on industrial equipment (boilers, chillers, pumps, heat exchangers, valves, tanks, etc.).

Brewing up Better Business Results with IIot-Enabled Condition Monitoring

What better place to test the power of IIoT for smaller businesses than in the craft beer industry? Successful brewing requires precise pressures and temperatures, and if not properly maintained, thousands of gallons (and dollars) of beer could be wasted — a huge loss for any operation. What’s more, boiler performance and uptime can be impacted by a wide variety of issues, from water and steam leaks to uneven and inefficient heating caused by calcium carbonate scaling.

Craft breweries represented 13.1 percent of the total beer market share in the U.S. in 2021, but notched sales of $26.8 billion out of the total $100 billion market, thanks to both packaged sales and bar and restaurant sales. Thus, using IIoT to safeguard production batches and beer quality can drive up revenues for breweries across the nation.

Lord Hobo Brewing Company, with three locations in Massachusetts, is an early adopter of condition monitoring. Like many breweries, Lord Hobo’s is a state-of-the-art operation, with sophisticated equipment including millions of dollars’ worth of kettles, kegs, boilers, conveyors, cooling systems, storage tanks, fermentation tanks, piping and tubing, refrigeration equipment, cleaning equipment, waste treatment systems, and more.

And Lord Hobo has the added advantage of using condition monitoring to prevent steam boiler failures that can cause equipment downtime, disruption, and revenue loss. These boilers require extremely precise temperatures and pressures. Runtime of the boiler based on pressure, power activity, and motor vibration is also measured.

Under/over pressure situations are sensed. Chiller incoming/outgoing glycol temperatures are monitored, as are boiler pressure and steam temperature, vessel tank temperatures, flow rates from incoming and outgoing water, continuous level in critical tanks, fermentation status (specific gravity/temperature), dissolved oxygen checkpoints in the packaging line, and more.

We are monitoring more and more ad hoc critical weak points across their operations, without requiring an overarching control and monitoring solution that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An easy-to-use mobile app and cloud-based dashboard allows Lord Hobo’s staff to remotely monitor boiler status. They receive text or email alerts around the clock if there is an issue. For example, staff can determine if a temperature rise or production change could spoil an entire batch of beer if left unaddressed, costing thousands of dollars in lost product and time. If so, they can take fast action to correct the problem.

By deploying the Preddio condition monitoring solution and TE’s sensors, the brewery has improved the efficiency and reliability of its boilers. What’s more, being able to visualize production equipment and essential process parameters enables their teams to schedule preventive maintenance, reduce equipment downtime, and ensure compliance with government food quality regulations.

Figure 2. Continuous temperature, pressure, level, and power monitoring for a digital twin of a low-pressure steam boiler located in a Massachusetts brewery. (Image: Preddio Technologies)

“What’s most exciting about this type of solution is its simplicity, scalability, and ability to deliver immediate results. Solutions that unleash captive data can be implemented in minutes, not only for billion-dollar refineries, but also for commercial craft breweries, all without modifying existing infrastructure or requiring IT systems access. Regardless of industry or the size of the operation, it enables the facility to be more efficient, more productive, more profitable, and even more sustainable,” said Aaron Ganick, Co-Founder and CEO of Preddio.

TE Sensors Enable Highly Accurate Remote Condition Monitoring

The Preddio solution uses TE’s MC3200 I2C and M5600 BLE pressure sensors, which deliver outstanding low power performance and digital functionality. The sensors are calibrated over a wide temperature range, with pressure ranges up to 10K PSI with a low total error band of one percent of full-scale pressure. The pressure sensors also provide digital process temperature readings.

While traditional pressure gauges are analog devices requiring hard wiring, TE’s sensors can be integrated into Preddio’s battery-powered products to create a wireless, low barrier-to-entry approach. With most of craft breweries’ budgets focused on product development and marketing, the lower complexity of the Preddio-TE solution is welcome news to owners who want to improve their processes in a cost-effective manner.

Figure 3. TE Connectivity’s M5600 series wireless pressure transducer features a high accuracy, 24-bit ADC digital output, eliminating hard wiring, and provides remote process control and monitoring via Bluetooth® 4.0 wireless communication. (Image: TE Connectivity)

The TE sensors multi-task, measuring both pressure and temperature of any process fluid through a single mechanical port. This feature more than doubles the value of the system, while also streamlining the installation process. Rugged and durable, TE sensors can withstand the snow and ice of Massachusetts winters as well as the summertime heat and humidity to which they are subjected at Lord Hobo’s facilities.

Using IIoT to Improve Production Processes Across Multiple Industries

With lower costs and more capabilities, SMEs across multiple industries can now put condition monitoring to work with IIoT solutions like the one from Preddio and TE. Just a few of the industries poised to benefit are oil and gas, mining, power generation, dairy manufacturing, food and beverage manufacturing, steel mills, and paper mills.

Condition monitoring technology provides other gains beyond protecting products, boosting equipment uptime, and reducing maintenance costs. Businesses can leverage smaller remote workforces to manage networks of sites, while reducing break-fix incidents and costly truck rolls for repairs. Using equipment for a longer period of time helps increase ROI on CapEx investments, while reducing mechanical waste. In addition, condition monitoring can help prevent environmental disasters by alerting staff to issues such as oil and gas leaks or excessive emissions.

As SMEs seek to gain advantage in an ultra-competitive market, they can use condition monitoring to boost staff productivity and operational performance, reduce CapEx investments and OpEx maintenance costs, drive production throughput, and improve environmental sustainability. Those are gains any manufacturing or industrial company can benefit from.

This article was written by John Tuley, Director of Business Development, Sensors, TE Connectivity. For more information, contact Mr. Tuley here .