A well thought out sensor-placement strategy will pay off with better data and increased reliability.
Within the complex field of Industry 4.0, the role of sensors in industrial operations cannot be overstated. These tiny devices act as the eyes and ears of a manufacturing unit, gathering crucial data that can make or break operational efficiency.
Sensor technology has come a long way since its inception. From rudimentary pressure gauges to advanced IIoT sensors, the evolution has been nothing short of revolutionary. This advancement has had a profound impact on modern manufacturing, enabling real-time monitoring and data-driven decision making.
Sensor placement is critical. Strategic positioning directly correlates with operational efficiency—a poorly placed sensor can result in inaccurate data, leading to suboptimal performance and increased costs.
While it may be tempting to think that more sensors mean more data and therefore better performance, the reality is far more nuanced. To maximize the value of your sensors, you need to place them in locations that capture the most relevant data.
The importance of sensor placement in industrial settings is often underestimated, yet it holds the key to unlocking a plethora of benefits. From operational efficiency to predictive maintenance, the advantages are not just incremental but potentially game changing. Correct sensor placement provides:
4Enhanced efficiency: Sensors play a pivotal role in streamlining processes. They provide real-time data on various operational metrics, such as temperature, pressure, and speed. This data can be analyzed to make immediate adjustments, reducing waste and improving output. One case study shows that a manufacturing unit reduced its production costs by 20% simply by optimizing sensor placement. This is a testament to the power of strategic sensor positioning.
Predictive maintenance: Smart sensors also enable predictive maintenance. These sensors monitor machinery and provide data on performance metrics such as vibration, temperature, and noise levels. The data is then analyzed to predict when a machine is likely to fail, allowing preventive maintenance and thereby reducing the risk of costly breakdowns.
Boosted productivity: Sensors are not just for machines; they can also monitor human performance. By tracking metrics such as time spent on tasks and movement patterns, sensors can provide invaluable insights into workforce productivity. Managers can use modern technology, including connected-worker solutions, to gather data and then use this data to identify bottlenecks, reallocate resources, and even provide targeted training to improve performance.
The strategic placement of sensors can be transformative for any industrial operation. Its benefits are far-reaching and can have a profound impact on operational excellence and profitability.
Sensor placement requires a well-thought-out strategy and meticulous execution. Each industrial setting is unique, i.e., what works for one may not work for another. Here are some tips to guide you through this critical process:
Identify where you need sensors: Before you even think about buying sensors, you need to identify where they are most needed. This involves a thorough analysis of your operational chain. Use data-analytics tools to sift through historical data, identifying areas that have been problematic in the past or could benefit from real-time monitoring. Once you have a clear understanding of the areas that require monitoring, use this data to inform your sensor placement strategy. This ensures that each sensor serves a specific purpose and contributes to operational efficiency.
Overcoming placement challenges: Environmental conditions often affect sensor performance. Whether it’s extreme temperatures, high humidity, or electromagnetic interference, environmental factors need to be considered when choosing and placing sensors. Choose sensors designed to withstand specific environmental conditions to ensure reliable performance.
Machinery can emit electromagnetic fields or vibrations that interfere with sensor performance. Therefore, it’s crucial to place sensors at a safe distance from such equipment. This may require specialized mounting solutions or even custom-designed sensors.
Maintenance And Checks
Sensor placement is not a “set it and forget it” task. Regular checks are essential to ensure that the sensors stay in optimal condition and provide accurate data. This involves software diagnostics and physical inspections. Over time, sensors can drift from their calibrated settings and produce inaccurate data. Periodic calibration is essential to maintain their accuracy. Additionally, dust and debris can accumulate on sensors and affect their performance. This is why regular cleaning is crucial.
Effective sensor placement is an art that combines science, strategy, and ongoing maintenance. By adhering to these detailed tips, industries can maximize the benefits derived from their sensor technology, leading to a more efficient and productive operation.
Sensor technology isn’t simply an investment but a long-term strategy that requires ongoing attention. It’s not just about where you place your sensors today, but how you maintain them, adapt their positioning, and integrate the data they provide into your operational decision-making processes.
By Eric Whitley, L2L
Eric Whitley is Director of Smart Manufacturing at L2L, Salt Lake City (L2L.com), where he helps clients learn and implement a pragmatic and simple approach to corporate digital transformation. In addition to many publications and articles, he played a leading role in the Total Productive Maintenance effort at Autoliv ASP and in the Management Certification programs at The Ohio State Univ., where he served as an adjunct faculty member.