Environmental monitoring is the practice of measuring, recording, and storing conditions for later analysis. Temperature, humidity, and pressure are the most common conditions monitored. In some industrial settings, even slight variations of these conditions can result in problems related to production, inventory and transport.
In heavily regulated industries, environmental monitoring assists in the verification and maintenance of conditions to ensure that compliance to set standards is met. The Internet of Things (IoT) makes it possible to network any number of connectable electronic environmental monitoring devices. This makes the process of measuring and tracking specific conditions easier to do, which, in turn, results in quicker identification of problems, faster data collection and cost savings in overall operations.
In this article, we will look at the tools used to accomplish these goals and the industries that benefit from environmental monitoring.
To meet standards set in compliance documents, many manufacturing companies are faced with the need to keep track of certain environmental conditions. Plus, many materials used in manufacturing processes can be severely affected by even minute changes in temperature, humidity, and/or pressure. However, the settings where these readings are best recorded are not always safe for human observation. At first, chart recorders became the standard monitoring devices of the day, providing reliable printed data for analysis. They continue to be highly effective in many applications. However, chart recorders require more maintenance than modern-day data loggers, the next iteration in the search for better data, more detailed data recording and better retrieval.
Data Loggers Arrive
Data loggers are, in a way, an upgrade to the chart recorder, even though chart recorders are still frequently used in several different applications. A data logger is a portable, battery-operated electronic device that contains a sensor, a memory, and a battery. The sensor, either built-in or attached, is used to collect measurements of the information required. Most often this includes temperature, humidity, or pressure. Data loggers can be programmed to measure conditions as often as required for a specific period. The information stored by the data logger can be downloaded to a computer, transmitted to a cloud-based site or accessed remotely by a smart device using an app.
The Benefits of Internet-Enabled Data Loggers
Data loggers have some advantages over chart recorders. First and foremost is the fact that there is no need for paper rolls or discs for recording measurements. With battery power, a data logger can retrieve information over a longer period than a chart recorder. It also has a built-in memory and can be placed in settings where chart recorders would not be effective. With internet-enabled data loggers, a more IoT-centric approach to environmental monitoring. Companies like Dickson offer cloud-based continuous monitoring systems that can streamline data collection processes.
Industries that Use IoT in Their Environmental Monitoring
Here is a closer look at industries that make use of IoT in their environmental monitoring programs and how it benefits them.
Environmental monitoring is a crucial factor in many healthcare industry applications. Temperature and humidity must remain constant in multiple hospital settings such as operating rooms, blood banks, blood/vaccine storage areas, and laboratories. Pharmaceutical companies, surgical clinics manufacturers of medical devices and places that store medical devices along with many other specialized areas make heavy use of data loggers. These devices record and make it easy to access the information required to meet FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and VFC (Vaccines For Children) regulations and ensure the safety of patients. Data loggers with IoT capability make it easier for organizations to monitor these overlapping needs thoroughly. With a proper environmental monitoring system in place, inventory loss is greatly reduced.
Guidelines AS9100 and ISO 9001 set the standard for environmental monitoring in the aerospace industry. The standards must not only be met but must remain constant. This includes the manufacture of such components as wings, engines, turbine blades, and all other aviation parts. Strict controls are in place to ensure safety and quality of products. This is where environmental monitoring enters the equation. Slight fluctuations in temperature or humidity can have a severe impact on those aviation parts. Therefore, data loggers are installed in crucial locations along the production line. With IIoT, these data loggers can easily monitor conditions, store the data in almost any format so that data collected can later be analyzed.
Food & Beverage
Data loggers are used in the production, storage, and transport of food and beverage products. They are also used in commercial kitchen settings and in grocery and retail situations. The environmental conditions often monitored in these applications include temperature, humidity, and differential pressure. Data loggers provide the means to verify compliance to meet FDA guidelines as well as FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) regulations. Even the opening and closing of doors can be simply monitored by using an open/close data logger to help identify another potential problem environmental area factor in storage areas.
Measurements for temperature, humidity, and differential pressure are crucial in the manufacturing process. Materials used in the production process are often affected by very slight variations of those conditions. Environmental monitoring is one of the most important tasks related to maintenance of quality control. Implementing IIoT simplifies that task, right on down to monitoring conditions in multiple locations throughout a production line. A controlled environment that can be confirmed with real-time measurements ensures the quality and durability of the products being manufactured on the production floor. Data loggers provide that information with ease.
Environmental monitoring is the means used to measure, record, and store information about different types of conditions. In the manufacturing industry, the most common conditions tracked are temperature, humidity, and pressure. Electronic devices known as data loggers are used to achieve this. With the ongoing industry desire to implement IoT, data loggers are easy to integrate into systems to consistently gain real-time measurement information.
With all electronic devices, including data loggers, joined on the same network via the Internet of Things, manufacturing plants can provide better service to customers while ensuring compliance guidelines are being met. When conditions are constant, materials do not change, and better-quality products can be available for users. Environmental monitoring with data loggers makes this happen in a cost-effective way, thus reducing product loss and downtime.