IoT in Production: Industrial Utilization

In the fast-paced world of production, real-time data monitoring and remote control of machinery and processes are essential for enhancing efficiency, reducing downtime, and ensuring product quality. LoRaWAN-powered IoT (Internet of Things) offers a robust solution to address these needs.

In this article, we explore the possibilities, challenges, benefits, and use cases of LoRaWAN in the production environment.

Production Monitoring

A production site is a complex environment with various factors that can lead to downtime, damage, delays, and other issues. Monitoring these factors can help prevent or mitigate these issues. Here are some common factors that can be monitored to enhance production site efficiency and reliability:

  • machine health and performance (machine overheating, unusual vibration and noise, machine runtime)
  • energy consumption (power consumption, peak demand)
  • environmental conditions (temperature and humidity, CO2, dust or fumes)
  • inventory management (tracking raw materials, monitoring storage boxes levels)

On the other hand, there are also factors that can impact not only production site efficiency and reliability, but even disrupt its complete working process. Monitoring them can guarantee the smooth operation and correct functioning of production as such:

  • preventive or predictive maintenance (scheduling on real data)
  • spare parts inventory (monitoring the availability to avoid delays)
  • environmental compliance (monitoring waste production and its management)
  • security measures (instrusion detection)

By implementing IoT solutions on LoRaWAN with sensors and software, production sites can continuously monitor these factors in real-time, what allows for early detection of possible issues and timely preventive measures.

Why LoRaWAN is the Best Fit

Production sites can be problematic for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, but LoRaWAN solutions are better suited for such environments due to specific characteristics. Here are some key reasons why LoRaWAN can be a more suitable choice for production sites:

  • Long-range coverage: LoRaWAN’s extended range (in kilometers) reduces the need for numerous gateways.
  • Signal interference: The way LoRaWAN operates makes it less prone to interference from electronic/magnetic devices and machinery around.
  • Penetration signal and obstacles: Walls, heavy machinery, and other obstacles… No problem for LoRaWAN thanks to great penetration capabilities, making it more suitable for industrial settings.
  • Low power consumption: LoRaWAN devices operate for years on a single battery, reducing downtime.
  • Security: The data connection on LoRaWAN provides end-to-end encryption (AES128), safeguarding sensitive data.
  • Scalability: LoRaWAN networks can grow with production needs.
  • Cost-efficiency: The infrastructure of LoRaWAN is cost-effective to deploy and maintain.

Therefore, LoRaWAN’s long-range, low-power, and interference-resistant characteristics make it a better fit for many IoT applications in industrial and manufacturing settings, providing reliable connectivity and data transmission in these challenging environments.

IoT Sensors on LoRaWAN

IoT sensors play a crucial role in production for various reasons, as they offer numerous benefits that help enhance efficiency, reduce costs, improve safety, and ensure product quality.

Here are some reasons why IoT sensors on LoRaWAN:

  • Size: small and compact
  • Resistant: suitable for harsh or dusty environments
  • Universal: suitable for indoor and outdoor use
  • Cableless: no need for external power supply
  • Long-lasting: years of battery lifetime
  • Self-sufficient: without the need for maintenance
  • Portable: relocate according to needs

Use case by Heliotics

Thanks to our partner JAN SVOBODA s.r.o., we had an opportunity to showcase live the utility of IoT sensors and LoRaWAN network, the benefits of this technology and how it can work in a production.

At the Exhibition

Where: 2023 International Engineering Fair (MSV) in Brno 

What: Remote monitoring of energy consumption, leakage, safety, predictive/preventive maintenance and downtimes reporting.

How: Directly on an injection mold machine (JSW) and temperature controller (TH M6) provided by our partner JAN SVOBODA s.r.o., and the surroundings. With the use of our Heliotics app.

Why: To demonestrate the benefits and utility of LoRaWAN-powered IoT by real-time monitoring during a demonstration of an actual production process (molding).

The monitoring was also integrated in MachineLOG IT platform which works as a new generation maintenance system for all industries.

Energy Consumption Monitoring

During the molding process on the injection molding machine, using 3-phase current sensors we were monitoring the energy consumption both on the machine itself and the external hot runner temperature controller TH-M6.

It is important to mention that the installation of the sensors is non-invasive, directly in the machine.

The demonstration allowed visitors to see how IoT can monitor energy consumption in the production process. It was not only for monitoring the consumption, but also to detect possible outages or deviations.

By monitoring energy consumption in real-time, identifying areas of inefficiency happens much quicker. This contributes to optimizing energy usage, therefore making the production more efficient as well as reduction of carbon footprint.

On the other hand, such inefficiencies can lead to delays or disruption of manufacturing process, which means unexpected costs due to sudden maintenance and downtimes. However, real-time data help make more informed decisions on time leading to more cost-effective measures.

With a solution like this and using our app, it is possible to detect such deficiencies in time thanks to instant notifications.

Production Downtime Monitoring

To monitor a seamless production process, we installed 4-button sensor and a buttonboard on the molding machine to showcase problem reporting in production. These wireless and compact devices can be installed easily and quickly, placing them on the machine or within hand’s reach. They can be used as a timely indicator of downtimes (reporting a problem with the machine, missing material or quality problem, etc.). 

On the contrary, it can work as an identification which serves to minimize maintenance frequency, avoiding unplanned outages and unnecessary maintenance costs.

On-time problem reporting in production is crucial for preventing delays and ensuring a smooth workflow. It contributes to some of the following aspects:

  • it allows for faster issue resolution, reducing downtime, what helps maintain a smooth production flow
  • problem reporting on time can prevent the escalation of minor issues into major problems, reducing repair or rework costs and avoiding potential product recalls
  • reduction of unplanned downtime, saving on emergency repairs, and extension of the equipment, what translates to significant cost savings

The collected data overtime can also help in improving predictive and preventive maintenance because:

  • maintenance teams identify issues as they occur and can predict when a machine is likely to fail and schedule maintenance proactively
  • early reporting of problems helps maintenance teams to plan and execute preventive maintenance tasks, reducing the chances of unexpected breakdowns
Monitoring of Mold Cooling System 

This use case shows how easily the status of mold process can be tracked as the cooling temperature is crucial for ensuring quality & efficiency of production and quality status of mold itself. 

We used a temperature sensor to monitor the temperature of cooling water flowing in, and other sensors to monitor cooling water flowing out of the molding system. Apart from that we used also an extension to monitor the water flow on the control temperature unit.  

For this use case the probes are attached only temporarily, by default the attachement is done more thoroughly. It is important to mention that the sensor was installed in the machine in non-invasive way, not requiring any power or other cables. 

The reason why real-time temperature monitoring is important and why it helps in the molding process is because of the following factors:

  • temperature of the cooling water has a direct impact on the quality of the molded products
  • faulty or congested pipes pushing water through the cooling system may cause deviations in required heating/cooling water temperature leading to energy inefficiency and product depreciation
  • wrong water temperature flowing in-&-out can also mean a possible problem with the central temperature controller
  • it is essential to ensure that the cooling water temperature remains within a specified range (to detect timely overheating/overcooling of mold)
  • longevity of a machine, operational safety, and downtime prevention

With our solution it is possible to monitor the temperature of water flowing in-&-out in real time. Since the water temperature in molding process is crucial, it is important to operate with proper settings and conditions. 

Injection Machine Leakage Monitoring

Another potential threat to the production process can be caused by the leakage of water or other liquids from the machines. And as it happens in molding industry quite commonly, and sometimes even during weekends when no one is around, we wanted to show how to identify such a problem in time. Receive a notification when it happens, and prevent great damages in your production site.

To monitor the potential rupture of the water hoses on the JSW molding machine we used 2 leakage sensors – 1 spot and 1 zone.

Each sensor was used for a different set of hoses to identify possible leakage, or even a subtle leaks, in order to prevent the machine failure and/or other damages. If required, the monitoring probes attached around the hoses can be extended. In addition, both sensors were also monitoring temperature and humidity around the hoses. 

Timely leakage detection in the production process can have several significant benefits by preventing a range of issues. It can help to:

  • detect unwanted substances or contaminants, thus prevent defects in the final products, maintaining consistent quality
  • avoid waste, reduce maintenance costs, and prevent downtime, which all contribute to cost savings
  • timely identify production lines disruption, leading to downtime, reduced productivity, and increased maintenance efforts
  • detect and address leaks in order to prolong the lifespan of production machines, reducing maintenance and replacement costs
Safety and Environment Monitoring

The working conditions in which the production takes place plays also a vital role in functional production process. We considered it as well, and installed sensors for monitoring the conditions of both the temperature controller (TH M6) and surroundings.

For the temperature controller TH M6 we were monitoring its inside temperature and humidity in order to ensure the controller is not overheating and works properly. 

For the surroundings, as in the actual production process, we were monitoring the air quality factors (temperature, humidity, CO2) and sound level.  

Innovate Your Production with IoT

These were selected use cases for monitoring in production. Our goal was to showcase the power of IoT and LoRaWAN, and the benefits of the technology in production environment. Using smart sensors and our Heliotics app for management, real-time monitoring and alerting system sending instant notifications.

In summary, the features of LoRaWAN and IoT sensors in production provide a wealth of data that can be used to improve efficiency, quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness. Their ability to monitor, control, and optimize various aspects of production processes makes them an essential tool for modern manufacturing and industrial operations.

Start modernizing your production by implementing IoT with us. Let’s find together the solutions that will best suit not only your requirements, but also help your production.

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