Remote plant access technology and applications are evolving. How can your facility benefit?
After major, rapid adjustments to on-site employee headcounts and processes in 2020, most of us are eager for a return to something like normal over the next year. However, some of the remote monitoring tools that the manufacturing industry adopted to cope with pandemic challenges will be with us for the long haul—and they’re getting more useful and powerful all the time.
As we prepare to start the new year with our upgraded Series 3 wireless sensor system, we’re also looking ahead at the trends we expect to affect manufacturing, as well as foodservice and transportation, in 2021. Here’s what we’re observing and how your business could benefit.
Health and safety monitoring
Remote monitoring has already helped many manufacturers, retailers and foodservice businesses implement and maintain physical distancing to protect their employees and customers.
In the year ahead, we think remote, highly precise temperature monitoring will play a major role in remote health and safety monitoring. Low-cost wireless medical-grade temperature sensors with a 6 to 8 year battery life make it possible for food and pharmaceutical plants, laboratories and temperature-controlled transportation vehicles to ensure that food, medications and vaccines are held at safe temperatures from factory to consumer or patient.
In particular, accurate continuous temperature monitoring will be critical for COVID-19 vaccines as they come to market. Like many therapies, the vaccines closest to rollout have specific storage temperature requirements to preserve their viability. A steady stream of precise data on each batch of vaccines’ conditions in transit and in storage can assure health care providers and patients of their quality—and help prevent the use of any vaccines that aren’t kept at safe temperatures.
Medical grade temperature sensors can help with other remote monitoring tasks, too. Greenhouses and museums can protect their resources and save employee time by tracking detailed temperature readings around the clock to ensure plant health or the protection of fragile art and artefacts.
Automating repetitive tasks, whether on assembly lines or in digital workflows, was gaining ground before the pandemic as a way to improve efficiency and free up employees for higher value projects. But automation isn’t always perfect, so remote monitoring is necessary for quality control and to help when there’s a problem.
For example, a robot that sorts packages in a warehouse for shipping may classify 95% of them correctly. But the remaining group of strangely shaped or unusually heavy parcels may bring it to a halt. A manager watching remotely can see the confusing items, help the robot sort them and get back on track to avoid bottlenecks.
Integrating sensors for more detailed remote monitoring
One of the biggest challenges of remote monitoring is making sensor data more useful. For example, a food manufacturer that needs to keep its products chilled and dry can use a remote temperature, humidity and dew point sensor to monitor conditions up to 100 yards (91.44 meters) from the network gateway.
But if the data indicates a problem, what’s the solution? Without eyes on the problem, it can be hard to tell if a sudden rise in temperature and humidity is due to an equipment failure, a power outage or a door left open by an employee by mistake.
To find the cause of the problem, a remote manager may have to pull an on-site employee away from another task—or go to the plant in person if no one’s available on-site. But if there’s wireless camera coverage of the storage area in addition to temperature and humidity monitoring, the remote manager can quickly tell whether the problem is a door that needs to be closed, or whether they need to call in an electrician to investigate further.
Stronger security for physical plants and plant data
Cybercriminals had a big year in 2020, unfortunately. That’s because they were able to exploit new security gaps as more industries and individual businesses shifted to remote work—often before they’d fully mapped out the data risks. There’s no sign that the world’s fastest-growing crime industry will slow down in 2021, as they keep seeking new ways to steal information they can resell, hold hostage or use as leverage.
That means security matters more than ever for manufacturers, and the latest wireless sensor technology can help in two ways.
- Most sensor networks don’t encrypt sensor data as it flows to the on-premises gateway, leaving a small but open window for spies and thieves to exploit. Our Series 3 sensors feature 128-bit encryption that blocks criminals from eavesdropping on your equipment data as it moves from sensor to gateway.
- Remote security monitoring is critical, not only to enforce safety precautions but also to protect employees and equipment from unauthorized visitors. Our popular Security Package lets plant managers quickly set up secure remote monitoring of up to four doors, gates, safes or trailers with one-press activation of each sensor. The network can be scaled up to as many as 150 sensors per gateway for larger facilities.
This package lets authorized users track all entries and exits on the Swift Sensors Cloud Software dashboard via a computer, phone or laptop. Managers can also set alert thresholds to message them instantly if there’s door or gate use outside certain times or other parameters they set. Integrating the sensor package with wireless cameras shows exactly who’s coming and going from the facility and when.
New year, new remote monitoring tools
Ready to add remote sensor capabilities to your plant or upgrade your current sensor network? Contact us to learn more about how Swift Sensors can help your facility work better.