A guide to choosing the right remote equipment monitoring solution

by | Nov 3, 2020

Not all functions in a production unit depend upon standard working hours. Few areas such as machine health monitoring can only be achieved if 24x7 pre-process communication is available. And that is why the basis of Industry 4.0 is considered incomplete if the predictive remote assessment of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) is left out.

Add to it disharmonized insights due to large volumes of data sets produced by all equipment is a bottleneck that IIoT tries to resolve. The remote equipment monitoring solution is needed to leverage intelligence so that adequate yet relevant data sets can be put to process analytics and make accurate predictions. Since 76% of IoT projects are at risk of failure, it is imperative to make sure that quality builds are deployed.

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection and there couldn’t be a more appropriate example than a manufacturing environment. Regardless of standard working hours, the production has to operate uninterruptedly and faultlessly. Add to it the extreme deadline pressures of sectors such as FMCG, manufacturing becomes critical and deserves a robust pre-process communication system.

Since Industry 4.0 is here, enterprises must utilize the opportunity to address critical issues in manufacturing such as delayed, incorrect or even no data insights from traditional monitoring equipment. Even though IoT has been around for some time now, poor quality builds of remote monitoring products have put 76% of IIoT deployments at the risk of total failure.

Here’s a quick run-through of the major considerations while choosing remote monitoring equipment that fits your IIoT ecosystem.

Multiple alert notification protocols

The vision behind IIoT is 24x7 monitoring that traditional solutions don’t comply with. Check if the system delivers notifications via emails, SMS, voice alerts, alarms, app alerts and more. Since most industries work irrespective of standard business hours, it is essential that the remote equipment monitoring system is doing its job even if no one’s there on the floor.

User-friendly customization

With IIOT, digitization has taken a leap beyond usual computation. Today, interactive dashboards, user-friendly customization (drag and drop) are easily available that not only save enterprise time and effort but also fastens the training process for all resources. An IoT setup in an industrial environment can be attached with an intuitive UI that enables ‘Plug and Play’ methods for alert management. Therefore, the remote monitoring system must be easier to configure and customize.

Data Backup

IoT has a peculiar character. Any data lapse in one point of the network could disable the functioning of the entire system. And this is the least that any remote monitoring application would delve into. Data backup is an essential feature that remote systems must adhere to. Any loss of real-time visibility of operations could keep you unalarmed from hazardous events.

Henceforth, the remote alarm system should support all enterprise-grade data backup methods to your primary network. Though most SaaS applications do come attached with a downtime backup feature, make sure all the devices in the IoT network are aligned.

Reliable hardware

When everything fails, the remote equipment monitoring system should still be up and running. The user must evaluate the durability of the equipment as per their operational environment. Since this could vary as per different manufacturing units, a thorough evaluation of the device for a particular atmosphere should be done.

For example, if the equipment would be placed outdoors, it should be able to endure harsh conditions such as rain or extreme heat. Similarly, various operational factors such as room temperature, pressure, the risk of moisture or exposure to dust etc. should be cross-checked. .

The right vendor

Despite being the most progressive technology of our times, IoT is plagued with poor products flocking the market. While the losses incurred by the consumer are scary, authentic products do struggle to gain the acknowledgment they deserve. Therefore, it is imperative to validate the source you are buying the IoT solution from. Online IoT product development marketplaces such as Ioterra have simplified the consumer-provider engagement through a dashboard devoted to industrial-grade IoT solutions as well as custom engineering partners specializing in IoT solutions development.

The portal enables the consumers to browse through a range of pre-vetted IoT solutions, configurations and product types to choose from. However, featuring your product on the site isn’t as easy as it could be on any other portal. Ioterra does a rigorous background check of the solution provider, its compliance with the industrial setup and others.

In addition, understanding your current industrial system landscape is highly important. Check if the shortlisted remote monitoring system would perform in compliance.

Legacy Equipment Compatibility – The type and number of equipment in the IoT network

Start by scoping out all the assets (devices/machines) in the IoT network that have to be monitored by the remote application. Check if the assets would work swiftly in compliance with the remote monitoring system. Perform compatibility tests including data collection about machine faults and to what degree does the system help in the reduction of manual effort. Especially, test the working compatibility of the device with the automation tools (hardware & software) currently installed.

Based on the analysis, check the degree of changes the new device requires. Weigh your options whether a few replacements will work or another manufacturer should be considered.

The type of information (data sets) to be retrieved

An ideal remote monitoring system has a wider data collection scope. They can be scaled and customized as per the industrial requirement. However, the extent of customization and whether or not the system fetches the required data variables could still be complicated. Data sets like standard accuracy of product in manufacturing, diagnostic data about routine health of the machines, the sensing range, durability and more are just a few of the data types that most applications provide by default.

Proven track record

Although the market reputation of the device manufacturer will advocate for the proven experience, it is still advisable to ask for a live Demo. Few reputed brands may also offer to run a complimentary test as per the operational conditions of your manufacturing plant. Moreover, you may also use these devices on rent for sometime before making a purchase. Always ask for such offers as this saves time and avoids risk of falling prey to the wrong equipment.

Maintenance and support

Needless to mention, post-deployment support is a highly important differentiator for all industrial equipment including remote monitoring solutions. Always probe about the support solutions including on-demand availability, costing and Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMCs).

Regulatory Compliance Certifications

Regulatory compliance is the most important metric before shortlisting a remote equipment monitoring system. Users can browse through a number of national and international standard certifications to assure quality build. While the exercise begins with the official regulatory compliance agency of your country, a few independent private agencies earn equal recognition around the globe. Some of these test laboratories include the Underwriters Laboratory (UL), The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) USA, CE Mark in the European Union and the Canadian Standards Agency (CSA).

These agencies test and qualify industrial equipment for threshold levels and various safety metrics.

How often do you plan to review your data?

The data sampling requirement for every industrial unit could vary from multiple times every day to once every week. Given such a broader scope, data sampling is an essential metric to consider while selecting the remote monitoring device.

Going forward

IIoT is huge. It is new and vulnerable to complexities. While it promises to mature into a fully grown ecosystem, the responsibility of the consumer in acting wisely can’t be denied. Therefore, research well before finalizing any IoT product or vendor.

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