Five Diagnostic Tools Made Easy with IoT

Revised: 7/17/19
Grainger Editorial Staff

If your plant's preventive maintenance plan doesn't include sensor - and IoT-based diagnostic tools, it's time to start incorporating them into your facility management approach.

Recognizing and addressing equipment malfunctions and failures has always been an imperative for industrial organizations, but the new wave of Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor-based technologies has dramatically improved visibility into these issues.

Advanced technologies also make it easier for diagnostic tools to connect into "everything, everywhere" networks, and to help companies analyze, share and act on data that they need to maintain overall equipment effectiveness, achieve higher uptimes, and improve plant productivity. For example, using connectivity to monitor equipment, an IoT - enabled diagnostic device can automatically trigger work orders without additional human intervention.

"To compete in today's market, manufacturers need to guarantee uptime and efficiency for every piece of equipment on the plant floor," Travis Hessman writes in New Equipment Digest. "By combining the sophistication of IoT technologies and the proliferation of smartphones and sensors, the market now offers a suite of tools and devices that can bring this power to any plant or operation, no matter its size."

Five Innovative Tool Categories

Here are five sophisticated diagnostic tools companies are using to detect, mitigate and prevent potential machine and equipment problems:

Connected condition monitors. Using portable sensors, these tools allow users to access data anywhere and at any time. Fluke's industrial remote monitoring system, for example, utilizes wireless sensors that send measurements as frequently as every second, giving facility managers a history of equipment performance before, during and after an event. Used to monitor AC and DC voltage, AC and DC currents, and temperature, these condition monitors help companies make preventive maintenance decisions as the events are happening (as opposed to after the fact, once the equipment is down).

Specialized monitors for temperature-controlled environments. Going a step further, companies are making "smart sensor"condition monitors that provide diagnostics in specialty environments where food is handled and where temperature and condition are particularly critical. "Maintenance is leaping from IoT hype to shop-floor predictive maintenance with a condition monitoring device from ABB Inc., called the Ability Smart Sensor," according to Food Processing's Kevin Higgins. The device monitors vibration, current and temperature to assess bearing condition, operating temperature, air gap eccentricity and rotor winding health. Using it, food maintenance technicians can check the health of motors through a smart phone app. Upcoming features will include the ability to upload data to a cloud server for trending and other analytics.

Thermal imaging cameras. Sophisticated devices that process a captured image and display it on a screen, thermal imaging cameras translate thermal energy (heat) into visible light in order to analyze a particular object or a scene. Enabled by sensors and IoT, these cameras can collect and analyze data for preventive maintenance in manufacturing, automotive, transportation and other industries. An imaging smartphone, for instance, helps detect potential problems in cables, transformers and low-voltage switchgear. Users can conduct a "thermal sweep" of a physical plant and detect temperature differences caused by changes from normal operating conditions or "hotspots," which may indicate a developing problem such as a loose or corroded connection.

Smart devices that monitor pump efficiency. Hydraulic pumps fail when they stop putting out the required flow and also when their efficiency falls below their manufacturer's operating specifications, with the most common causes for loss in efficiency being fluid contamination, poor maintenance and using the wrong hydraulic fluid for the operating conditions. New diagnostic devices allow users to configure according to the specific pump model and size of the hydraulic axial-piston pump. With PumpMD, for example, users enter information such as case-drain port size, maximum case-drain pressure, continuous input shaft speed and maximum displacement. The device continuously monitors three critical operating parameters, which can then be analyzed through a mobile app.

Plant controls that neatly bundle disparate machinery. When predictive maintenance tools come with built-in reminders, instant messaging, and other modern communication capabilities, they make technicians' lives easier. By integrating IoT technology into the blower world, for instance, Kaeser's Sigma Air Manager provides adaptive control, data storage, analysis, remote monitoring and predictive maintenance capabilities. Combined, these capabilities help to improve energy efficiency, save money and perhaps most importantly ensure a reliable air supply. These and other advanced control devices analyze operating data, simulate possible responses and then choose the most efficient option for matching air production with system demand.

More Connectivity to Come As technology continues to advance, and as companies' preventive maintenance needs increase in complexity, the blend of devices, IoT and sensors will only proliferate. "As IoT gains more efficiency, manufacturers can expect to see lowered costs, which is one of the primary reasons manufacturing experts are enthusiastic about the role of IoT," writes Darren Tessitore in 8 reasons you need IoT in your manufacturing plant.

"It will become easier to track information about products and processes and more automation will usher in greater efficiency, eventually reducing costs and boosting profit margins," he continues. "If your manufacturing plant has not invested in IoT yet, this might be the right time and the right reason to start."


Hessman, Travis, Get Smart: Top Predictive and Preventative Maintenance Tools,

Higgins, Kevin T., Motor And Drive Innovations Give Food Manufacturers More Power Options,

Tessitore, Darren, 8 reasons you need IoT in your manufacturing plant, Smart Industry Forum,

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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