- Products & Solutions
- All Industries
- About Us
By Rick DeJong, Senior Director of Product Technologies and
Wade Wessels, Global Director of IoT and Connected Solutions, Donaldson Company
The internet of things (IoT) is a technology quickly moving from consumer devices into industrial factories and vehicles. IoT refers to machines wirelessly connected to the internet, for the purpose of sharing data. When linked to the internet (or cloud), these devices are commonly referred to as "connected equipment". See how Donaldson is unlocking the potential of IoT here.
To understand the potential and power of IoT, let’s consider how it could improve a common machine in most manufacturing operations — an industrial dust collector.
Manufacturing facilities install industrial dust collectors to clean the air in and around machinery, and where their employees work. Dust collectors are present in hundreds of thousands of plants all over the world, from metal fabricators and woodworking shops, to food processing plants and grain elevators. Donaldson is one of the largest manufacturers of industrial dust collectors in the world, and our big blue collectors are a recognizable landmark in many of these facilities.
In most operations, dust collectors are considered ancillary equipment because they protect the core production assets, but do not in themselves produce a product. This is relevant, because ancillary equipment – even if it’s critical to safer operations – can be a challenge for companies to manage. Many operations have limited staff who have to focus on the process line, so basic dust collector maintenance and filter changes can easily fall behind.
This makes dust collection a prime candidate for improvement with IoT; connected equipment could run more self-sufficiently, more cost-effectively and perhaps, even remotely.
The eyes and ears of connected equipment are sensors—small digital devices placed on machines to measure data such as light, heat, motion, moisture, pressure and other performance factors that indicate how the machine is operating. Engineers at Donaldson have used sensors on lab equipment for decades in order to develop new and better models. However, sensors and their data have not been very accessible to end users of equipment. Only an estimated 30 percent of factories are digitized. So, the first step in IoT’s adoption is the placement of sensors on new and existing industrial equipment.
Many facilities have deployed sensors as a part of factory automation, but connecting this data to the internet goes a huge step further in reducing time and effort. With data sent to the cloud, it can be merged with other pertinent information, such as workload cycles, real-time emissions data or even weather forecasts. This intelligence can help trigger an appropriate response from the connected machine.
Many manufacturers are under strict regulations to prevent air pollution. A dust collector must handle the dust brought into it from the factory’s hoods and ducts, and it must also filter that dust-laden air to prevent contaminants from escaping into the atmosphere – or at least keep them below a prescribed concentration.
This is another opportunity for connected dust collection. Emissions levels are a parameter that could be monitored with IoT. Sites that have critical emissions control limits could monitor the air at its discharge point, and if concentrations approach the permissible threshold, trigger the collector to operate at its highest capacity.
Imagine having insight into a dust collector while it’s operating—the pressure drop across its filters, its energy use, and its mechanical health. By tracking these measurements in real time, IoT gives a manager the power to make immediate adjustments that optimize performance. The machine could be prepared for production demands or tweaked to be more cost-effective.
For larger enterprises with multiple facilities, a connected solution can be scaled up to provide a window on dust collectors across locations all from one laptop—whether a manager is in a centralized office, on-site, or working remotely. Using sensors and an internet connection, Donaldson can use data to increase visibility and knowledge to owners, to help lower a business’s total spend on dust collection.
Today, dust collectors are a challenge for many manufacturing facilities to manage and maintain. With sensors, they would no longer be islands with mysterious and overlooked mechanics inside; they would be seamlessly joined with the entire enterprise to better support production demands, operate more cost-effectively, and avoid unplanned downtime.
While dust collectors operate, their data just needs to be measured, analyzed, and shared with the operators making decisions. At Donaldson, our Connected Solutions initiative is working to make these IoT benefits a reality.
The integration of data unleashes the power of IoT. It takes machine operation and maintenance from a reactive mode to a proactive one. Here are three benefits that could come from the machine’s ability to anticipate:
Dust collectors are very durable machines, some lasting up to 30 years, and they can keep running even if they’re not in top condition. For example, valves may not be working or the bearings may be starting to wear, which both incur real costs and risks. This disrepair may not be apparent to an operator, but more energy than necessary is being consumed, the filters may be inadequately cleaned, or the equipment may even be on the brink of a larger issue.
In many facilities, if the dust collector is in need of unplanned maintenance, the production process must also shut down until repairs are made. Depending on the size of a plant, this downtime can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost production, on top of repair bills.
IoT can help detect or predict these maintenance issues before they lead to unplanned downtime. With the addition of sensors on components such as motors and valves, an early warning would be generated when components start to degrade in performance. Replacement parts could be ordered in a timely manner, and repairs could be scheduled at a convenient time for the factory.