In my opinion, the opportunity for manufacturing operations and other facilities to be able to monitor trends in their power consumption is one of the greatest benefits enabled by the Industrial Internet of Things. After all, sudden changes in how a piece of equipment such as a pump, motor or conveyer uses electricity can be a powerful predictor of steadily degrading operation or imminent failure. If, for example, a piece of equipment has been drawing its rated 40 amps minute by minute for years, and suddenly that draw is creeping up to 42 or 43 amps, costly downtime trouble is likely on the way. And while this flow of electrons is often invisible, with the proper tools, it can be readily and proactively visualized—becoming an incredibly valuable mechanism in operational efforts to avoid unscheduled downtime and keep productivity running high.
That was the driver behind the Hubbell inSIGHT line of Data Monitoring Devices that we launched last year. The devices are designed in two main wiring configurations. When a piece of equipment is hardwired, such as many robots are, the measuring intelligence is placed at the junction box as a panel mount. Likewise, when an operation wants to measure the behavior of an entire branch circuit, the monitor is placed there as well. And that is the configuration many people are familiar with, especially since some older, less full featured monitoring devices on the market over the years were often placed there by default.
However, when the piece of equipment is one that can be “plugged in” directly, operators can instead utilize the inSIGHT pin and sleeve configuration, with the intelligence right at the plug, sending real time data on that specific piece of equipment directly to the gateway, along with the opportunity to set customized, specific real-time alerts. This configuration provides some enormous advantages.
Immediate alerts from the source
Placing an inSIGHT monitor at the junction box is a great way to gain understanding as to the trends in power coming into the facility (are you getting your full, clean 480v, or might brown outs be an issue?), or to get insights into a particular line, or every piece of equipment on that branch circuit as a whole. But, in some instances that may not be optimum.
For example, if you have several pieces of equipment—motors for example—on a circuit, and you get an alert that there is a change in power draw going on, that is valuable to know, BUT it does not tell you which motor might be the culprit, so more investigation would still need to be done. Contrast that with taking the opportunity to plug a motor directly into a pin and sleeve, if possible. In this scenario, the individual motor’s voltage, current, power and termination temperature on each phase would be tracked in real time, and any issue could be immediately and specifically flagged, while the other motors would be allowed to keep plugging away productively without need for unnecessary and disruptive inspection or intervention.
Take, for example, the case of a dairy operation with fresh ingredients in their supply pipes heading to mixing on the production line. Working with many food & beverage facilities like these as we do, we know that if the line were to go down for just three minutes or so, ingredients would need to be purged and disposed of, resulting in expensive waste and downtime. If an operation like this were to put an inSIGHT monitor at the junction box, they would get an alert if something was happening with some piece of equipment on that circuit, but the subsequent need to investigate and determine which one might not allow them to solve the problem in time. However, if the specific motors or pumps involved with that production were each feeding real time information, it would be very likely that trends in the draw of that single particular piece of equipment could be examined, and that it could be attended to during scheduled down time, avoiding a more extensive, time consuming and inefficient “hunting and pecking” inspection phase.
In addition, in the “plug in” scenario, unlike a panel mount placement, there is no installation needed—just plug the equipment in like any standard plug and, the inSIGHT device immediately starts sending data—truly plug and play.
In all cases, users of inSIGHT Data Monitoring Devices can pre-define desired upper and lower limits around typical operating parameters as they choose, and identify that alerts be sent via email or text to desired responsible parties, such as managers or maintenance staff, or both.
So it becomes a matter of which placement points could best benefit utilizing inSIGHT Data Monitoring Devices, and then, whether to choose a panel mount or point of use. Hubbell can help you step through commonly seen downtime scenarios to help you identify the most critical and fruitful points in any facility. Sometimes, some otherwise hardwired pieces of equipment can even be connectorized to allow for a direct pin and sleeve monitoring if it would be beneficial to the operation.
The good news is that in any scenario the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the inSIGHT line is high—once you set up the gateway and software, hundreds of devices and mounts can be added for a modest incremental cost. The even better news: once you have an inSIGHT Data Monitoring system set up, the next costly downtime scenario—potentially costing thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars or more—might likely be avoided entirely.