The impact of Covid-19 on inline sensors and personnel
The previous article discussed the reduction in energy costs by using inline sensors. The savings in energy consumption by using inline sensors can be easily quantified making it an important selling point. Next to this advantage, the Covid-19 pandemic made clear what the importance of in-line sensors means in production lines and which impact it has on the work floor.
Many production lines equipped with sensors continue to function in these Corona times. The 24/7 process monitoring can continue without being affected by the governmental decisions. Less laboratory work is needed, as there is no need, as in conventional quality control (QC) for sampling, sample preparation and lab analysis. Lesser people near the food processing enhance the food safety and social distancing.
Based on the obtained results, the process can be optimized through computer communication to meet the required quality standards, reduction of energy consumption and increasing the production capacity where possible. With this optimized functionality there is lesser waste, longer production cycles and improved safety.
Immediate process intervention
An important factor is the ability to quickly adjust/recalibrate the production process when it starts deviating. Today most process and quality control is based on regular sampling which takes time and is not complete. The sample is already different as it is removed from the production line and transported to the lab (moisture, temperature,…). The delay between the sampling and obtaining comprehensive results, makes fast decisions close to impossible.
Inline and online process analysis gives the QC manager the ability to immediately react and adjust the process parameters. Moreover, process parameters can be compared with target values of inline or online analysis systems. By linking the target values with the expected sensor data, the QC manager can take corrective measures even before the deviation product properties or fault arise.
This process is also more labor intensive, prone for errors and can we adjust the lab to the 1.5-meter way of working?
A second aspect is the workload reduction. Inline sensors can significantly reduce the workload in labor-intensive industries. One example would be the crew of fishing boats. Their long working days consists of fishing, processing, packaging and follow up quality of the caught product. As the fishermen are continuously working on the sea for several months, a reduction in day-to-day workload will directly lead to less fatigue, stress, injuries, and higher productivity.
In the case of squid catching, evaluating the freezing quality of the caught squid is very time consuming. This requires regular unloading of the freezers, placing a temperature probe inside the squid and wait until the temperature stabilizes. Regularly repeating this process over and over again increases the workload and loss of time significantly. Here, the inline Aquantis freezing sensors will automatically monitor the freezing quality. This significantly reduces the workload, lost time and stress on the personnel improving the efficiency of the work. This favors the overall working capacity and safety of the crew.
A third aspect is the safety of the personnel. Working in hazardous environments where combustible or explosive materials are processed, might pose health or safety risks during sampling and analysis. Although the necessary precautions are taken, some risks cannot be completely excluded. An unexpected hazard or incident can have catastrophic consequences.
Inline sensors offer the possibility to safely monitor and optimize the process without exposing the personnel to the potential hazards. This is applicable to processes in the chemical and petrochemical industry, battery production, and the manufacturing of solvent-based products. The ability to follow-up of high-risk processes further improves the overall safety by obtaining insights in the ongoing reactions and quick interventions in case of an unexpected process deviation.
The Covid-19 crisis showed the growing need and interest in digitation of production processes. The implementation of inline or online sensors in the production process allows an improved and consistent production process with fast interventions, reduced need for manpower, lesser use of the laboratory and higher security (especially in food processing).
There is a definite need to rethink the way we manufacture. More digitization, more monitoring, faster respons and higher output. The workforce needs to be retrained in this newer and safer way of processing.