Trends and New Technologies: Hazard Monitoring Equipment

Grain Journal spoke to seven Hazard monitoring system suppliers to see what’s trending and what’s new.

Bob Reis | Director of Commercial Sales-SureTrack/CMC | AGI SureTrack | St. Louis Park, MN

“More and more often, people are removing the human element and allowing equipment to institute shutdowns in an alarming situation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that certain pieces of equipment shut down at 20% slippage (slowdown).

“More companies are switching to an escalating process – recurring alarms, notice sent to the safety manager, ensuring local workers aren’t overriding alarms, and the safety manager can check in on the facility. This process allows safety-related concerns to be handled by the right people.

“Another trend in the industry is to acquire more data for various corporate use, such as predictive or proactive maintenance. Customers are volunteering that info. We get a lot of great data out of a properly deployed hazard monitoring system.”

Brian Knapp | Vice President-Electronics Division | 4B Components, Ltd. | Morton, IL

“Facilities are becoming more automated, so sending all data to the PLC is very important. Newer facilities are all built around industrial ethernet, which collects all data at a central point. Industrial ethernet also opens up the possibility of cloud connectivity with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The real-time data gets transmitted to a cloud server, where it can be viewed live or analyzed at a later date on any device with an internet connection. This brings immense preventive maintenance value by providing equipment health trends.

“Wireless communication is being used more for data collection, but hard-wired connections still are preferred for hazard monitoring due to inherent reliability and responsiveness.”

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Gregg Knox | Temperature Monitoring Sales | Rolfes@Boone | Boone, IA

“The main trend presently is mobile monitoring, which gives users the ability to know the status of stored grain with their smartphone.

“Monitoring technology continues to improve in terms of accuracy – it is becoming much better at pinpointing the exact location and what the problem is, whether it’s related to speed or temperature.

“Wireless communication is becoming more popular to do away with large amounts of wiring and the trouble of water migration that goes along with it.”

Scott Chant | President | Safe-Grain/Maxi-Tronic | Loveland, OH

“The biggest trend we’re seeing is remote access and notification through smartphone apps. We use data collection software to recommend predictive maintenance rather than run-to-failure (RTF) reactive maintenance.

“Think of your car telling you your gas tank is low. Today’s systems will alert the operator well before the problem occurs, if they listen to the what the system is telling them.

“Sensors collect data, and software predicts maintenance rather than reacting to a catastrophic maintenance failure.

“ Forty years ago, we installed eight-point systems with just a reactive alarm. Today, we have virtually unlimited sensor capacity.

“There are also better mobile apps, graphics, touchscreen monitors, c Modbus PLC options, ethernet, and Wi-Fi connectivity to make it easier to collect and present real-time data.

“When we started making hazard monitors and controls in the early 1980s, we had one type of temperature sensor. Now, customers can choose from multiple types of sensors, including digital 1-WIRE®, RTD, PTC, temperature switches, and thermocouple sensors. Easier and lower cost installation is also possible using wireless systems.”

Tim Thoma | President | Process Control Systems, Inc. | Chaska, MN

“We’re becoming a digital economy for companies with resources. We’re trying to figure out what customers want, and competitors are investing to figure out wireless technology. We don’t have people asking for wireless technology, and it doesn’t seem like they’re missing out, because the market doesn’t seem to be very hungry for wireless technology at the moment.

“Wired technology is proven and preferred for most. Customers might be waiting for wireless technology to be more proven before diving in.

“Greater access to information is something customers are asking for. They want it available online, so they don’t have to call and ask questions. Companies are judged today by their website content.”

Jack Kropf | Service Manager | Tri-States Grain Conditioning Inc. | Spirit Lake, IA

“Our customers are asking for records of grain and bearing temperatures. They want to know if a bearing is hot but also if the temperature is trending upward. They want to see history of their grain bearing temperatures before they become unmanageable.

“About 15 years ago, you normally only received temperatures and an alarm on bearing and belt systems. Very rarely did an instrument have a print function. Some grain personnel would get really good at knowing when to grease their bearings according to the running temperature of the bearing.

“Today, you can receive email alerts from bearing temperature monitors. Software allows you to see temperatures on your phone just like on the grain side. When you can look back at the history of the bearing running temperatures, you gain an idea of when that bearing needs to be greased or if there may be an underlying issue with that bearing.

“Another item that is getting more popular is the belt tracker alignment sensor. Unlike the old rub blocks, this unit does not need heat from the belt rubbing against the brass rub block to cause an alarm. The belt only must press against it; because of this, it’s safer and quicker at sending an alarm.

“A common question from cust- c omers is if they can have an alarm system, so that they know when their grain is being pulled from their bins. Regarding grain flow and the possibility of theft, you can use flow sensors to detect grain flow, which in turn, using the proper software, would notify the owner, rather than using a lock that can be cut to gain access to the grain. Radar Track could also be used to monitor the level of the grain and lock it in, so if the level drops, you would receive an alarm.”

Rich Washkevich | Sales Manager | Conveyor Components Co. | Croswell, MI

“In regard to conveying systems, there are many different hazards that should be monitored to avoid a catastrophic event. These hazards can include extreme temperature situations, such as elevated bearing temperature or hot rotational parts (which can cause premature part failure or worse, a fire hazard resulting in loss of equipment or danger to personnel), or vibration (which can damage or shake apart components of the conveyor system or provide improper material measurement and dispensing due to vibration interference).

“Another hazard includes the presence and/or concentration of hazardous gases or explosive dusts, which can cause an explosion when coming into contact with a spark.

“Some of the latest trends in technologies and innovations of hazard monitoring systems are the development and use of more handheld devices for on-the-spot checking and monitoring of real-time situations. Wireless and real-time monitoring are becoming more common as the industry sees the benefit of real-time data and the ability to spot-check any areas of the conveyor in question at that moment in time.

“Additionally, manufacturers are developing more prepackaged systems or bundles of automated technology that will monitor several different conditions all in the same package or module. These systems automatically monitor multiple potential hazards on a continuous basis. Also, systems with multiple inputs allow more of the conveyor components to be monitored on a single conveyor system, which yields a lower overall installation cost.

“These trends are providing a stronger emphasis on equipment safety and personnel safety, both of which are very important to all of us.”

Blake Ducote | Regional Sales Manager | EXTRON AgTECT | Minneapolis, MN

“Our bearing sensors and 2,000-Ohm sensors, once installed, allow the user to monitor sensor health by tracking Ohms to verify good functionality.

“The BusMux provides dual functionality when integrated with a PLC, allowing users to monitor both bin temperatures and hazards with the same unit.

“Each unit has eight slots, and each slot can be programmed to monitor either bin temperatures or hazards, depending on which card is used, so it’s very flexible.

“A BusMux with eight hazard-monitoring cards can monitor 340 points. With eight bin temperature cards, you can monitor 680 points. Integration to PLCs haven’t been done much, but small facilities are putting PLCs into their locations.”

- From May/June 2021 GRAIN JOURNAL