IoTKey® boosts the use of measurement data at a steel plant

There is a growing demand from industry for information on the condition of machinery. However, adding a measurement capability to machines is often difficult, slow and expensive, due to the wiring required for sensing. At a steel plant, the problem was solved by Lapp Automation's IoTKey®, which enables wireless data transmission in demanding industrial conditions.

The IoT collaboration between the customoer and Lapp Automation began when a wireless measurement capability was needed  to support preventive maintenance and condition monitoring. IoTKey® wireless transmitters with sensors were installed to monitor, among other things, the use of certain machines, the associated temperatures, and problem diagnostics related to individual components.

The solution convinced employees quickly, and during the first year an increasing number of applications have been found. Today, IoTKey® is also used to measure and monitor the plant's production conditions and the operation of machines on a larger scale. For example, vibration sensors are used to detect maintenance needs.

“Changes in measurement data can quickly reveal, for example, the condition of bearings or oil quality deterioration. The data collected by means of IoTKey® helps to detect repair or maintenance needs in good time, thus avoiding damage, high repair costs, or production disruptions,” says Janne Talvitie of Lapp Automation.

The LoRa network ensures reliable data transfer

For reliable data transfer, the wireless network must be trouble-free. IoTKey® is based on LoRa technology, which guarantees long-range operation even in conditions such as those at the plant. The customer was impressed by the fact that the entire plant can be covered by a single router, to which all the sensors in use are connected.

“The range in wireless networks such as WLAN or Bluetooth, for example, often falls short in industrial environments, usually by up to tens of meters. LoRa technology, on the other hand, normally enables a range of hundreds of meters, even indoors. Furthermore, it does not interfere with other plant equipment or operations,” says Talvitie.

The LoRa network signal easily passes through many internal barriers in the plant, such as concrete partitions. Nor are the steel structures and production equipment used in factory environments excessively disruptive to the passage of the low-frequency signal.

Due to the automatic alarms, critical changes are not missed

Data from the sensors is transferred via the router to the Lapp Automation Cloud Portal. While the portal allows data to be tracked even from the home sofa, there is no need to stare at the screen all the time. The automatic alarms that are in active use at alert key persons, for example by e-mail, if any measurement value is outside the allowable limits.

“Measurements have already been used extensively by the customer for various purposes, and thus alarm settings and the customization of measurement views, for example, were easily handled by the customer. Initially, we helped with the commissioning of the new measurement sets, but after a little familiarization, the personnel have also handled these configurations by themselves,” sums up Talvitie.

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