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What’s an Industrial Data Logger?

An industrial data logger is a compact, stand-alone unit that continuously records a stream of measured data, which is stored digitally for later retrieval or transmitted to another device. The most common parameters they’re used to measure are temperature, humidity, pressure, voltage, and current. However, they’re highly configurable and can be set up to measure other industrially relevant parameters too, like tank liquid level, pH, wind speed, power consumption, and others.

Industrial data loggers can be used to automate data collection, improve efficiency and reliability, reduce cost, and ensure regulatory compliance. The most advanced data loggers have the capability to upload monitoring data continuously to web-based tools, so it’s available from anywhere. These data loggers also make it easy to scale up operations by adding new monitoring points to the existing network. Where it’s convenient, more economical data loggers can store data locally.

In this article, we’ll cover a few examples of where industrial data loggers are used, and how they improve the systems around them.

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Manufacturing

Data loggers can be used for a few different manufacturing applications. One is to measure and record the operating parameters within individual pieces of equipment. For example, an industrial data logger could be set up to continuously measure the temperature and pH in a bioreactor, the moisture level in an oven, or the power draw to a pump.

During process development, this information can be used to determine the right operating parameter windows of each process unit, so that the output from the unit is consistently in spec. After the process is qualified, the same loggers can be used for continuous monitoring, to ensure that each unit is running in control, and to make small changes to the operating parameter windows to continuously optimize the process. This is an important part of validation and good manufacturing practices (GxP).

Compared to alternate approaches like manual pen-and-paper records or chart recorders, an industrial data logger can significantly reduce cost and improve the integrity of stored records. Digital monitoring also naturally provides the large amount of process data that is required for statistical process control (SPC).

For manufacturing very sensitive materials, data loggers can be set up to monitor the ambient temperature, humidity, or differential pressure in the manufacturing environment. QA labs, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, and semiconductor fabs are commonly monitored in this way.

Vaccine Supply Chain

Vaccine distribution is a particularly important use case for industrial data loggers. Most vaccines must be held within narrow temperature windows at all times, and are transported using refrigerated supply chains or “cold chains”. If the temperature of a vaccine goes outside of a specified window, it can break down and lose potency, often with no visual indications.

For this reason, the CDC and WHO recommend the use of digital data loggers for vaccine monitoring. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program requires the use of digital data loggers, with temperature measurements taken at least once every 30 minutes, which is why you’ll sometimes see an industrial data logger listed as “VFC compliant”.

Monitoring the temperature of vaccines is important throughout manufacturing, transportation, and storage at the medical provider site. A comprehensive monitoring approach includes monitoring in refrigerated shipping containers, refrigerators and freezers, and warehouses. Vaccines can also be monitored at the package level using an industrial data logger that travels with the vaccine shipment. The particularly demanding temperature requirements for the storage of recently developed COVID-19 vaccines further emphasizes the importance of data loggers in this application.

Data loggers are used for vaccines for three main reasons. The first is that the unbroken, complete temperature records collected along the cold chain, combined with individual vaccine vial monitors (VMMs) are the best evidence that the vaccine has been held within a safe temperature window consistently.

Second is that data loggers have the ability to send alerts if a potential problem is detected. That way, response personnel have the opportunity to quickly respond to an issue, avoiding a temperature excursion or quickly quarantining affected material.

The third reason, which applies in other industries as well, is that modern data loggers make regulatory compliance much easier. A properly designed industrial data logger will inherently comply with regulations around calibration, measurement frequency, data storage, and data integrity. Note that data integrity is specifically covered in its own set of regulations, 21 CFR part 11.

For more detailed information on vaccine temperature monitoring, please see our white paper on this topic.

Wind and Solar Power Monitoring

The efficiency and amount of power produced by some renewable energy sources depends on local conditions which are highly variable over time. For wind and solar, this includes the wind speed, and the amount of solar radiation (or insolation) reaching the particular location over time.

Having accurate local maps of insolation and wind conditions is critical for site selection, and for the design and setup of hybrid systems that rely on a mix of solar and wind energy. For solar systems, available satellite data can provide a good indication of the quality of a potential site. Wind is much more locally variable, so site selection for these installations usually involves a monitoring study with data loggers that monitor wind speed and direction.

After the installation of a solar array or wind farm, continuous monitoring with an industrial data logger allows you to make sure the system is operating properly. For example, continuous monitoring the power production of a solar panel array can detect any issues with the electrical circuitry, or with the cleanliness or shadowing of the array.

Wind speed and direction measurements can also be used to monitor or even actively control wind turbine arrays. Operating parameters like rotational speed, directional orientation, and the temperature of the turbine itself are critical for safe, efficient operation.

Industrial data loggers are well suited for these applications, which can involve monitoring in  remote or environmentally severe locations.

Conclusions

Industrial data loggers have the potential to play a significant role in the industries we’ve discussed here. Through automated continuous monitoring, they can improve process yield and efficiency, help to protect valuable materials, and ensure regulatory compliance, while reducing cost compared to labor-intensive manual alternatives.

For more information on industrial data loggers, contact the experts at Dickson.