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Intelligent Lighting Brings Industrial IoT


Whether a facility manufactures steel equipment, or stores frozen food, lighting is a critical part of running an efficient operation. Without it, employee safety, productivity, and compliance standards may be compromised which can ultimately impact company profits.

With intelligent lighting working in tandem with lighting controls, facility managers have the ability to adjust light levels across specific workstations or areas, use daylight harvesting to harness ambient light to illuminate the facility, create customized schedules for when the lights should be on, and much more. The enhanced lighting control helps facility managers to increase their lighting-related energy savings and satisfy safety requirements.

However, intelligent lighting isn’t just for illumination anymore and has capabilities to provide facility-wide data insights on non-lighting utilities usage, occupancy tracking, and temperature and relative humidity monitoring, among others. So, how does intelligent lighting actually do this?

The sensors embedded in the intelligent luminaires capture data insights based on activities that occur within the area and then transmit the insights to a cloud-based software platform. Once the data is on the software platform, facility managers can review it and make decisions based on trends and anomalies that occur. The network that connects the sensors in intelligent lighting and other standalone sensors (vibration, temperature and relative humidity, and more) is called the Industrial IoT (IIoT). With the IIoT, facility managers can gain unprecedented visibility into systems, utilities usage, and functions across their whole facility, site, or enterprise.

Here are five ways the IIoT can benefit your facility:

  1. Automate the Collection of Operational Data 

The manual collection of important operational data insights or an employee walking around the facility with a clipboard or tablet to mark down meter readings, drains your productivity and risks human error tainting the data. Manual data trackers can write down the wrong number from a meter, or inconsistently record data if the readings are frequently the same. With incorrect data, you can risk unplanned downtime, machine malfunctions, pipe leaks and other outcomes that will cost time and money to fix.

The intelligent lighting system not only provides energy efficient lighting but enables the facility for IIoT and acts as a data acquisition system. Automated data collection also frees up your employees to work on other projects that need attention.

  1. Establish Benchmarks for Critical Utilities 

Water, air (compressed), gas, electricity, and steam or W.A.G.E.S are important utilities that can drive operations in just about any kind of industrial facility. Without clear visibility into how and when your major utilities are consumed, your facility’s operating costs can run much higher than necessary. Through metering, you can uncover usage patterns, create benchmarks, and identify opportunities to reduce costs and waste.

For example, during the summer a manufacturing and welding plant runs their fans 24/7 and as a result accrues a large energy bill. In the welding area, the energy used to power the fans is metered. After a few weeks, regular benchmarks are established for the energy used to power the fans. Through these benchmarks along with the welding schedule, it is determined the fans can be shut off for two hours a day while no one is working in that area. By shutting off the fans for two hours a day during the summer months, the plant can amass significant energy savings.

  1. Increase Manufacturing Uptime

Any time a production line comes to a stop, the operation loses time, money, man hours, and in some cases, product. Through monitoring or observing data insights in comparison to the established benchmark, abnormalities can be detected so you can determine predictive maintenance needs, deploy more accurate preventative maintenance plans, and avoid disasters within the facility.

Machine and motor health can be measured by tracking a vibration sensor’s data insights. If the frequency of the vibrations speed up, it can indicate a blockage or alignment problem. Instead of the machine breaking down and interrupting production, the issue is identified and predictive maintenance is scheduled during an off-peak time.

  1. Safeguard Product and Raw Materials

For food and beverage manufacturers and refrigerated warehouses, consistent temperature and humidity are crucial to their success. IIoT-compatible temperature and relative humidity sensors collect data in extreme conditions and accurately capture insights in that space.

For example, a juice manufacturer stores the fruit used in its product at 28 degrees F in industrial-grade freezers that have large doors. One day the door to one of the freezers got stuck and was left ajar for many hours. The temperature of the freezer begins to rise as the warmer air sweeps into where the fruit is stored. Some IIoT software platforms have alarms that are triggered by high or low temperature excursions and notify (visual indicators on user interfaces, text messages, emails, and data logs) the responsible individuals (on or off site) to take immediate action. The audit trail history of the goods that is available forms a continuous monitoring system and provides peace of mind for customers as well as the ability to hold suppliers accountable to quality standards.

  1. Create a More Efficient Facility Layout

A facility’s productivity and efficiency can be directly related to its layout.

In a factory, if employees have to walk too far away from their work area to get supplies or tools from storage closets, it can reduce the amount of product they turn out. Through the analysis of foot traffic from the main workspace to and from the storage closet, facility managers can determine if it is best to relocate the storage closet closer to the work area.

Occupancy tracking also can show facility managers what areas of the facility have little to no foot traffic so light settings can be adjusted. For example, if auxiliary areas in your facility have minimal foot traffic, they don’t need the same light levels as in main areas. These seemingly small changes can add up to significant energy savings over time.

Intelligent lighting has revolutionized the way industrial facilities light their spaces but the sensors within the luminaires can unlock even more operational savings and efficiency. With the IIoT, you can improve your facility operations through the automatic collection of data, the careful management of utility usage, increased production uptime, the ability to safeguard product from less than optimal conditions and make data-driven layout changes for greater productivity.

Brian Bernstein is VP Product for Digital Lumens, an Osram business, which designs energy-efficient Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications for manufacturing, cold storage, food processing, and other industrial environments across the globe. Brian holds a BSE in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University.