Please check my thoughts about new IoT technologies: 3 common beliefs about industrial liquid quality monitoring - and how to look beyond themEn...Please check my thoughts about new IoT technologies: 3 common beliefs about industrial liquid quality monitoring - and how to look beyond them
Ensuring consistent end-product quality is a top priority for industries dealing with water or liquids. It is also a challenge that requires continuous attention. We share our advice on three common beliefs within water or liquid quality monitoring.
1. “Monitoring pH levels is the single most important quality measure”
One of the most common liquid quality measurements taken is pH, which is the measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of the water. It is ranked on a logarithmic scale of one to 14. The lower the pH of the liquid, the more acidic it is. The higher the pH of liquid, the more basic, or alkaline, it is.
Measuring pH is relevant to liquid quality monitoring, because pH affects many chemical and biological processes in liquids. For example, different organisms have different ranges of pH within which they flourish.
If a company makes a relatively simple product and its most critical quality attribute is pH, it can be very straightforward. If the variables affecting pH are understood, data from pH sensors can be tied back to the process and corrective action can be taken.
The problem in real-world manufacturing is often that key attributes can be difficult to measure, and the control elements can be difficult to manipulate. Furthermore, it is entirely possible that there are multiple and complex interrelations between variables. It starts to get less straightforward.
Water or liquid quality can be affected by factors that cannot always be detected by parameter-specific sensors or methodologies.
Even if pH is critical to your quality monitoring, we recommend expanding your approach to monitoring their state as a whole, in order to detect changes in the overall quality. You can do this by measuring the electrochemical profile of the water or liquid. In other words, by detecting its ‘quality fingerprint’.
The electrochemical fingerprint describes the precise condition of the water or liquid. For example, drinking water from two different sources will have two different fingerprints, although the difference in quality will not always be evident when looking at individual parameters such as, for example, pH or another common quality parameter, conductivity.
The fingerprints taken by the UROS Sense sensor enable the identification of different compositions. In wastewater, for example, fingerprinting can be used to detect unusual industrial discharges, even when those discharges do not change the overall level of COD (chemical oxygen demand) of the wastewater.
In beverage production lines, the sensor will detect undesirable deviations in the quality of bottle-washing water, liquid ingredients or finished products that parameter-selective sensors might miss.
So yes, pH is definitely important, but cover your bases by incorporating overall quality detection into your monitoring routine.
2. “We must optimize our process for 2-4 day delays arising from sudden quality issues”
Delays might arise from situations when water or liquid quality has decreased beyond a point of recovery. Depending on the process, consequences could include lost production batches or broken down equipment.
Let’s take an example from the beverage industry, where batches that don’t match the recipe are a real challenge. When a batch doesn’t meet a recipe’s requirements things can easily go wrong. Discarding that batch is a downright loss. Trying to fix it by tweaking the ingredients can lead to more wasted raw material, production time, sampling and increased cost. Or, if the mistake isn’t caught and the batch makes it to stores, potential claims and complaints from customers could hurt the company’s reputation.
Though it’s true that you cannot plan for every single issue in advance, you can introduce measures that reduce the opportunity for issues in the first place. A proactive quality monitoring strategy is probably one of the most straightforward ways to improve overall operations.
Therefore the best thing you can do is to update your mindset from a reactive one towards a more proactive one. It’s easier said than done, but one low threshold action we recommend taking is simply monitoring the liquid quality during normal operation to reduce the likelihood of downtime.
Indeed, electrochemical fingerprinting is an extremely effective early warning method. The fingerprints taken by the UROS Sense can detect a change in liquid quality before any change is visible in any individual parameter or in any particular sum parameter. You can use the monitoring data to find and understand cause-and-effect relationships affecting liquid quality. New insights can help you make better predictions. Improved predictions help you save money and resources.
Detecting issues and dealing with them before they affect end-product quality also means less spoilage, less waste and less lost revenue.
So don’t optimize for delays, optimize for learning.
3. “Process wastewater reuse is not a realistic option”