Optimizing Industrial Operations with Environmental Monitoring Solutions

By Andrew Erickson

May 3, 2024

Environmental conditions in any industrial site, office building, or similar facility affect both productivity and human life safety.

Let's take a broad overview of environmental monitoring. We'll discuss what must be monitored and general techniques for accomplishing that goal within budget.

We'll also discuss specific equipment examples used in fire alarm monitoring, which is perhaps one of the less frequently needed but certainly among the most important environmental monitoring solutions.

Environmental factors
Temperature, humidity, and air quality are 3 commonly monitored environmental conditions. Other severe incidents, like smoke and fire, also fall under this category.

Why is Environmental Monitoring So Important?

Environmental conditions can affect machinery performance, product quality, and worker health. For example, excessive heat can lead to equipment overheating. This may result in breakdowns or failures. In contrast, insufficient humidity levels can cause static electricity problems that might damage sensitive electronics.

In industries such as pharmaceuticals or food and beverage, very specific environmental conditions are necessary. It's beyond the scope of this article to cover exact figures, but you probably know what needs to happen in your own industry. Suffice it to say, you must ensure the quality and safety of your products by maintaining environmental standards.

Elements of Environmental Monitoring

You can ensure operational efficiency and worker safety by continuously monitoring various environmental factors. In particular, these include some very common elements:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Air quality
  • Energy efficiency

Temperature and Humidity Control

Maintaining optimal temperature and humidity levels is crucial for many industrial processes. Sensors that provide real-time data allow you to monitor conditions - and adjust them when needed. This ensures equipment runs smoothly and materials are stored in ideal conditions, thereby reducing waste and inefficiency.

Air Quality Monitoring

In industries involving manufacturing or chemicals, monitoring air quality is essential for compliance with health and safety regulations. For example, you might install sensors that detect the presence of toxic gases or volatile organic compounds. This prevents health risks to employees and avoids potential legal and financial penalties.

Energy Efficiency

Environmental monitoring isn’t only about maintaining safe conditions. It’s also a crucial component of energy management. By monitoring the environment in your buildings, you can optimize your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Because these are major consumers of power, this can lead to strong energy savings.

Challenges in Environmental Monitoring

Implementing an effective environmental monitoring system is not without some problems:

  • Installation Complexity: Installing a thorough monitoring system for all crucial areas in a large industrial facility can be complicated and expensive.
  • Data Overload: It can be overwhelming to handle large amounts of environmental data. The ideal solution is to have an effective system to analyze, interpret, and give you useful insights.
  • Integration with Existing Systems: Ensuring new environmental monitoring solutions work seamlessly with all of your relevant existing systems can be a big hurdle.

Fire Alarming: The Often Overlooked Aspect of "Environmental Monitoring"

As silly as it may sound, many well-intentioned professional set out to monitor their building environments and manage to overlook fire alarms. That's more understandable when you consider that fires are a catastrophic rarity instead of a day-by-day question like, for example, HVAC efficiency.

You can meet your obligations to your customers, employees, and other building occupants by spending just a bit of time considering fire alarms during your project.

Even if fire alarms are "someone else's" job within your company, be sure to pass the following information along.

How to Properly Monitor Fire Alarms in Your Building

This portion of environmental monitoring (fire safety) is Digitize's specialty.

Here's how you can use Digitize gear in your environmental monitoring strategy:

  • Access to Real-Time Data: Digitize's monitoring solutions offer instant access to sensor-collected data via a central platform. This immediate access allows for quick reactions to any changes in conditions, preventing potential issues before they escalate.
  • Seamless Integration: Digitize has designed their systems for easy integration with existing industrial control systems. This compatibility ensures that implementing Digitize’s solutions does not disrupt current operations and integrates nicely with your overall environmental monitoring umbrella.
  • Scalable Solutions: Digitize's monitoring devices cater to all operations from tiny manufacturing plants to vast multi-site operations.
  • Analytical Tools: Digitize goes beyond simply collecting data. It offers powerful tools that make understanding the data easy. These tools can identify trends, predict potential issues, and even suggest actions to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
  • In-House Monitoring: When you want something done right, you do it yourself. The same goes for monitoring your fire alarms. In-house monitoring is often overlooked/neglected. That's despite its ability to provide real-time responses to emergencies, eliminate reliance on a third party, and maintain detailed event logs. Products like Digitize's System 3505 Prism LX deliver these benefits.
The System 3505 Prism LX
The System 3505 Prism LX from Digitize effectively monitors fire alarms

Real World Applications of Environmental Monitoring

I recently came across a study which indicated that among college dormitories, Saturday and Sunday were the days of the week with the highest number of environmental and fire incidents. Perhaps related to partying and higher building occupancy, fires on college campuses were more common on weekends.

Data like this proves just how important remote environmental monitoring can be, especially for a college or university. Since most college dorm fire events take place on weekends, this likely means that there will be less staff members or employees available to solve this issue right away. Remote environmental monitoring can help address the issue in real-time and even prevent these student-started fires.

What Specific Monitoring Solutions Can You Use?

Digitize has an extensive list of products and enhancements which can benefit your organization's monitoring system. Researching products based on your goals ensures you find the best (and most cost-effective) option for your needs.

A popular product offered by Digitize is the alarm monitoring device called the System 3505 Prism LX. The device continuously monitors the surrounding environment. The conditions monitored within the environment are temperature, humidity, and the presence of smoke or hazardous gases. The device provides updates on all connected alarms, managing up to 500 active alarm points simultaneously.

Digitize also offers enhancements for the System 3505 Prism LX. These enhancements further facilitate the monitoring of an environment, even at multiple remote locations. The Remote Annunciator is an enhancement which offers an interactive display. The Digitize AlarmLan is another enhancement option which allows the System 3505 Prism LX to communicate with equipment via modern networks.

When the System 3505 Prism LX is combined with Remote Annunciators and the D-LAN with SIPPDD Ethernet Configuration Card, the system is able to alert operators to environmental irregularities. The cooperating devices also allow for detailed, real-time tracking across multiple locations from a central hub.

This system's ability to interface with specialized sensors and provide instant data access significantly improves operational efficiency. It allows for preemptive action to maintain environmental standards and prevent equipment damage or potential health risks, thus ensuring continuous operation without unscheduled downtimes. You achieve this ROI via:

  • Reduced repair costs
  • Enhanced compliance with safety regulations
  • The safeguarding of employee/student/occupant health
D-LAN Option with SIPPDD-10 Ethernet Configuration Card
D-LAN Option with SIPPDD-10 Ethernet Configuration Card enhances the functions of the System 3505 Prism LX

Choose Training and Support Options with Any Monitoring System

Any decent manufacturer or vendor will recognize the inherent challenges that come with integrating new technologies into your existing workflows. As a mark of quality, look for companies that bundle training and support with you purchase. Otherwise, you can doom yourself to wasted effort and compromised building monitoring.

At Digitize, we designed our support package to meet specific learning needs in a flexible and supportive manner. These include:

  • Detailed on-site training sessions: Digitize engineers provide hands-on experience and immediate answers to any questions users might have.
  • An extensive collection of online materials: Educational materials online allow users to learn at their own pace. These resources range from beginner guides to advanced tutorials, covering a wide array of topics.
  • Technical support: Ongoing technical support is available to assist users with any new challenges or questions that may arise. This ensures that users have continuous access to expert advice and guidance.

Your Next Step: Talk to a Digitize Engineer

Environmental monitoring not only ensures compliance with regulations and standards but also drives efficiency, reduces costs, and enhances worker safety.

As noted, Digitize will help you cover the fire/safety aspects of environmental monitoring. We also have experience with environmental monitoring more broadly. We're happy to point you in the right direction for whatever you need.

With Digitize, you’re not just implementing a monitoring solution. You’re upgrading to a smarter, more responsive operational framework.

To get free advice from a Digitize engineer on your environmental monitoring project, call at 1-800-523-7232 or email info@digitize-inc.com

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and...Read More