Corporate Blogs

Let consumers improve your production line reliability

By Nathan Wrench - Last updated: Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Condition monitoring is not a new topic. In fact, servicing machinery is an occupation as old as the machine. Nothing works for ever – but a thorough maintenance schedule certainly helps. Typically however, this is rarely low-cost; just asking your local garage to check why your car has a warning lamp on usually results in a bill for them to plug their laptop in and fire up their specialist diagnostics software.

How can consumers help? Consumers drive demand, which drives down cost. Consumer electronics are becoming increasingly capable, and yet the sheer number of devices produced means we can all access their features at a low price. Surely we can’t rely on this technology to guide critical decision making on a manufacturing line? I’m not suggesting we place smartphones in control of nuclear reactor maintenance programmes just yet – but that still leaves a lot of potential for other industries.

What if, irrespective of your asset, you could learn when it needed servicing, simply by attaching a standalone ultra-low-cost, disposable sensor to it. What if this sensor platform could learn normal system behaviour, and notify you when it saw the onset of anything amiss? Perhaps a new vibration was detected, or it saw a peculiar temperature spike? The key here is that it’s providing an extra level of pre-emptive information, in addition to the usual preventative maintenance procedures. Why replace key components when there’s nothing wrong with them? Save yourself both the replacement component cost and, more crucially, the downtime cost and hassle to your business.

Current built-in solutions, e.g. “smart” production lines, with their highly complex, hugely capable self-diagnostics systems are never going to be an easy sell.  I don’t envy the salespersons task – “Mr Customer, I strongly recommend you upgrade to our new smart production line equipment, which will even tell you when it’s about to go wrong”. “Thanks, but (a) I don’t need an entirely new production line, I just need your current equipment to work reliably, and (b) why should I pay a premium so that my new machine can tell me when it’s broken?!”

What is needed is a solution for now. A retrofit solution that provides insight into actual usage, with visibility of imminent failures, at a sensible cost. A solution that embraces available infrastructure to offer real value-add benefits, but that doesn’t require businesses to bin their current setups and buy a totally new approach. A solution that can be fitted to anything, by anyone.

DropTag can help. Our original idea was based around checking the condition of a parcel in transit, but the range of use-cases we can now serve, based on our clients feedback, now includes production line and machinery condition monitoring. Businesses can simply stick these tags onto any of their assets, and use their own smartphones to be alerted of critical system behaviour. Alongside this local interaction, DropTag comprises big-data server analytics, so that we can get better at spotting such problems in the future, and the business gets an ever improving service from us.

We demonstrated just such a solution at our recent Innovation Day event. Please contact me if you need more information, visit or download our condition monitoring whitepaper for more information.


AuthorNathan Wrench

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