Donaldson Provides IoT-Based Filter Management

The company's iCue cellular-based system uses a Vodafone cellular network to manage data from wireless sensors attached to filtration equipment at factories across the globe, thereby ensuring the equipment works properly and preventing manufacturing shutdowns.
Published: December 13, 2019

Filtration systems are critical to the health of manufacturing processes and equipment, as well as the individuals working around those machines. While they are both ubiquitous and critical to proper manufacturing operations, they must be closely monitored. Traditionally, the inspection and maintenance of filtrations systems has required a dedicated workforce at each manufacturing site.

To help automate that process, Donaldson, a global manufacturer of filtration systems, has built an Internet of Things (IoT)-based service. Leveraging Vodafone’s cellular-based network, the company’s iCue Connected Service remotely captures and manages data regarding the status of filtration systems. Donaldson’s customers use the filtration systems to keep manufacturing processes, equipment and the areas around them clear of particulates. If a filtration system fails, a manufacturing line could be shut down or equipment might be damaged.

An iCue system screenshot

Therefore, companies carefully monitor the filters’ conditions and, in some cases, may choose to replace them on schedules that could lead to premature replacements of expensive parts. Donaldson’s filtration systems are used during such manufacturing processes as cutting, grinding or processing materials that create particulates.

The iCue Connected Service tracks the conditions of filtration equipment throughout a company’s facility and provides a real-time alert if a problem occurs or is imminent. It also captures analytical data that can be reviewed to help a company understand how its equipment and filtration system are performing. The solution, according to Wade Wessels, Donaldson’s global director of connected solutions and IoT, improves filtration management and thereby reduces operating costs. IoT technology is directly improving the firm’s ability to generate compliance reports, he says, and to send real-time maintenance alerts directly to facility-management teams. “The reasoning behind this starts and ends with our customers,” Wessels states.

The solution was developed approximately a year ago, to be retrofitted onto existing filtration equipment or to be purchased with new equipment. The goal, Wessels recalls, was to provide a service that would save companies labor hours employees would otherwise spend inspecting filtration systems, while also preventing unplanned downtime. The solution consists of sensor devices attached to the filters, as well as a gateway to capture and interpret data and then forward it to the cloud, and software to manage that data. Users receive real-time email alerts, weekly performance reports and a dashboard for further information about the filtration assets.

Donaldson released iCue in September of this year. The sensor-integrated gateway, which it developed in house, tracks a handful of critical parameters to identify the condition of equipment, such as relative airflow, compressed air pressure, differential pressure, internal temperature and humidity, and the hopper plug. Customers can opt to install other sensors if such is needed for their specific system. “What we offer is a completely digital service,” Wessels says, “so now, all that data is digital and immediately available.”

Each gateway, which is about the size of a lunchbox, comes with built-in firmware that filters the collected sensor data and forwards it to Donaldson’s cloud-based server via Vodafone’s secure network. The system takes measurements and forwards sensor samples at pre-set intervals, such as every 15 minutes.

However, if the sensors detect a change in conditions, they can forward that information to the server immediately. At that point, the software application can issue alerts to authorized parties via e-mail, indicating they need to check a specific filtration system. The sensor data is made available to users on a dashboard that provides a snapshot of their filtration systems. The software sends weekly performance reports, while Donaldson supplies customers with a “customer success team” who can answer questions or help with the data being captured by the system.

Donaldson’s Wade Wessels

Several companies have already been piloting the technology and have measured three benefits, Wessels says: they have been able to reduce their operating costs by ensuring the filtration equipment is changed and serviced at the appropriate time; the routine recording of data is automated, thereby saving man hours; and the solution reduces factory downtime through proactive management. That’s important, he notes, since approximately 60 percent of the company’s customers report that if a filter goes down, their factory line will shut down as well.

Another benefit may lie in the sharing of data with government and safety agencies, since regulatory bodies often require proof of inspections. “Many customers have compliance constraints,” Wessels states. With the iCue system, he adds, they can digitally share the history of their filtering equipment and its compliance with standards bodies.

The Vodafone network’s cellular connectivity functionality ensures that factories will not need to host the wireless technology on their own internal networks; instead, they can simply hook up the equipment and pay a monthly fee for Donaldson to collect and manage the data on its end. Because Donaldson is a global company, Wessels says, the system needed to be operable on any continent. “We chose to use a cellular network because we can manage the connectivity for our customers,” he states. “They pay a monthly fee; we handle everything.”

To date, the iCue Connected Service has been in use by several companies in the United States, and the company intends to provide the service to those in the European Union and Asia as well. Vodafone’s SIM card and network platform-management tools ensure the service works globally, Wessels says. The initial solution is being called a “do it yourself” service, he adds, though in the long run, the company plans to offer more valuable and complete service offerings.