How to

8 December 2016

Using Vibration Sensors to Keep Industrial Refrigeration Units in Spec

Cold storage warehouse operations are nowadays just as multifaceted as they are precisely monitored. Some of the world’s biggest manufacturers, distributors, warehouse operators and processors of cold industrial foods rely on a myriad of pieces of equipment to keep things running smoothly. Of these, however, arguably the most important components are the pieces of monitoring equipment found in such premises. Whilst certain devices are more forthcoming when we consider the management of large-scale food operations off the top of our heads (temperature sensors, humidity gauges and so forth), one such instrument which is perhaps less manifest is the humble vibration sensor. However, to managers and monitoring personnel relying on read-outs from computerised equipment, trying to get an overall grasp on the spaces they oversee, vibrations sensors are, for many, indispensable pieces of equipment.

Img source: Pacific Group
Lineage Logistics is one example of a major company which utilises monitoring equipment for vibration control. According to a CIO interview with Elliot Wolf, director of analytics for the company, the predominant application for vibration sensors is to ensure that refrigeration systems continue to function throughout their required usage time. In essence, if you strap a vibration sensor onto a device which shakes when turned on but which doesn’t when it’s off, monitoring personnel can determine immediately whether something has gone wrong.

But the applications of such monitoring equipment are not, of course, confined to that. Rather, they are also useful in making sure that such hardware is kept more generally in spec. Certain vibrations for example, can either be good or bad; and it’s far more cost-effective to monitor for these than it is to look out for complete system failures.

Wolf claims that Lineage affixes their vibration sensors to the compressors of their refrigerators, yet doesn’t calibrate them to look for a steady vibration: rather, the company uses them to look for instances of too much vibration. Wolf claims that such monitoring methods make it possible to tell, for example, when bearings are coming loose within the compressor. This, he claims, ‘allows the crews to redress the problem before the compressor breaks, preventing higher repair costs.’ Clever; a stitch in time really does save nine.

Indeed, vibration sensors can be used in conjunction with other pieces of monitoring equipment. For example, Wolf also describes how Lineage scans for discrepancies called ‘liquid hammers’ in refrigeration systems: pressure spikes that force fluids the wrong way through pipes. In order to forestall these kinks in their early stages, vibration sensors and accelerometers are used together in a wider process of valve monitoring.  

So, there are, indeed, numerous ways in which vibration sensors can be used, either independently or together with other utensils, in the effective monitoring and administration of cold storage warehouses; making them, for some of the world’s biggest cold-storage warehouse operators, indispensable pieces of equipment.

James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.