Smart Data Collection on the Production Line: Sensors

May 4, 2021

Sensors are a critical part of smart data collection in the manufacturing sector. A smart sensor can collect data in real-time to help artificial intelligence (AI) software and employees make smarter decisions. To increase the effectiveness of your AI and machine learning (ML) solutions, explore the value of sensors on the production line.

What Data Do Sensors Collect?

Sensors can collect data from machines and equipment or the environment. A smart sensor typically contains a microprocessor and communication capabilities for relaying data to a central system, such as an artificial intelligence (AI) system.

Smart sensors are key components of Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). About 68% of manufacturers plan on increasing their investment in smart manufacturing in the coming two years. Sensors can monitor manufacturing processes, collect data, and send data to computing platforms where AI or ML software can analyse the data for patterns.

Some of the main types of industrial sensors include:

●      Temperature sensors

●      Level sensors

●      Pressure sensors

●      Proximity sensors

●      Infrared sensors

Temperature sensors are connected to machinery or equipment to monitor temperatures. These sensors help detect when a machine is overheating, which may be a sign that it needs maintenance.

Level sensors provide real-time measurements of equipment that holds varying levels of material. Examples include tanks, bins, and containers. For example, a level sensor can monitor the level of the liquid inside a tank.

Pressure sensors monitor the pressure levels inside pipes, tanks, and other equipment where specific pressure levels need to be maintained. For example, excessive pressure may cause a pipe to burst. Some equipment also needs to maintain minimum pressure levels to continue functioning.

Proximity sensors detect the proximity of a piece of equipment to other objects or equipment. A robotic arm may use a proximity sensor to detect the proximity of workers to avoid accidents.

Infrared sensors can monitor heat levels. For example, manufacturers may use infrared sensors to detect heat leaks and other issues that may impact the efficiency of industrial equipment.

Smart Sensors Provide Deeper Insight for Any Process

No matter how the smart sensors are used, they offer manufacturers more insight into their processes. Instead of simply collecting, storing, and monitoring data, smart sensors can analyse the data and perform specific actions.

Compared to a basic sensor, smart sensors provide more context when collecting data. They can collect data from a greater range of variables, which provides a greater understanding of the factors that contribute to the performance of the monitored process. Smart sensors can also provide greater communication. Using smart sensors allows machines to communicate. Sensors are even available for legacy equipment to modernise the production line.

Standard sensors collect data but do not analyse it. Smart sensors include the capabilities needed to analyse raw data or send it to a computer system capable of analysing the data. Along with these features, a smart sensor may trigger specific actions that help save time and resources on the production line. For example, a sensor may alert a worker when human input is required.

Sensors Help Improve Preventive Maintenance Protocols

Smart sensors are improving the way that manufacturers handle preventive maintenance. Temperature sensors, infrared sensors, and other devices can collect data for detecting patterns that may indicate when a machine requires maintenance.

Adopting sensors for maintenance allows manufacturers to transition from a scheduled maintenance routine to a predictive maintenance model. Predictive maintenance is often more efficient as it helps detect issues before they lead to major points of failure in the production line.

Sensors Allow Disparate Devices to Communicate

Industrial smart sensors allow devices and systems to talk to each other. Increasing the connectivity between devices and machines makes it easier to collect and analyse data. AI systems can aggregate data from all devices to provide more insight into the overall efficiency of the production line. Decision-makers have more insight for controlling and improving operations.

Sensors Streamline Regulatory Compliance

Manufacturers need to follow strict industry standards and regional regulations. Failure to comply may result in fines or force the manufacturer to pause its production. Sensors can provide the data needed to ensure regulatory compliance. Industrial sensors can automatically log essential data, such as hours of operation, environmental conditions, and maintenance.

For example, manufacturers may use sensors to automatically control energy usage on a larger scale to meet energy regulations. Along with complying with energy regulations, sensors may reduce operating costs. Conserving energy to meet regulations helps manufacturers fight the rising cost of energy use.

Sensors Can Help Reduce Defects and Waste

Smart sensors help manufacturers reduce waste and deliver better products by detecting anomalies and defects that may impact production output or quality. The sensors provide real-time monitoring of the dimensions of parts on the production line to ensure that they meet quality standards.

When the sensors detect a defect, workers can react quickly to minimise waste and maintain quality standards for the rest of the production run. For example, a defect may indicate that a machine requires servicing or recalibration. Addressing the problem immediately prevents the defect from recurring.

Sensors Can Allow for More Flexible Manufacturing Operations

The use of sensors makes it easier for manufacturers to adopt more flexible operations, which leads to a long list of additional benefits. A more flexible manufacturer can better meet the needs of its clients, as they can quickly adapt to increased demand or design changes.

Industrial smart sensors can also track the location of assets, inventory, vehicles, and workers. Integrating smart sensors improves logistics and asset management. Monitoring assets with sensors help manufacturers respond faster to potential problems in the supply chain.


Smart sensors are an essential part of smart manufacturing. Sensors are available for the latest machinery and legacy equipment. Manufacturers can use sensors to gain valuable information for increasing productivity, reducing downtime, and increasing the service life of machines and equipment.

Equipping your production line with sensors gives you a competitive advantage. It helps improve preventive maintenance and regulatory compliance procedures. Sensors also help reduce waste and provide more flexibility for manufacturing operations. In the coming years, you can expect sensors to be a standard sight on the production line.

Feel free to also check out our other posts:

Why Deploy a Human-Centred AI Approach in Manufacturing

Future of Manufacturing: Impact of Industry 4.0 Initiatives

Impressive Ways of Incorporating AI in Manufacturing