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MSR255 Datalogger

Robust all-rounder with LCD screen

New: MSR255 datalogger Robust all-rounder with LCD screen Minilogger with a large display. Optionally measures temperature, humidity, pressure, light & 3-axis acceleration/attitude (incl. fast peak). 4 analogue inputs for maximum flexibility. More Information...

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MSR Mini Data Loggers supply information on
transportation impairments of all types of goods

 

The following report was published in the vnl (Verein Netzwerk Logistik) magazine “Logistics Innovation”, June 2015 edition

Sophisticated logistics concepts have become an indispensable component of every industrial and consumer goods value chain. Transportation and distribution channels – be they simple or very complex – are found everywhere in globalised markets. Therefore, the associated liability and quality assurance issues must not be neglected under any circumstances. The need for continuous transportation monitoring of all types of goods with respect to mechanical stress or even excessive stress, or with respect to exceeding temperature or humidity limit values is derived from this. This can be implemented by means of electronic miniature data loggers: They record and store the most important physical impacts on cargo (acceleration/shock /jolt/vibration, temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, light) and therefore make it easier to optimise logistics concepts, as well as quickly and cost-effectively settle any liability and quality assurance issues.

Both inbound and outbound logistics require transports of different types and duration in the now globalised markets for all industrial and consumer goods. In the course of such transports, improper, faulty or even criminal-law relevant manipulation may result in damage, mechanical excess stress or improper stress, thermal or humidity influencing as an overall deterioration of the product quality. In the worst case, even destruction or the loss of property would have to be accounted for. External impairments can never be completely ruled out in all cases from the beginning; however, through appropriate technical monitoring and recording of crucial external environmental parameters during a transport, we can at least in retrospect determine whether the goods transport proceeded faultlessly, without any damage or other impact in terms of the environmental conditions or whether certain environmental conditions were irregular and therefore the transport specifications were not met. If such verification can be provided in a well-founded manner, this makes it easier to solve liability or quality assurance issues in all cases or at least provides information on how certain impairments can be reduced or even prevented in the future.

The point is to record the physical environmental parameters that are relevant for the potential impairment of or damage to a cargo and to document them in such a lasting manner that will stand up in court, that the subsequent evaluation thereof provides reliable conclusions about the influencing external factors. This is also the only way that facilitates a well-founded forecast of measures that can be used in order to eliminate similar impairments in the future. Of course, an ultra-modern physical measurement and recording technology must be used for this. If the electronic measurement and recording technologies used for this are state-of-the-art and are available at optimal cost, there is nothing to be said against monitoring and documenting all kinds of transports in this way, be they very short or on a global scale. Swiss technology company MSR Electronics GmbH which is located in Seuzach near Winterthur, specialises for instance in the development and manufacture of modern data loggers that are suitable for this task. These “compact miniature laboratories”, which are merely the size of a thumb, record very specific groups of physical parameters and measured values and store them for subsequent evaluation using a PC.

Which parameters must be recorded during a transport?

The most important physical parameters that should be monitored in a transport and logistics chain are first of all accelerations, shock events, jolts and vibrations, as they may have a very negative impact on the mechanical structure of any industrial object or commodity. Glass transports are only one example. Here it has become apparent that an associated acceleration value should be recorded considerably more than 1,000 times per second in order to be able to capture and analyse vibrations in their frequency characteristic. Of course, this is to be done in all three geometric axes (x, y, z) in order to obtain acceleration values in all directions. Another important parameter is the temperature, as it may also exceed the transport parameter limits specified for a product; for instance, frozen products or units of stored blood come to mind as particularly delicate cargo; in addition, plastic elements and chemical goods deserve a mention in this context. The parameter of the dew point places the relative humidity in a close connection with the temperature. Therefore, the humidity must also be recorded accurately on a route of transport in order to be able to quickly determine the cause of corrosion of metal components, as well as damage to organic matter due to damp or mould. Medical devices also fall in this category.

In addition, the air pressure is an important value that may, for example, influence the characteristics of deformable goods. In this context hollow containers made from plastic, as well as gas or liquid-filled, deformable containers should be mentioned. This parameter comes into particular effect with air freight transports, where the internal pressure of the aircraft has to be monitored accurately. Depending on the type variant, the mini data loggers are also capable of recording purely electrical signals, e.g. from special external sensors, the same way they record signals from the internal sensors. Examples of this might be supply voltages, such as the signals from additional alarm or acoustic sensors, light barriers or switches.

After all, light is also an important physical factor, for instance with food, medical devices, chemical matter etc. Here solar irradiation would be a damaging cause, which could also easily be correlated with an increase in temperature. However, particular significance is given to the parameter of “light” if illicit manipulations of usually closed containers are detected: Exposure to light indicates opening, which may allow us to draw conclusions regarding a planned or carried out theft. To this end, the recording logger must be arranged in a suitable manner. If it positioned in a “concealed” place, it is subsequently possible to determine when the container was opened by reading out the respective time. If it is positioned in a “visible” place, as experience has shown, this visibility often prevents further manipulation or indeed the theft itself.

Accurate “timestamps” expose perpetrators of damage

Ultimately such data loggers can be used to monitor an entire route of transport with respect to the stated environmental parameters and to objectively record the measured values continuously over long periods of time; the recording period of up to several years depends on the size of the memory, the battery used and the frequency of the values to be recorded. Which stresses was my cargo exposed to? MSR data loggers answer these questions continuously and objectively. The chart shows that during the transport, a shock of more than 16 g occurred. The greatest forces occurred in the z-axis. In the present case study, the parcel containing the cargo fell from the pallet of a forklift truck.The range of application spans from the simple monitoring of the temperature on a transport by sea using the MSR145 logger, to the recording of unusual vibration or shock events that may, for example, occur very significantly if a product falls from a loading crane. In the case of international transports, we can for instance in retrospect very easily answer the question of how long the good had to wait “recumbent” at customs. For: all measured values are always given an exact “timestamp”, which can subsequently be used to reconstruct the time of an event accurately to the minute during the evaluation on the PC, which is of great significance as evidence. The evaluation of many measured values has in practice provided valuable bases for improving the device’s structure or transport packaging in order to prevent damage. When damage occurs, it can be allocated accurately to the perpetrator.

200 g – important in transportation monitoring

The MSR165 loggers, for instance, which feature shock recording up to 15 g (g being the acceleration of gravity) and which have by now been extended as far as the acceleration range of 200 g, are proving particular successful in the logistics industry. Equipped with a special battery, they are capable of recording for up to five years. The 200 g shock measurements are important for many transportation monitoring applications; here, MSR Electronics GmbH has put in a great deal of development work in order to be able to reliably detect and record these shock values using a special sensor. The MSR Company has even established a separate test station for the loggers with a 200 g detection range. This extended working range is beneficial when it comes to recording applications where very large forces occur suddenly, for instance in the field of transportation monitoring of delicate goods, in aerospace, as well as drop and impact tests in the industry. The digital 3-axis acceleration sensor starts recording data either when an acceleration threshold is exceeded or at a set time. 32 measured values are recorded even before the shock event takes place, in order to ensure that the history of the shock can be examined during a g-analysis. As a result, the user not only knows that a shock has occurred but also identifies the exact chronological sequence of the shock.

Formula for success for the high-tech niche market

With these data loggers, a medium-sized company such as MSR Electronics moves within a market that does not give reason to expect extremely high quantities, i.e. a niche market that nevertheless, due the numerous required product variants and the very different applications, demands a high level of technological expertise and manufacturing flexibility. What is interesting and surely obvious for exactly this reason, is that the company does not have its production in the East, but instead works together with reliable service providers in Switzerland. The reason for this is that MSR Electronics GmbH wants to have its production service providers relatively close by, enabling the company to quickly accommodate unusual and very specific user requirements. Wendelin K. Egli, dipl. El. Ing. HTL, the CEO of MSR Electronics GmbH, places great importance on the continuous development of the MSR miniature data loggers.All in all, these boundary conditions are characteristic of a niche market; therefore, the company realises that in this market, which is concerned with small quantities and a variable product mix, you can ultimately only prove successful in the long-term by focussing on practice-oriented innovation. Therefore CEO Wendelin Egli places great emphasis on taking up the latest metrological application trends, combined with PC and sensor technology, and to keep the resulting loggers compact and highly flexible with respect to their possible applications. The CEO’s dedication to innovation most recently became apparent in the development of an extremely small wireless data logger (MSR145WD). This logger not only records and stores the above-mentioned environmental parameters in a conventional manner (in different ways depending on their type variant), but is also capable of communicating with a PC or smartphone using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) short-range wireless technology and to subsequently display its measured data there. In addition, this logger can also transmit its data to a specifically created cloud, for instance by means of a smartphone (or a USB connection with a computer), where the data will be available to the user globally via network access. For this purpose, the company itself has set up the “MSR SmartCloud”, which it maintains diligently. This is done without the involvement of an external cloud provider in order to prevent any dependencies and to be able to quickly program any specific user requirements, for instance after a special encryption.

Thinking ahead: the latest wireless applications

The company’s data loggers featuring wireless sensors are very up-to-date developments. These loggers are calledMSR385WD and operate in the unlicensed ISM frequency band at 868 MHz. Using mini transmitter modules, they enable the user to continuously record temperature, humidity and pressure values over long periods of time, even at high operating temperatures of up to 125 °C. Over a distance of up to 500 m, the mini transmitter modules send the measured values to the data logger, which is capable of receiving and storing data from up to ten transmitter modules – ideal for experiments or short-range logistics. Depending on the type of case selected, the transmitter modules are supplied with power either by means of a rechargeable 260 mAh lithium-polymer battery or an 800 mAh Li-SOCl2battery. The optimised power management ensures that – depending on the frequency of the measurements and radio transmissions – the power supply to the transmitter modules is warranted for up to five years.

In the future, MSR intends to provide the MSR165, which is very popular when it comes to transportation monitoring, with the option of GPS location data recording. In terms of further innovations, MSR Electronics is thinking about using mobile communications in order to transmit the data wirelessly, even over greater distances. It has recently become clearly apparent that a very large number of users implicitly want to store the logger data in a cloud, as this allows them to have permanent, global access to the goods or machines monitored by means of the logger. Of course, the wireless data transfer would be suitable to integrate another communication channel in the cloud.

Being independent – an advantage for future innovations

With respect to the exciting and successful life of his company in the high-tech niche, Wendelin Egli concludes the following: “We have never strayed from our strategy of going our own way, both in terms of innovation and our economic prospects. Going one’s one way means making positive experiences, but now and then also learning the hard way. Yet even that pays,” the CEO assures. “All of this shows that we are independent and this independence allows us to be free for future innovations.”

 

 
 
 
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