3 common beliefs about industrial liquid quality monitoring - and how to look beyond them

February 22, 2021

Ensuring consistent end-product quality is a top priority for industries dealing with water or liquids. It is also a challenge that requires continuous attention. We share our advice on three common beliefs within water or liquid quality monitoring.
 

1. “Monitoring pH levels is the single most important quality measure”

One of the most common liquid quality measurements taken is pH, which is the measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of the water. It is ranked on a logarithmic scale of one to 14. The lower the pH of the liquid, the more acidic it is. The higher the pH of liquid, the more basic, or alkaline, it is.

Measuring pH is relevant to liquid quality monitoring, because pH affects many chemical and biological processes in liquids. For example, different organisms have different ranges of pH within which they flourish.

If a company makes a relatively simple product and its most critical quality attribute is pH, it can be very straightforward. If the variables affecting pH are understood, data from pH sensors can be tied back to the process and corrective action can be taken.

The problem in real-world manufacturing is often that key attributes can be difficult to measure, and the control elements can be difficult to manipulate. Furthermore, it is entirely possible that there are multiple and complex interrelations between variables. It starts to get less straightforward.

Water or liquid quality can be affected by factors that cannot always be detected by parameter-specific sensors or methodologies.

Even if pH is critical to your quality monitoring, we recommend expanding your approach to monitoring their state as a whole, in order to detect changes in the overall quality. You can do this by measuring the electrochemical profile of the water or liquid. In other words, by detecting its ‘quality fingerprint’.

The electrochemical fingerprint describes the precise condition of the water or liquid. For example, drinking water from two different sources will have two different fingerprints, although the difference in quality will not always be evident when looking at individual parameters such as, for example, pH or another common quality parameter, conductivity.

The fingerprints taken by the UROS Sense sensor enable the identification of different compositions. In wastewater, for example, fingerprinting can be used to detect unusual industrial discharges, even when those discharges do not change the overall level of COD (chemical oxygen demand) of the wastewater.

In beverage production lines, the sensor will detect undesirable deviations in the quality of bottle-washing water, liquid ingredients or finished products that parameter-selective sensors might miss.

So yes, pH is definitely important, but cover your bases by incorporating overall quality detection into your monitoring routine.

2. “We must optimize our process for 2-4 day delays arising from sudden quality issues”

Delays might arise from situations when water or liquid quality has decreased beyond a point of recovery. Depending on the process, consequences could include lost production batches or broken down equipment.

Let’s take an example from the beverage industry, where batches that don’t match the recipe are a real challenge. When a batch doesn’t meet a recipe’s requirements things can easily go wrong. Discarding that batch is a downright loss. Trying to fix it by tweaking the ingredients can lead to more wasted raw material, production time, sampling and increased cost. Or, if the mistake isn’t caught and the batch makes it to stores, potential claims and complaints from customers could hurt the company’s reputation.

Though it’s true that you cannot plan for every single issue in advance, you can introduce measures that reduce the opportunity for issues in the first place. A proactive quality monitoring strategy is probably one of the most straightforward ways to improve overall operations.

Therefore the best thing you can do is to update your mindset from a reactive one towards a more proactive one. It’s easier said than done, but one low threshold action we recommend taking is simply monitoring the liquid quality during normal operation to reduce the likelihood of downtime.

Indeed, electrochemical fingerprinting is an extremely effective early warning method. The fingerprints taken by the UROS Sense can detect a change in liquid quality before any change is visible in any individual parameter or in any particular sum parameter. You can use the monitoring data to find and understand cause-and-effect relationships affecting liquid quality. New insights can help you make better predictions. Improved predictions help you save money and resources.

Detecting issues and dealing with them before they affect end-product quality also means less spoilage, less waste and less lost revenue.

So don’t optimize for delays, optimize for learning.

3. “Process wastewater reuse is not a realistic option”

Because water is one of the most critical elements in many industrial processes, its reuse offers huge potential benefits.

A business could directly reuse wastewater that is clean enough for the purpose for which it is being reused. For example, under the right circumstances, process water could be reused for fire protection or washing. Or even get reused for its original purpose. This makes sense not only because it results in a reduced water bill, but also because it puts less pressure on our shared water resources which are becoming increasingly scarce.

Traditionally though, wastewater reuse is more strongly associated with its perceived negative side effects like large financial investments or modifications to existing operations. Therefore it’s not often seen as a realistic option worth looking into.

But we are transitioning to a new way of looking at things. Already in 2017, a report published by the UN on World Water Development, “Wastewater: The Untapped Resource,” found that in the face of booming water demand, the paradigm of wastewater management is actually shifting from ‘treatment and disposal’ to ‘reuse, recycle and resource recovery’.

We believe that the shift will only gain momentum from technological advancements, which have the power and ability to help shape industrial water reuse in the upcoming years thanks to new insight into quality.

Contrary to common belief, almost any business can incorporate measures for reuse of wastewater, ranging from direct reuse within your own business to reuse between businesses. Either way, big change starts small.

So take the first step and start building knowledge about the quality of your wastewater to understand its potential for reuse. It might be more realistic than you think.

If you’d like to discuss water or liquid quality monitoring with our experts, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

About UROS Sense

UROS Sense is a turnkey IoT solution made up of smart wireless sensors, LoRaWan gateways and an AI-powered data processing system. It uses electrochemical fingerprinting to detect and report changes in liquid quality in real time, sending an automated alert whenever a significant deviation from a predefined reference baseline occurs. The methodology, developed by water specialists, electrochemists, automation engineers and neural network experts, is extremely effective with its ability to detect overall quality changes before they become visible in individual parameters.

About the author

Matias Timonen, Senior Program Manager
Matias is part of UROS Sense and Flow teams. He is a Senior Program Manager working on customer projects in Europe and the CIS countries. Matias has a passion for new technologies, and is motivated by an ambition to make a difference.


Matias Timonen

Senior Program Manager

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