Increasing Reliability, Security and Profit with Remote Monitoring


By Don Schnell, Polygon US

Remote monitoring has been present in our industry for more than 20 years. As the technology has progressed, the systems have significantly improved; however, their acceptance in the coatings world remains tepid at best. Here, the author highlights the benefits to owners and applicators and sends out an industry-wide call to action.

developing a remote monitor

Around 2000, while working at what was then Munters Moisture Control Services, I sat down with the company’s Country President, Lauren Reid, to discuss several innovations that I thought could help us improve our offering. He and I shared a vision: remote monitoring of industrial coating projects. Reid gave me free rein to develop and launch a system.

There was already technology in place to monitor conditions and alarm through a pager network. We had been using this for some time to improve reliability on critical projects, but the system was not very robust and relied on a fading pager technology.

With the help of a couple of engineers I knew, we developed the first ExactAire remote monitor. Bruce Ambuter developed the circuitry in the “yellow box” and Jim Judge put together the website that was to receive the data. The first systems were a little crude and clunky, but they worked, and the concept was born.

The yellow box was our first production version with wired sensors. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF POLYGON

In 2001, we rolled out our remote monitoring concept at the SSPC annual conference.

the technology Today

Over the past two decades, many systems have been built to tackle various aspects of remote monitoring, and now the systems are very robust and reliable and have the capability of monitoring and logging many different inputs. Alarming capability is virtually limitless and uses cellular networks to text or email any preprogrammed system failures or deteriorating conditions. The units are tracked by GPS and notify upon loss of power or signal.

Now Polygon’s ExactAire, the system currently monitors and logs dry bulb temperature, surface temperature, dew point temperature, air flow, voltage, particulate counts, toxic gasses and more — all sent to our secure website where the user can log in with a password and see how the project is going. Data can be downloaded to a spreadsheet, or reports and graphs can be printed to a PDF. David Simkins has led the charge over the years with the development of the system and four new versions.

These are the wireless sensors included in the current version of ExactAire.

improving Reliability

By continuously monitoring equipment and conditions, remote monitoring allows almost immediate notification of a problem in the field. Climate control equipment has also progressed over the past years, but it is still equipment, and equipment can fail. Our experience is that the vast majority of equipment failures are generator-related but they still cause the system to fail. And, as you would expect, this quite often occurs at night when there is no one to react.

Why is this important? When designed properly, dehumidification lowers the dew point to at least 17 degrees below the surface temperature, resulting in a relative humidity at the surface of below 50%. If there are no chlorides present, freshly blasted carbon steel can be preserved for several days in this dry environment. This is one of the great benefits of using dehumidifiers, and it allows the painting contractor or shipyard to operate in a very efficient way.

If, however, the DH fails and the dew point temperatures rise, the blasted surface can turn and may need to be reblasted. It is not hard to add up the costs of losing several days of production. Effective monitoring and alarming will notify interested parties quickly and allow the system to be restarted, a technician to be dispatched or, at least, the space to be sealed up to stop the humidity from entering.

ensuring best possible Security

Just knowing that the system is almost fail-safe can promote a good night’s sleep. There are also great benefits to the owner of the structure or ship. Knowing that the conditions were right for the coatings to be applied and cured and that they were applied over the proper surface gives the owner assurity that the investment in a liner will serve long and well. If there happens to be a premature coating failure, application conditions can easily be ruled out with the logged data. This can add a level of security for all the stake holders.

Applicators often rely on equipment suppliers to suggest the right equipment for the job. This is not a bad idea, as it shifts the responsibility for performance to the equipment supplier. Data logging holds the system accountable for what was promised.

promoting Profitability

Time is money. I was a user of dehumidification before I was employed by Munters/Polygon. As a painting contractor in central and southern California, we put a dehumidifier on every tank after late October and sometimes sooner, based on the location. By employing DH, we eliminated any weather delays, kept on schedule and were able to move right on to the next job. Every lost day could mean thousands of dollars of lost revenue.

We also refined our process to complete large areas of dry abrasive blasting before applying a prime coat. Then we would apply subsequent coats within recoat schedules and without needing to reclean the surface. Things rarely go as planned, but the controlled climate offers a lot more flexibility and uninterrupted production. Remote monitoring ensures that things don’t go too far sideways.

understanding the true value

I’ve outlined why sophisticated industrial coating operations would do well to embrace this type of remote monitoring for better reliability, more dependable security and improved profits. So why has the industry been sluggish to adopt it?

  1. In general, the climate control industry has struggled to keep up with the technology and to manage the systems well.
  2. Some providers do not like remote monitoring because they see additional liability when their equipment does not perform to expectation. This technology holds the DH provider accountable.
  3. Painting contractors are often reluctant to pay for this service, because they don’t recognize the potential return on investment.
  4. Owners have not specified the use of remote monitoring, as they, too, are not clear about the ROI.

Maybe this is our fault as DH providers, but the vision conceived 20 years ago remains very valid and relevant today. To help customers succeed, it’s time to step up our efforts to promote all the benefits of remote monitoring.

Watch a brief video to learn more, and contact our experts for assistance.

Claims or positions expressed by sponsoring authors do not necessarily reflect the views of TPC, PaintSquare or its editors.


Don Schnell, Polygon US

Don Schnell is a Director of Client Development for Polygon US, a temporary climate control provider. He leads the sales and marketing effort and coaches salespeople in six company offices in the southeast and gulf region of the US. Services include humidity and temperature control for industrial coatings projects, commercial construction, water damage restoration and other commercial and industrial applications. With more than four decades in the commercial building and industrial arenas, he has helped pioneer much of the dehumidification technology used today in industrial coating and construction drying applications. Don has several published articles on various climate control subjects and has presented technical papers at many national events. He entered the industrial coating business after attending three years at the North Dakota State University School of Architecture. Follow him on LinkedIn.




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