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4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Data Logger

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Data Logger

Many industries depend on predictable conditions, or at least knowing what the conditions are so you can respond to them. 

Farmers and agricultural scientists need to keep track of soil moisture and atmospheric temperatures.

Pilots and aerospace engineers must be mindful of the air pressure and temperature under their wings, the stress pressure on their components, and the fluid pressure and moisture inside their tanks.

Warehouses and archives need to monitor the temperature and humidity in their storage facilities. Food handlers need to maintain refrigeration temperatures. Machinery voltage must be monitored to ensure safe operations.

The list goes on and on. Many of these industries have detailed reporting requirements for those conditions to comply with regulations.

Data loggers exist to monitor all of these conditions, recording them quietly and automatically to a digital drive or, in some cases, to the Cloud.

If your enterprise requires a data logger, don’t go into the market blindly. Ask yourself the following four questions to help inform your buying decision.

1. What Are My Goals?

This may seem like an obvious question. Your goal is to record the data you need to ensure safe and compliant operations. But there are a few more subtleties to this question to tease out.

Must you report certain operating conditions to maintain compliance? If so, does the data logger you are considering easily compile compliance reports? Are the instruments sensitive enough to provide meaningful data down to the required decimal?

Do you just want to monitor conditions, or is it important that you be alerted of dangerous conditions to avert an interruption or a disaster? Many data loggers are designed to do just that—log data. If something goes wrong, they may be able to tell you when and why it went wrong but too late to prevent the catastrophe. Can your data logger be paired with an audible, visible, or web-based alert process so you can react to correct adverse conditions?

Are compliance inspectors and quality control specialists the only audience for the data? Do you have ambitions to provide this recorded data to the general public, perhaps as a selling point, content asset, or public service? If so, can the data be integrated in real-time to a web widget or app?

Different data loggers have different strengths and applications. Before buying, take a thorough inventory of every use to which you intend to put that data. The seller may be able to point you in the right direction for the data logger best aligned with your goals, according to the compliance experts at Dickson.

2. Who Is in Charge?

Conditions recorded by a data logger are useless if no one looks at it. It’s even more useless if the person in charge of the data monitoring does not have the authority or expertise to do anything about it.

Once the data logger is installed, who within your organization will be responsible for recording and interpreting the data? Is the person in charge trustworthy and competent, especially if your compliance depends on accurate reporting?

Does the person in charge have the know-how to notice trouble in the data and take action? Do they have the authority to take action or have the ear of the people who do have the authority? Could any empowerment failures prevent the responsible person from taking correct action in response to troubling data?

If multiple conditions need to be monitored, it could be prudent to have different team members, with different talents and skill sets, in charge of monitoring different conditions.

3. How Am I Evaluating?

How you monitor the conditions recorded by data loggers makes a big difference.

How often do you check the data? Is it often enough to maintain compliance and operational security? Is the data logger calibrated to handle the frequency of your monitoring?

How precise does your data need to be? Is the data logger calibrated properly and sensitive enough to do the job right? If you need very precise measurements, the cost of a more powerful and accurate sensor may be very justified.

Is the procedure for evaluating your data documented, regimented, and implemented like clockwork? Are standard operating procedures or your compliance procedures recorded? If someone quit or got fired, could someone else step seamlessly into their shoes and provide accurate data analysis without interruption?

A data logger itself can’t put a regular, centralized evaluation procedure into practice. That still takes human input. Note that if you monitor multiple conditions, a centralized software that aggregates data collectively can be a huge boon, effectively creating a “back office” where you can monitor all critical conditions from one screen.

4. What Is My Budget?

Data monitoring typically involves initial costs for the equipment, and in many cases ongoing costs for the maintenance of the equipment, processing expenses, and subscriptions.

Take the time to draft a realistic budget for your data monitoring needs. If your compliance depends on accurate reporting of data, any expense may feel justified—and in some cases it is. A slightly pricier data logger may be more cost-effective than a fine or interruption of service.

However, the sky does not necessarily have to be the limit. Cost-effective data loggers may be perfectly appropriate for many industries that don’t need a high degree of precision—for example, those that allow for a relative range of safe pressures, temperatures, and voltage parameters. 

No business needs to put itself in a position where it feels like it has to overbuy. Having a specific, realistic budget and sticking to it can help make sure your enterprise gets all the data monitoring tools it needs, at a cost it can afford.

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Sometimes questions lead to more questions. Data monitoring technology has leapt forward in recent years and continues to advance quickly. It is understandable that many enterprises don’t even know what’s out there and what their options are, from cloud-based reporting to wireless downloading to touchscreen interfaces. Definitely feel comfortable reaching out to a data monitoring expert who can help you make an informed decision.

Author Bio: Marina Turea works as content manager at Digital Authority Partners

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