Ultimate Guide to IBC and Fluid Level Monitoring

Digitisation is leading innovation in all major industries and the petrochemical, speciality & commodity chemical, food & cosmetics industries are no exception. This guide on IBC Monitoring is designed to be a detailed, accurate and unbiased look at the technology, and how it is changing the supply chain and distribution within the industry.

Introduction to IBC monitoring

Digitisation is leading innovation in all major industries and the petrochemical, speciality & commodity chemical, food & cosmetics industries are no exception.

Supply chains & distribution are notoriously complex within these industries. Often involving multiple: production inputs, source countries & companies, border crossings and distributors. This, coupled with the import reliance of raw materials in the UK, tightening of supply-chains, and rising input costs, has led to a reduction in profitability.

This has resulted in:

1. Chemical manufacturers increasingly looking to bypass wholesalers as a way of cutting costs.

2. Chemical Wholesalers & distributors looking for ways to maintain relevance & boost value within their supply chain function.

Managing supply has become more challenging and all key players in industry, from the producer to the end-user, require innovative solutions to transform logistics. Sensors and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) can help meet the need for growing supply-chain & stock visibility, improved efficiencies and in turn, reduce costs.

What is IBC Monitoring?

IBC monitoring (sometimes known as a liquid level sensor) is an Industrial IOT based solution designed to collect real world information about your IBC, namely:

• Location

• Fluid level sensing: Recording fluid level at set intervals & provide low level alarms

• Environmental Conditions: Temperature & Shock

This data allows you to address various real-world problems with near real-time data insights.

Understanding the Value of IBC & Fluid Level Monitoring

There are various aspects that inform whether IBC monitors are worth the considering. These vary depending on the nature of the business and product.

 Aspects to consider:

1. Delay Costs from: 
Will delivery delays result in production losses or penalty charges?

2. IBC contents value:
Do you need extra vigilance due to product value?

3. Complexity of supply-chain
Is knowing your IBC status complicated?

4. Length of supply chain

5. Condition sensitivity of the product
Will environmental changed impact your product’s condition?

These aspects are often influenced by your organisations position within the value chain.

High volume, low value raw materials & basic products tend to impact delay costs when they are critical production inputs. 

  • For instance, a critical lubricant required for the running of a large industrial plant. 
  • Or Iodine as a critical input for pharmaceuticals or printing.  

Here, timeous stock replenishment & delivery can be critical to mitigate otherwise large costs. 


Lower volume, high value end products may not result in costly stoppages, however they benefit from monitoring in other ways:

  • Condition sensitive products can be monitored throughout its journey for temperature & shock, to ensure certain thresholds aren’t breached which result in compromised product. This can be particularly relevant for sea freight or container conditions.
  • High value product can be better monitored for theft/partial removal, and correct delivery location with level sensing. Tracking valuable product through complex supply chains is also made easier through asset location features.

Common Challenges That IBC Monitoring Helps Solve

Beyond value chain considerations, there are many common challenges faced in most industries which can be resolved using IBC monitoring.

Selecting the best solution for your IBC's

IBC Monitors broadly have similar functionality:

  • Monitor & record fluid level to some degree of accuracy
  • Monitor Conditions: Temperature, shock, positioning, relative humidity
  • Monitor location to a varying degree of granularity
  • Require access to a proprietary platform to view data

Price tier can often be defined by the type of connectivity used within the monitor, which in turn influences their use-case:

1. Global solution:

  • Higher Cost option: £400+ per monitor, plus data subscription
  • Use Cellular &/or GPS technology for connectivity/location
  • Allow for national to international tracking of IBC assets
  • Operate independently of other connectivity infrastructure, such as Wi-Fi.

2. Local or Indoor Solution:

  • Lower Cost option: £200+ per monitor, plus data subscription
  • Use local connectivity technologies such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
  • Allow for local tracking: Within a yard or work site
  • Require additional installation or connectivity with local network OR manual connection to download data (such as Bluetooth or NFC).

Asset Tracking For IBC Usage

Several factors inform which IBC monitoring solution is best for your business. Here, Asset Tracking solutions can also fulfil a function – should IBC fluid level not be a requirement.

IBC Monitoring vs Asset Tracking

In most instances IBC monitors share the same characteristics & technologies as asset tracking – with the addition of a level detecting sensor, often radar. Asset trackers therefore tend to be cheaper and can be used on IBC’s when location tracking and/or condition monitoring is required.

Other Considerations

1. IBC Monitors and Asset Trackers can be used multiple times and should have a lifespan of at least 2 years

2. They are mostly battery powered, so will require battery replacement or recharging

3. Battery life often depends on how regularly the monitor records & transmits data to the cloud

4. Beyond the cost of the IBC monitor, an annual subscription (often with cost) will be required to access data & a proprietary cloud-based platform 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding IBC monitoring, IBC tracking, liquid level sensors and more. 

What is an Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC)?

IBC’s can also be referred to as: IBC tanks, IBC totes, IBC containers and a pallet tank

IBC’s can be divided into two classes.

Flexible IBC’s (FIBC)
Are non-rigid storage containers used for holding non-liquid product. 

FIBC’s have soft sides reinforced with stitching or other substances to help it hold its cubic shape. The FIBC folds flat when empty, and both types tend to be lightweight.

IBC monitoring systems are generally not suitable for these IBC’s.

Rigid IBC (RIBC)
A Rigid IBC is a cube-shaped shipping container that can store liquids to semi-solids (and solids in some cases). They are stackable and more efficient than the preceding shipping drums and barrels. The IBC is used in shipping and storage, as the containers pack tightly whether in transit or in a close contact warehouse setting. 

What is an RIBC made of?

The rigid intermediate bulk container is made of a plastic bottle liner and a metal mesh cage. Like the typical storage drum, the IBC is ideal for shipping liquids in the industrial context. 

Some manufacturers alter the materials of the bottle, opting for high-density plastic or metal, while others replace the standard steel cage with stainless steel to add structure and prevent rust. Some even replace the steel mesh with carbon steel, which reduces the overall weight of the highly stackable IBC. 

All RIBC units have a cap on top for filling and a valve or spout near the bottom for spill-free pouring.

What is an FIBC made of?

The Flexible IBC tote is made of woven polyethylene fabric and folds when empty. Some models utilize a variety of materials to reinforce the tote or customize the bag for hazardous chemical containment and dust prevention. All are equipped with loops to make it mobile and transferable by pallet jack or forklift. Some models sport custom accessories, such as a duffle top and spout or valve mechanism on the bottom for easy filling and emptying. 

What are the Challenges with IBC’s

A major headache for Chemical suppliers and distributors is tracking and getting IBCs returned. IBC containers are often overlooked as an asset by end customers and yet their usefulness for re-use often results in their retention. Buyers and logistics departments may not always be aware of who owns IBCs following a products delivery – generally IBCs are owned & thus returnable to the supplier of the product.

Contents level
Most IBC’s provide volume marks to gauge IBC fill level. These are often hard to read and rely on guesswork. They are also reliant on warehouse staff locating IBC’s, removing from racking, and taking readings – stocktakes can be time consuming activities.

Why are RIBC's So Important?

Intermediate Bulk Containers are a critical  to the global supply chain. In logistics and storage, IBC innovation has helped standardise the storage and transport of goods the world over.  Given their re-usability, and usefulness, IBC’s can be assets within themselves.

Benefits include:

  • It’s uniform shape – allowing for effective & predictable packing
  • The ability to stack – allowing for more effective storage
  • Re-usability – this allows re-use at multiple point along the supply-chain and effectively reduces storage costs
  • Large capacity – 1000L capacity IBC dominate the rigid IBC market, however they are available from 500l to 3000l
  • Versatility – available in a wide variety of materials; IBC’s can store a variety of products ranging from petrochemicals, food, cosmetics to food & dyes.
IBC tracking

IBC Prices

What is the Price Point of a Rigid IBC?

The average (Global) cost of a rigid IBC in 2021 was $450 to $550 per Unit (in USD).

Price Point of a Flexible IBC?

The average (Global) cost of a rigid IBC in 2021 was $8 to $14 per Unit (In USD).

What can I measure in an IBC?

While the use-case for IBC monitors is mostly focused on measuring liquids to semisolids within an IBC. In the case of radar-based level detecting systems, if correctly configured, solids could also be measured.


Book a meeting or Demo to see the power of IBC Monitoring

Sources and References

Chemical industry in the UK – statistics & facts (2023). Statista Research Department.
Chemical Product Wholesaling in the UK (2022). IBIS World.
E. Lampadarios, 2016.  Critical challenges for SMEs in the UK chemical distribution industry. Core.ac.uk
Intermediate Bulk Containers: A Guide to Types, Dimension & Specifications (Online). Available from: https://www.qafila.com/intermediate-bulk-containers-a-guide-to-types-dimension-specifications/ Afila
Intermediate Bulk Container (IBCs) Market (2023). Future Market Insights.
State of Third-Party Logistics Industry Report (2023).  Extensiv.

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