By Kovilan Chinnathambi, Product Manager at Schneider Electric
Power and equipment reliability is paramount in most industries and can severely impact productivity, production, and revenue. The cost of downtime largely depends on the type of organisation; a study by research group Ponemon estimates that healthcare facilities can lose millions, in a matter of hours, which also directly impacts optimal care and the preservation of human life.
Some industrial facilities have reported they have lost millions in downtime. And whilst some outages such as natural disasters cannot be prevented, in most cases both power and equipment can be managed to ensure it provides optimal availability and reliability.
To ensure facilities don’t experience downtime, they need to run a digitised environment that provides them with information, such as conditions deviating from set parameters as well as the ability to visualise and predict failures.
The above will allow organisations to proactively monitor and prevent potential disruptions and adjust electrical equipment for example in real time which in turn not only optimise operations but also mitigate any potential downtime and failures.
Managing your power distribution
As mentioned, the reliability power provision is a vital cog in the operational machine that runs facilities on a daily basis. However, throughout your power distribution system, there can be risks to reliability that are hidden and go unnoticed.
A fully digitised electrical system can better withstand power disturbances and is resilient to downtime. A robust power management system takes advantage of data from connected devices, acting like a microscope on your electrical system, continuously monitoring its performance and the assets connected to it.
If any unexpected condition is detected, an alarm notifies personnel, and they can immediately locate the issue and take action to prevent potential equipment failure or downtime.
Also, a connected power network includes intelligent, connected advanced power meters that quickly reveal power quality issues – such as high harmonics or voltage sags – or other types of faults, while diagnostic tools will assist the facility team in determining root causes before it can cause damage.
A digitally-connected power management solution should also include wireless thermal sensors, for early detection of abnormal temperature rise on conductors and connection points. This will help reduce the risk of a fire or failure (and associated downtime), while avoiding the time and cost of annual infrared (IR) testing.
Despite the abovementioned steps, there is one major element that can derail an organisation’s power availability is poor quality equipment which is not backed by necessary warrantees and service and maintenance options. Poor quality equipment can put major constraints on infrastructure and pose a major risk to electrical safety.
Below par equipment usually leads to premature failure and increased downtime. And whilst there are some initial savings when opting for cheaper equipment, it ultimately comes at hefty price leading to the premature replacement of equipment, loss of productivity and the overall safety of plant personnel.
Prepare for the inevitable
Unfortunately, there is aways the chance of unplanned downtime. If a fault occurs, organisations need to minimise its duration and impact.
The right tools and software will ensure rapid recovery, it will allow on-site and remote teams to quickly identify the source of the system failure and isolate it quickly.
Furthermore, smart protection relays, trip units, and accessories will assist in localising a fault such as identifying a tripped circuit-breaker and its associated circuit.