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Predictive maintenance

Oct 2017 Surge protection | Comments Off on Predictive maintenance
Predictive maintenance
 

You can’t rely on guesswork or crystal ball-gazing when it comes to maintaining electrical switchgear. Schneider Electric’s Gary Buckingham explains how sensors are extending equipment life

In today’s cut-throat market, businesses are tasked with limiting costs, increasing revenue and saving energy in order to retain their competitive edge. Looking at the life of electrical switchgear is one avenue that many are choosing. Extending the average life of switchgear from a base of 10 to more than 40 years can radically reduce the cost of replacement and prove to be an excellent cost-cutting strategy.

The motivations are obvious. Damage or faults endanger the health of the electrical circuit, potentially leading to considerable business disruption and added cost. Yet actually achieving the goal of longer equipment life has proven more of a challenge.

In order to avoid the risks to circuit health and smooth business operation, businesses are adopting cutting-edge technologies that can be used to enhance circuit protection and facilitate an alternative, more effective, maintenance strategy.

These innovations in circuit-level energy monitoring are a crucial part of the infrastructure for ensuring a superior level of operational building intelligence, maintenance and circuit protection.

Check according to condition not date

The cost of maintenance and servicing, particularly around switchgear, has been an almost universal challenge faced by businesses. Yet ultimately this stems from a need for regular check-ups over the life of the equipment. This is the product of a highly scheduled but inattentive preventative maintenance strategy where equipment is checked at set time periods regardless of its actual health. In this setup, faults and electrical damage may be discovered too late and must be repaired, at great cost and disruption.

When it comes to circuit and equipment protection, many organisations are simply going through the motions. Facing limited resources and an expensive and endless cycle of maintenance, organisations would greatly benefit from being able to anticipate and predict problems such as electrical faults, cable overloads, short circuits and insulation faults before they become a costly issue.

Fortunately, recent advances have led to the introduction of intelligent circuit breaker sensors that provide for a more effective, condition-based approach. Leveraging operational and environmental data, this technology is key to protecting critical infrastructure systems and reducing the costs associated with frequent maintenance.

Smart IoT-connected sensors, such as Schneider Electric’s PowerTag, support an alternative, predictive maintenance strategy through their connectivity. Simply put, they provide real-time data on power flow, energy and device health for building managers to improve the health of a facility’s strategic assets. Such connected sensors shed insight into problems, such as unstable loads, by identifying the source of the issue, whether it be the electrical load or the circuit breaker itself. By anticipating problems before they happen, these issues can be corrected before they snowball into a business-disrupting crisis.

Monitoring health of the building

When positioned to maximum effect, these devices are able to collate the most granular of data from previously untapped and inaccessible parts of a facility’s infrastructure, helping to improve the overall monitoring process. By analysing this data and learning how and when the energy is being consumed across the building, a clearer picture of the infrastructure’s overall health can be collected; providing alerts to any faults, power overloads or even any energy waste.

Connected sensors increase the reliability, efficiency and condition of key electrical assets by helping to monitor and measure currents, voltages, power factors and energy. This is necessary not only for the accurate monitoring of a business’s energy consumption, but also as a means to maintain the health of its equipment.

Considering the increasing legislative pressure on businesses to limit energy consumption, PowerTag enables a more efficient and economical use of energy across its electrical loads.

This makes it easier to manage critical loads, reducing the risk to the electrical circuit posed by cable overloads and faults. It also measures device status in real-time, and sends alerts to managers of issues and downtime on their mobile devices or via email notifications. These instant notifications mean it is possible to stay fully connected at all times, enabling the business to respond when needed, regardless of whether the maintenance team is on site.

Using connected devices at the circuit level ensures the safety of a building’s assets by sharing the relevant environmental data, at unprecedented speed, to those who need to see it. The more data we have, the faster and more targeted the responses to the conditions and actionable insights can be. Thus, this is what continues to drive improvements in efficiency, maintenance and performance.

Damage limitation

Intelligent monitoring and maintenance tools are becoming vital to ensure the reliability and efficiency of the critical electrical infrastructure of a business. The implementation of smart sensors facilitates the uninterrupted flow of data throughout the electrical system for an overview of the state of the entire circuit.

Consequently, maintenance and service teams are able to check the condition of each breaker’s performance in real-time and respond before a problem can turn into a crisis. Damage is limited and maintenance scheduled only for when it is required.

This is the core value proposition of a connected and predictive maintenance strategy, and the main reason businesses are investing in maintenance strategies that can predict, not simply react.