For some industrial businesses, an electrical distribution assessment is done only after things go wrong. Doing a study before an issue becomes a critical problem is a great way to avoid a catastrophic shutdown, huge repair bill and unhappy customers.
Electrical Distribution Assessments
It's easy to take our power systems for granted. When the
- lights start to flicker,
- control systems can't hold their process, or
- circuit breakers start to trip,
... it's time to figure out what's going wrong before the entire system drops out and the facility is left in the dark.
A electrical distribution assessment is one component of power system studies and gives you valuable information on the present state of your electrical distribution system.
The local utility is responsible for the power supply and facility owners are responsible for everything else from the transformer to the grounding and to each and every individual wall socket. Along the journey, there are plenty of motors, computers and control systems that require a good supply and ground to keep your business running smoothly.
As professional electrical engineers, it is our responsibility to work with owners to make sure your electrical investments continues to pay off for years to come. Downtime means lost production, idle workers and lost revenues.
What is an Electrical Distribution Assessment?
An electrical distribution study covers the entire system. And sometimes we discover many bugs in the system (and squirrels).
As electrical consultants, no two power studies are ever the same because of different designs, circuits and equipment installations. ICS Engineering analyzes the system in a hierarchical way and breaks the investigation down into three categories:
- Power Quality - Brown-outs, black-outs and lightning spikes are well known but did you know that your simple VFD motor controller can change the current supply and affect downstream gear with harmonic interference?
- Grounding Studies and Bonding - We are fanatics for grounding and bonding! Not only for safety but also for correct circuit performance.
- Equipment - Specialized equipment needs to be properly supplied and protected for maximum performance and efficiency. As system integrators, we make sure that the entire system meets the intended reliability and operational costs.
Where Do I Start?
Knowing the different parts of the system is important for maintenance. Understanding the reliability and how much life is left in each component is even more important for the safety of workers and the financial stability of the facility.
As professional engineers, we work with you to understand how your production systems operate, verify the performance of the power system and then make recommendations on:
- the reliability of the equipment,
- the remaining lifespan of the components
- the cost of operation (watch your power factors)
- the cost of replacement (watch your capital investments)
- the opportunity for upgrade and expansion.
You get the risk management information needed to make long term plans with your limited budget.
Step 1 - The first part of the assessment is about talking and listening. We'll sit down together and listen to the problems that your facility has been experiencing. We want to hear about all electrical problems, no matter how insignificant such as a flickering light all the way to a premature failure of a motor. They may seem random but put together, they may be symptomatic of larger problem.
Before we go out into the field, your electrical distribution assessment starts with a meeting where we listen to your electrical problems, issues and future needs. (Photo taken in Alberta, Canada)
And we want to hear your 'wish-list' of your ideal system and where you see future expansion and capacity plans.
We'll walk you through the first step and understand what's been going on. And then we'll start making connections, providing evidence and giving our best engineering opinion on what may be happening.
Step 2 - During our site visit, we'll investigate the different parts of the facility. We conduct functional testing of equipment under load and may then possibly shut down the system to investigate (testing has taken place in off-hours). We may recommend an electrical load monitoring test to determine what and where a problem is located.
Step 3 - This is the fun part where we find the cause of the problem and provide evidence. We'll make recommendations for short-term solutions, make a long-term roadmap that matches future expansion plans and prioritize all issues according to severity and cost.
We are here to help you gain knowledge of your power systems engineering and to make the right business investments.
How Much Can an Outage Cost?
Transformer fire - Back in our corporate days, a distribution transformer caught fire and exploded on a hot summer day, with the system fully loaded with the air-conditioner units. All 500 employees got the day off and cost the company about $100k in salaries alone for one lost productivity day.
Motor Outage - If a primary ski-lift goes down, the operator usually discounts ticket holders if a major section of the mountain is inaccessible.
Circuit Breaker Tripping - It costs more than just labour costs and time to go 'flick a switch'. Customers can become impatient and irate as they wait for service to be restored. What's the price of a disgruntled customer worth to your business?
A power distribution assessment is not required to be done every year. But as a part of your business risk management system, it should be included every-so-often to prevent a total outage to your industrial control system. It's easy to take electricity for granted but it can't be stressed enough that all modern facilities will grind to a halt without power.
Contact ICS Engineering with questions and concerns about your electrical distribution system.