Our planet’s population growth is accelerating. Its inhabitants are hungry for resources—and electricity is high on the list. Sustainability will be one of the major challenges of our future, and there are ample opportunities for sustainable product innovation in the energy field.
What makes a product sustainable? It’s one that lasts as long as necessary to fulfill its mission, does not require early replacement due to failure, and is scalable such that it can evolve alongside operating conditions and application growth. It’s also reusable or recyclable at the end of its useful life.
One way to ensure product sustainability is to build in serviceability from the start. This means considering future maintenance activities at the design stage— for example, by identifying consumables and positioning them as close as possible to the outside of the equipment. Products should also be built so that critical components don’t need dismantling for maintenance work. They must also be designed for flexibility—so it’s easy to make changes or enhancements if the specs change. Then there’s the need for complete lists of spare parts and a supply chain to get them on site fast. All this, including dismantling at the end of the product’s life, has to be thought of at the drawing board.
The digitization of electric equipment is key to sustainability (it’s also key to moving toward predictive and proactive maintenance, but I’ll get back to that). What I mean by digitization is equipping switchgear or power transformers, for example, with sensors and communication capabilities. Sensors can continuously send a wealth of status information and operational data to the Asset Management System through the cloud. This includes data about heat dissipation, for example. Those data let us understand equipment status, which then enables us to identify maintenance or replacement needs.
Digitization therefore opens up a whole new maintenance paradigm. Maintenance can now be carried out ONLY when needed, that is, when the switchgear itself says so via its digitized diagnostics. This way, unexpected failures (and the corresponding outage, loss of income and corrective maintenance) can be avoided. So too can regular preventive maintenance visits, which are costly, time-consuming and frequently superfluous.
On the other hand, triggered, condition-based maintenance demands a flexible service plan, whereby organizations pay according to the switchgear’s mission and environment. This provides new asset-care options—the ability to tailor a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to business constraints—to balance costs, risks and benefits. We at Schneider now offer such tailored SLAs. It’s another of our contributions to sustainability.
To learn more, read our technical paper: Flexible Service Plans and for Increasing Sustainability in Electrical Installations.