Continuous Thermal Monitoring Boosts Food and Beverage Operational Safety and Uptime

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Many food and beverage organizations today are accelerating both business realignment and technology digitization in order to improve safety and drive productivity. Their challenge is to maintain high quality while still conforming to ever more aggressive regulatory policies.

In food and beverage manufacturing environments where chemicals, seeds and grains are involved, high fire protection measures are required in order to both maximize human safety and to minimize the risk of power loss- induced disruption and downtime.

A billion-euro European manufacturer of edible oils, livestock feed, and biodiesel fuels required a power distribution solution that would enable high precision monitoring of their operations. Since their business was characterized by challenging environmental conditions (high temperatures, seed dust, high presence of acids and oils) they needed a solution that could be monitored on a continual basis with a high degree of precision. They had recently experienced a fire, and their insurance company was requiring that the company have a continuous thermal monitoring system installed.

Traditional thermal monitoring costly and unreliable

Though traditional thermal surveys on electrical equipment have been commonplace for decades, the process is often manual, is always periodic, and is a costly, time consuming procedure. In this case, the edible oils manufacturer was concerned with an installed base of older Low Voltage (LV) panels which made it difficult to perform thermal imaging during operation. They were also concerned that their aggressive high acid plant conditions were accelerating wear and tear on their electrical equipment, especially on exposed copper surfaces.

A major cause of fire in medium and low voltage installations is faulty power connections. One of the main issues in this particular manufacturer’s environment was the high potential for thermal runaway conditions. Under such a scenario, a chain of events can occur. Loose connections from improper tightening or vibrations, as well as damaged contact surfaces due to corrosion or excessive pressure, can cause cable, bus bar and circuit breaker connections to deteriorate over time. The deterioration can be accelerated as both temperatures and electrical contact resistance increases. Higher temperature deteriorates connection surfaces even more, which, in turn, increase contact resistance. The result is thermal runaway, an out of control situation which leads to either fire, arc flash or explosion and results in switchgear destruction, plant downtime and possible operator injury.

Wireless solution reduces stress while minimizing risks

To avoid such a situation, the manufacturer decided to turn to Schneider Electric for a continuous thermal monitoring solution of their switchgear busbars. As part of the solution, Schneider Electric field experts installed wireless temperature sensors that monitor the joints and the connections between the individual bus bar sections. The data from these devices was then sent to Schneider Electric’s Power Monitoring Expert software where the temperature data from all of the joints is analyzed on a real-time basis. Then, based on the data analysis, alarms are generated (if temperatures are exceeding thresholds) and longer-term trending of temperatures is performed so that evidence of slow deterioration can be detected.

Additional benefits include more efficient energy use

As a result of the installation of their new continuous thermal monitoring system, the edible oils manufacturer was able to increase safety, reduce their insurance rates and boost plant uptime. The PME software system also provided monitoring capabilities for their entire electrical distribution system generating power loss alarming, along with energy use and breaker aging information. The software also has the potential to provide load application management and peak shaving capabilities in order to reduce future energy costs. Such a solution reduces the total cost of ownership by 60% throughout the solution lifecycle compared to traditional approaches.

For more information on how digitization can help to enable modernization and expansion of power distribution, go to the EcoStruxure Power page.

Or visit EcoStruxure™ for Food and Beverage Industry to learn more about how Schneider Electric is helping the industry in charge of feeding the world.

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