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5 Tips for Structuring a Reliable Power Distribution Equipment Maintenance Plan

Most catastrophic faults that impact factory production or business uptime are the result of a failure in the implementation of a sound maintenance program. This failure is primarily due to management not fully understanding that maintenance is an investment in the business and not an expense of doing business.

From a power distribution infrastructure perspective, a comprehensive preventive maintenance and testing plan should incorporate all electrical power distribution equipment. This ensures that electrical equipment and components operate in a safe and reliable manner. The ultimate goal is to minimize equipment malfunction, power outages, or interruptions to operations or service.

The electrical infrastructure of a facility consists of service entrance switchgear and switchboards, Smart distribution panelboards, power panels, motor control centers, various sized circuit breakers, distribution transformers, fused disconnect switches, PDUs, UPS Units, battery banks, standby generators, paralleling switchgear and switchboards, and automatic transfer switches.

Oftentimes, facility personnel will enlist outside specialists to aid them in building a robust maintenance plan. These experts include maintenance contractors, local electrical contractors or original electrical equipment manufacturers (or their trained service agents or representatives) to formulate a workable maintenance plan.

A successful power infrastructure maintenance plan should address these 5 key challenges:

  1. Issue: Lack of current/up-to-date one-line diagrams

Recommendation: The services of a licensed professional electrical engineer should be contracted and commissioned to create and maintain current electrical one-line diagrams and equipment name plate data. The records should also indicate the specific location, room number, floor, or area location where each piece of electrical power distribution equipment can be found.

Benefit: An accurate one-line diagram creates a baseline from which to build a robust maintenance plan or policy.

  1. Issue: Acceleration of wear and tear on equipment

Recommendation: Moisture and heat combined with dirt, dust, or other contaminates in the environment will deteriorate the insulation, conductive materials, and protective devices in the equipment at a highly accelerated rate. Cleanliness and professional grade temperature/humidity controls can help maximize operating conditions so that life of reliable equipment can be extended.

Benefit: Lowered operational costs, lower total cost of ownership

  1. Issue: Environments with high potential for human error leading to business disruption

Recommendation: Contract and commission the services of a licensed professional electrical engineer to perform short circuit analyses, a time/current coordination study, and an arc flash analysis of all of the power distribution systems. These studies will ensure that the existing electrical equipment is properly rated, set, and labeled.

Benefit: This professional analysis will identify both safety concerns, and deficiencies in the power distribution system thereby enhancing uptime.

  1. Issue: Electrical systems that pose a potential threat to human safety

Recommendation: Electrical equipment should NOT be cleaned, inspected, maintained, serviced, or tested while it is energized. Therefore, facility management should ensure that the facility’s needs for temporary electrical power are met during the scheduled interruption of normal electrical service.

Benefit: Lowered risk of electrical accidents

  1. Issue: Neglect of bonding and grounding systems

Recommendation: Phase-to-ground faults make up between 95 to 98 percent of all electrical faults. During any phase-to-ground fault, the bonding and grounding systems of a facility consist of 50 percent of the power distribution system during the time of the fault. A licensed professional electrical engineer can assist facility management in the selection process for an electrical maintenance contractor who can perform grounding system inspections.

Benefit: Peace of mind and enhanced uptime

Schneider Electric partners can assist end users in performing critical electrical systems assessments and by identifying equipment maintenance risks that present system uptime vulnerabilities. For more information please download our free white paper, “Understanding Maintenance Contracts and Requirements for Low Voltage Power Distribution Equipment.”

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  • Without reliable power distribution, a factory or business could end up with unnecessary downtime, correct? This is one reason why I would imagine a maintenance plan would be so important. I think that commissioning the services of an electrical engineer to run tests and maintain your equipment, like the transformers, would be a smart idea.

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