7 ways that power management helps avoid unplanned downtime

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This blog series has been looking at the different ways to improve the power availability and reliability in your facility. In this post, I will be looking in more detail at how power management technology and best practices can help.

Power management

A few years ago, a power outage at the world’s largest airport – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International – cost Delta Air Lines a loss of income in the range of $25 to $50 million due to being forced to cancel about 1,400 flights. It also took airlines several days to resume their normal schedules. This example highlights the risks and costs associated with unplanned downtime. These kinds of impacts are not unusual for other types of facilities as well. Interbit Data estimates that the average cost of downtime in hospitals is $8,662 per minute.

Large buildings and critical facilities are especially dependent on reliable power, but power-related issues are increasingly common. There are many reasons for this. Severe weather events have increased in recent years, the transmission grid is aging, and utilities are adding more decentralized power sources. These factors can cause more power disturbances that are passed into your facility. Electrical networks inside facilities are also becoming more complex. Increasing amounts of power electronics – such as drives and PLCs – can generate ‘pollution’ in your power system that harms or affects the reliability of equipment.

With a world presenting us with more uncertainty, power infrastructures need to be more resilient. Do you know what your risk exposure is and how resilient your operations are? What would happen if you experience an unexpected power interruption? How would one minute or one hour of unplanned downtime impact your bottom line? If your business relies on clean, stable, reliable power, you need to monitor and maintain high levels of power quality, ideally meeting international standards like EN 50160 and IEEE 519.

Digitization of your electrical power distribution system will help bring greater visibility, insights, and decision support to help demystify the complex power quality issues that can impact your operations and longevity of critical assets.

7 ways that power management helps keep your facility running

1. Electrical distribution monitoring & alarming

A power management system gives operations and maintenance staff visibility of the status of the entire electrical system, helping you monitor and run reports on conditions like peak demand and loading of equipment like breakers, UPSs, transformers, generators, etc. Your team will receive alarms on any abnormal conditions or events, letting you see, analyze, and understand where failures of the electrical distribution network come from.

2. Breaker settings monitoring

You need to be confident that electrical protection devices are able to fulfill their function, with protection coordination that reduces the impact of an outage. A power management system helps you regularly check breaker configuration to prevent issues due to inappropriate or poorly coordinated circuit breaker settings.

3. Capacity management

Power management tools will help you understand the capacity needs of your electrical distribution infrastructure, including supplying expansions or modifications of the facility environment. You can make sure that when you upgrade the facility you will not be exceeding the rated capacity of equipment. This will help mitigate potential risks to the electrical infrastructure due to things like nuisance breaker trips, or overheating that can cause fires.

4. Backup power testing

Business continuity depends on critical assets like motors, transformers and backup power systems. However, Arshad Mansoor, SVP, Electric Power Research Institute has said, “backup generators won’t work 20-30% of the time.” You need ensure the reliability and availability of back-up power supply systems in the event of unexpected power outages. Using accurate data from the electrical distribution system, a power management system can help. Automated routines test generators to ensure regulatory compliance, while helping save time, improve productivity and ensure accuracy of testing process and documentation per standards or manufacturer recommendations.

5. Power quality monitoring & correction

Power quality issues can go unnoticed and have a major impact on operations and processes, leading to equipment damage, useful lifetime being degraded, or unplanned downtime. These hidden issues are more common than you might expect, with an estimated 15% of facilities operating with problematic power quality. 70% of power quality disturbances originate within facilities, and cause 30-40% of resulting downtime incidents. A power management system has the analytic tools to help you understand which power quality events could adversely affect operations. You can monitor and analyze persistent power quality disturbances, determining actions needed to correct issues. This might include the installation of power quality correction equipment, such as harmonic filters.

6. Power control & automation

Power management and power operation systems offer the ability perform manual and automated remote control of loads. This can simplify load shedding for demand control or demand response strategies. Automatic control schemes can also be used for power source transfers. This can support self-healing network reconfiguration to quickly isolate a fault and restore power.

7. Power event analysis

When a potentially damaging power event occurs in your electrical network, you need to be able to isolate it quickly. Power management systems give you advanced tools that include alarm prioritization, sequence-of-events analysis, and disturbance direction detection that help you perform efficient root cause analysis. Armed with this information, you team can immediately make the right decisions, use mobile app guidance tools to help restore power, and perform preventative actions to avoid similar future events.

Now more than ever before your organization needs to focus on power availability and reliability. Otherwise, you risk having more unplanned downtime, highly inefficient electrical operations, and more frequent equipment failures. These all leads to higher OPEX and, in some cases, major financial losses. A digitized power distribution network and power management tools will help you analyze and optimize electrical distribution health. However, if your facility doesn’t have the resources or expertise to take full advantage of these tools, you can engage a range of advisory services to augment your team. We will look at these services more closely in my next post on expert services for predictive maintenance.

Visit our solutions page to learn more about power availability and reliability. For information about power management tools for backup power testing and regulatory compliance, download our eGuide.

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