Key insights for electrical distribution derived from successful football managers

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

This blog post was co-authored with Cyrille Huguet, EcoStruxure Power Analytics & AI Director at Schneider Electric.

Managing a top football team isn’t easy. The boss of any successful club will tell you that winning is not just about having great players, making inspiring speeches or choosing clever tactics on match day. It comes from taking the right decisions over weeks, months and years.

In turn, that requires an in-depth understanding of the resources they have at their disposal. To train their team for peak performance, for example, a manager has to know when to rest players and when to push them to their limits. And to build a strong squad, they must realize when they need to switch things around – bringing in new members and offloading others to get the right blend of abilities.

That’s why those in charge of the best clubs make sure they have data and analysis to inform their choices. They track their teams’ health and fitness with an array of metrics, and pore over game statistics to understand strengths and weaknesses.

Having all this at their fingertips helps managers plan effective training schedules, and recruit and develop new players. Without this information, they’re likely to run into problems. They might encounter opponents the team hadn’t prepared for. Or get to the cup final, only to find their star striker too exhausted to perform.

We want to help our customers use a similar approach to power their businesses. Because whether you’re running a factory, a train service or a company headquarters, the stakes of electricity distribution are high. Consistency is the name of the game, and failure comes with a high cost.

For many decades we’ve provided organizations with the equipment they need, such as circuit breakers, to support a reliable electricity supply. But their networks need managing and maintaining – and that can quickly become difficult to stay on top of. Wait too long to repair or replace components and you risk being stranded without power at critical moments. Equally, you don’t want to waste money by carrying out unnecessary maintenance or buying the wrong kit.

Just like football managers, the people in charge of these power networks need high quality information to guide their actions. But some are still doing the equivalent of picking the team, sitting back and hoping for the best.

There is a better way of doing things – as our recent experience working with a large European delivery company shows. For more than a decade, the courier has been using Schneider circuit breakers to help manage power networks at its sorting centers. But with around 50 sites to take care of, the job is a complex one.

In the past few years, we’ve been helping the company find more efficient ways to look after these systems, using our digitally-enabled service plans (like EcoCare membership*) to focus attention where it’s most needed.

Our cloud-based analytics bring together a wide range of operational data from the circuit breakers themselves, alongside information from sensors monitoring the surrounding environment (such as temperature and humidity). The data inputs – more than 100 in total – are then used to generate accurate estimates about the condition of different parts of the circuit breaker.

These readings provide a powerful framework for planning maintenance work. But they can be a lot to take in. To offer a further level of simplicity, our digital services also distil the analysis into a single health index rating, to provide an at-a-glance assessment of the device’s condition.

In addition, the analytics combine the asset health information with notifications from the circuit breaker, and records from past checks, to produce a separate maintenance index. Here, an overall rating gives an instant indication of how urgently maintenance needs to be scheduled, while specific scores for individual parts of the device provide a detailed breakdown of where it’s required.

Electrical Distribution

At one of the company’s sites, for example, the overall reading for this index warned that maintenance needed to be scheduled as a high priority. The detailed analysis revealed that two crucial components of one circuit breaker – the opening and closing coils – urgently needed replacing. Because we could direct the company towards addressing these problems, it will be able to avoid the disruptive shutdown that would result if the device failed.

We’re also encouraging the business to think about the bigger picture. Together, the index scores revealed that in addition to the coils, other key parts of the circuit breaker were showing signs of advanced wear. This suggested that the most cost-effective approach in the long term could well be to replace the entire device – which is approaching the end of its lifespan – now. That way, the company could avoid having to carry out a further expensive replacement job in the near future.

Ultimately, it’s for businesses to decide how to manage their assets. What we can do is give them the understanding they need to plan this strategically. Our analytics are based on lab tests and modelling by Schneider’s expert engineers – and they’re always getting more sophisticated. We add new data inputs every month, and use AI to tailor our insights to their specific context.

The cloud-based platform brings all the relevant information together in one place, and allows teams to access it from any location. That makes it easier to manage the safety, performance and efficiency of electrical distribution systems throughout the organization. And as we enter an increasingly electrified world, the potential of this is clear. We estimate that our analytics-powered service plans typically help customers reduce the frequency of their routine maintenance from every three to every five years. And that leaves more time for building a winning team – whether it’s parcels or passes that need delivering.

*Please verify the availability of EcoCare in your region through a local services sales’ representative. If EcoCare is not yet available, you can start leveraging EcoStruxure Service Plan.

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