Integrated digitization at the product level: Four ways new medium voltage circuit breakers help increase uptime

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Downtime: It’s a word you never want to hear if you’re a facility manager, especially when an outage is unplanned. Now, thanks to newly designed medium voltage circuit breakers and switchgear, you have digitally integrated products at your disposal for increasing uptime.

These circuit breakers and switchgear are available with embedded digital connectivity and integrated sensors that allow you to better monitor your equipment at the product level. This gives you real-time information on the status of critical components so you can shift toward more proactive, condition-based maintenance. The new circuit breakers and switchgear work as standalone products or can be integrated with other building management or power monitoring systems.

Traditionally, medium voltage circuit breakers and metal-clad switchgear were not equipped with integrated sensors for product-level equipment monitoring, which is key to making condition-based decisions that increase uptime. You had to install external sensors and be connected to a specific software platform, but even then you could only get information about the integral components of the breakers themselves during routine shutdowns.

In this article, we’ll look at how you can use these new digital medium voltage circuit breakers and switchgear for health monitoring at the product level, which in turn can increase reliability and equipment life spans. We’ll also explain how these digitally integrated products can help you use electrical performance data for analytical insights as part of your condition-maintenance foundation to increase uptime.

Key insights into critical components: Use sensors in new medium voltage switchgear to capture data locally

The ability to quickly identify and address critical component issues within the digitally native circuit breakers and switchgear is key to reducing unplanned facility shutdowns.

The integrated sensors show you the real-time health of their components, which helps ensure the switchgear is running at peak condition. This also puts you in a better position to quickly intervene if abnormalities are detected. You can use this new product-level monitoring to root out pain points in your electrical distribution system quicker and easier.

The digitally integrated switchgear sensors continuously monitor temperature, speed, voltage, and current in components such as coils, motors, and vacuum interrupters. The sensors self-detect abnormal conditions which trigger warnings and real-time alerts if you need to take immediate action to minimize downtime and the risk of equipment damage.

With these condition-monitoring capabilities, your operators can better prioritize equipment maintenance and ensure that any component concerns are resolved before they become issues. For example, sensor data isolates a component or circuit as a point of concern. Maintenance personnel can access component data before a shutdown and be prepared with any repair or replacement parts needed to ensure a quicker and smoother maintenance process. On the other hand, if all components are shown in healthy condition, your personnel can prolong maintenance cycles.

Digitally integrated sensors also work collectively to give you a more holistic view of your equipment. These monitoring capabilities include:

  • Thermal: Measures the temperature of the switchgear busbar, as excessive heating can be an indication of increased resistance, poor contact, or excessive current flow, which can lead to equipment damage, safety hazards, or even fire
  • Mechanism: Measures the speed of the breaker on different points to detect deviation from initial mechanism speed
  • Vacuum interrupter: Measures the erosion gap (E-Gap), which monitors the wear of the vacuum interrupter based on the amount of current it breaks during its life
  • Coil: Monitors the status and health of electronic coils and the coils’ activation time
  • Charging motor: Monitors the run time and the current drawn by the motors for the spring load and racking device

Performance optimization: Use the new circuit breakers to operate at peak efficiency and increase uptime

Now that we’ve looked at how digitally integrated sensors can help you mitigate potential concerns before they cause shutdowns, let’s look at how you can use the new digital medium voltage circuit breakers and switchgear to increase operational efficiency.

Digital sensors in the new circuit breakers provide data on key performance indicators such as:

  • Operating time and speed
  • Number of operations
  • Overall breaker health

With this real-time data and insight, you and your staff can see which components are running at ideal conditions and analyze your energy consumption. Then you can begin making appropriate optimizations to increase efficiency, such as upgrades to reduce energy waste and excess carbon emissions. You may even be able to extend your overall maintenance cycles up to five times that of your traditional maintenance cycles.

An image of a person holding a mobile phone with a SureSet product in the background

Condition-based monitoring: Move toward proactive maintenance with asset health monitoring at the product level

In addition to the capabilities we’ve outlined above, the digital integration at the product level allows you to take a more proactive approach to maintenance at the operator level.

Digitization at the circuit breaker and switchgear levels allows you to continually monitor asset health, rather than waiting for scheduled maintenance shutdowns to reveal a need for repairs. You can accelerate your maintenance timetable for a component in need of repairs, or you can postpone maintenance for components that are running at an optimal measure.

For example, E-Gap sensors monitor erosion of arcing contacts. Erosion of arcing contacts can lead to increased contact resistance, poor electrical performance, and decreased reliability of the electrical system. By monitoring erosion through E-Gap sensors, your maintenance personnel can assess the condition of the contacts and determine when they need to be replaced or repaired. Without sensors, maintenance personnel would have to perform a shutdown or transfer power to an alternate source, withdraw the circuit breaker, and physically measure the erosion gap on the breaker.

This condition-based monitoring at the product level is a more singular path to predictive maintenance because it allows you to capture critical performance data, establish baselines, and identify long-term performance trends.

Remote monitoring: Reducing risk with digital connectivity

Remote monitoring and operation of your electrical distribution system is another benefit of digitized monitoring at the product level. With remote access, you can use your preferred desktop or mobile devices to modify settings and monitor the breaker health without physically accessing the circuit breaker. This capability streamlines maintenance activities and reduces the need for on-site visits.

Remote access enables your technicians to monitor equipment and operations within the facility, but outside of the arc flash zone. They can remain at a safe working distance by using native wireless communications to operate equipment and gather equipment performance data. Enabling remote digital operation from outside of the arc flash zone will reduce risk to personnel and equipment.

If you need to remotely troubleshoot an issue, you can access and diagnose abnormalities through Schneider Electric’s digital cloud services, EcoStruxure™ Asset Advisor. These cloud services provide remote access to the digital circuit breaker’s configuration settings, event logs, and diagnostic information. The data from these connections is collected in a digital logbook to help speed up diagnosis.

Learn how you can use smart digital medium voltage circuit breakers and switchgear to increase uptime

Given the capabilities we’ve covered above, you now have new options to increase uptime at the electrical distribution level. Schneider Electric’s new EvoPact™ digital medium voltage circuit breakers and SureSeT™ medium voltage switchgear offer smarter monitoring at the product level and are compatible with most existing software and various IoT platforms. They are specifically designed to help you reach and maintain peak performance to reduce downtime, asset lifetime costs, and even risks to personnel and equipment.

All of these capabilities add up to increased uptime. With these smarter, digitally enabled circuit breakers and switchgear, you can:

  • Get actionable insights into your electrical distribution systems with real-time performance data.
  • Use condition-based monitoring to increase the life of your equipment and avoid unplanned shutdowns.
  • Remotely monitor your electrical distribution system to reduce arc flash risks and to assess and repair anomalies offsite.
  • Proactively manage system performance to increase uptime between maintenance cycles.

Visit the Schneider Electric website to learn more about how you can use EvoPacT and SureSeT to increase your uptime and operate at peak performance.

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