6 Ways to Optimize Your Electrical Distribution System

These days, there is a huge burden on manufacturers to find new ways to lower their operating costs, maximize efficiency, and enhance worker safety. As many manufacturers know, this is not an easy task, no matter what industry you are in. Many facilities are working with a reduced budget and need to come up with creative solutions so that they can get a better return on investment.

One way in which facilities are reducing risk and maximizing their efficiency is by optimizing their electrical distribution system. Whether you are dealing with the installation of new electrical distribution products or updating an existing electrical infrastructure, there are some ways in which you can get more out of your electrical distribution system and boost your plant’s performance.

Why Is Optimizing Equipment Performance Important?

Due to decreasing budgets, there is a lot of pressure on companies to find creative ways to reduce operating costs while not sacrificing worker safety. By improving your equipment’s performance, you can achieve both. Here are some other reasons why it is important that you optimize your electrical distribution system:

It Is a Worthwhile Investment

While it can seem like an unreasonable expense at the time, the initial startup cost for a building is often insignificant compared to the life cycle cost. This makes it especially important to focus on optimizing your equipment at the point of installation. By doing so, manufacturers can expect a much longer lifespan out of their electrical distribution equipment, while also mitigating workplace risks.

It Improves Your Facility

With a fully optimized electrical distribution system, you can expect your plant facility to operate at peak performance and see visible improvement in products and services as a result. Competition is tough, these days, but your company can stand apart from the rest by improving your overall operations.

It Mitigates Risk

Making sure that your electrical distribution system is operating at peak efficiency not only boosts your bottom line, but it also reduces the risk of injuries at your facility. Whether it is a forced outage or a possible arc flash hazard, optimizing your system can increase the safety of your employees.

1. Use Analytical Studies

There are many studies that manufacturers can use that will help improve their electrical distribution system. Analyzing the performance of electrical equipment with these most common studies can help your operations be more efficient:

Short Circuit Analysis

A short circuit can prove to be catastrophic to your operation. By conducting a short circuit analysis, you can calculate the fault-current levels in your electrical system and determine whether or not your electrical components can endure a worst-case scenario. A short circuit analysis will identify underrated equipment and help you comply with industry standards. This type of study should be conducted at the start of installation for new electrical equipment.

Projective Device Time-Current Coordination Analysis

In this type of analysis, you can evaluate the time-current of each of your protective devices, such as relays, fuses, or circuit breakers. By coordinating the system to protect specific devices, you can isolate faulty circuits and avoid widespread outages across your electrical distribution system.

Arc Flash Analysis

Arc flashes are extremely dangerous and can be deadly. For this reason, arc flash analysis studies are performed to identify arc flash hazards in your electrical system. By performing this analysis, you can better protect your employees, and help improve and maintain your electrical distribution system.

 

2. Prevent Problems During Commissioning and Initial Start Up

There is much that can go wrong during the time your electrical equipment leaves the manufacturing facility and the time it arrives at your own facility. By having a startup commissioning entity perform testing on your equipment, you can rest assured knowing that everything is performing as it should, and that it meets industry standards. Some testing options include:

  • Electrical Testing
  • Mechanical Testing
  • Visual Inspection
  • Complex Control/Protection Schemes

For proper commissioning, there are certain electrical components that are recommended. These may include transformers, switchgears, switchboards, voltage starters, and other types of electrical equipment. By documenting the recommended procedures for these components, you can get a good baseline for what maintenance practices should be performed on equipment in the future.

3. Enact Preventative Maintenance

Any system that has moving parts will need to be serviced regularly. A comprehensive maintenance agreement will not only make it easier for you to follow NFPA 70E standards, but it will also help you prevent costly repairs and replacements.

Benefits of a Maintenance Agreement

While it is tempting to cut costs anywhere that you can, maintenance of your electrical distribution system is one area that can’t be neglected. A maintenance agreement makes it much easier for manufacturers to keep on top of regular maintenance to ensure that everything is working properly.

Your maintenance agreement will also reduce the chance of equipment failure, which can often result in huge revenue losses. According to the Institute ofElectrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the failure rate of electrical components is three times higher for systems where preventative maintenance is not performed. In order to increase your electrical distribution system’s efficiency and improve safety, a maintenance agreement is key.

What Your Maintenance Agreement Should Cover

You can improve the reliability and safety of your electrical distribution system by making sure that your maintenance agreement covers the following areas:

  • Inspections: Current assessment of the state of your electrical system and recommendations for improvement.
  • Testing: Electrical testing, protective and control scheme testing, etc.
  • Monitoring: Monitoring your electrical equipment to detect early signs of equipment failure.
  • Cleaning/lubrication: Routine cleaning will help keep your electrical distribution system operating efficiently. Dirt, dust, humidity, and temperature can all affect your electrical equipment, and it will need regular cleaning to prevent issues.
  • Repair/replacements: Repairing and replacing any electrical equipment that is not performing properly.
  • Emergency services: In the case of an emergency, maintenance agreements may offer their services that include 24/7 onsite response times.

If you are concerned about your maintenance budget, there are some options for you to take. Some agreements can be flexible in regards to payment, and offer customers annual and long-term contracts (3-6 year agreements). Other options may include custom solutions to fit your facility’s budget and work scope. No matter what plan you decide to go with, it is always a good idea to screen your service provider and ask for details about their emergency safety plans.

4. Acquire an Extended Warranty Plan

In addition to a maintenance agreement, it is also important for manufacturers to have an extended warranty plan for new electrical equipment purchases. Warranties can come 12 or 18 months long, from the time of shipment or from the date the equipment was manufactured. Today, more people are seeing the benefit extended warranties provide to their electrical distribution system. Warranties should cover both parts and equipment, and you can typically extend the warranty after the point of sale.

Even if the electrical manufacturer has a reputation for reliable parts and equipment, it is important to consider getting an extended warranty to help optimize your facility. To get the most out of your extended warranty, here are some key tips to keep in mind:

  • Discounts might be available: You can potentially get a discount on your extended warranty when you purchase it at the point of sale.
  • The longer the agreement, the better the value: Most warranties give better deals for longer service agreements. For example, a three-year service plan will probably be a better value than a standard one-year plan.
  • Warranties can be customized: Ask the manufacturer about custom options for extended warranties. Customized solutions will be able to meet your facility’s needs better.
  • Make sure that you read the fine print: Are equipment in and out charges covered? Who will be responsible when a transformer fails and you need emergency assistance? Who will pay fees for expedited parts? These are just a few of the questions that you will need to determine by reading the fine print.

5. Train Your Employees

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) specifies training requirements in 29 CFR 1910 that employers are required to give to their employees to ensure their safety. Not only does training result in better workplace performance, but employee training can also help you get the most out of your electrical distribution system.

Does the employee know what to do when a transformer fails? Can they safely and effectively get an electrical network back up and running if needed? Through proper training, your facility can maximize its productivity and help leverage performance.

Employee Safety Training

Safety is important in any industry, but it is critical when it comes to working with electrical equipment. Employees should be knowledgeable about your facility’s electrical distribution system—whether it is new or old. Employers should be educating their employees on topics such as lock-out/tag-out procedures, electrical hazards, and how to use specific tools and equipment. This will reduce the risk of onsite injuries and boost efficiency in the workplace.

Benefits of Training

In addition to mitigating the risk of injury, training also has significant benefits to both employers and employees. Providing training to your employees helps them grow their career and gives them motivation. Training your employees also shows that you care about your safety, and this can both raise employee morale and make them more efficient.

How to Train Your Employees

While the responsibility of training falls upon the employer, it doesn’t mean that they have to be the ones to train them. Employers frequently turn to companies who offer online courses for at least part of their employee’s safety training. These online courses will give employees the necessary training in electrical safety practices so that the employer only has to worry about in-person training.

6. Have Spare Parts Onsite

When new electrical equipment is installed into your facility, it is important that you have spare parts onsite in the case of an emergency. Without spare parts, an outage could affect your company’s production and could prove costly. In order to minimize downtime and keep your facility running smoothly, it is recommended that you always have spare parts onsite.

Evaluate Your Electrical Distribution System

Before you decide which parts to have on hand, an evaluation of your electrical distribution system is typically performed. This will help you identify which parts of your equipment are in the most danger of failing or which components would be costliest in a worst-case event.

Analyze When to Purchase Spare Parts

It may be better to purchase parts when you need them, as opposed to having them onsite. Equipment will age over time, and some parts may age quicker than others. With this in mind, you will need to decide which parts are better to have onsite and which are best ordered as needed.

However, it is still critical that you think about this far in advance. After your evaluation, make a list of which parts you would order in the case of an emergency and whether or not your electrical distribution supplier offers same day shipping. Getting your part there as quickly as possible could make all the difference and will improve your electrical distribution system’s efficiency.

Other Possible Solutions for Optimizing Existing Electrical Infrastructure

When new electrical equipment is installed into your facility, it is important that you have spare parts onsite in the case of an emergency. Without spare parts, an outage could affect your company’s production and could prove costly. In order to minimize downtime and keep your facility running smoothly, it is recommended that you always have spare parts onsite.

Try Replacement/Retrofitting

While it may seem costly, manufacturers should consider replacing their old equipment with new electrical equipment if it is fairly old. Old electrical equipment will reach a point where it is better to switch out the old equipment to maximize your facility’s operations. Retrofitting your existing equipment is also a possibility.

Employ Power Factor Correction Solutions

Determining the power factor in your facility and finding ways to lower the penalty that could be charged by your utilities is another way to optimize your electrical distribution system. Manufacturers should be aware of potential penalty factors and examine their utility bill to see what can be done about their power factor.

Put in a New Substation

Putting in a new substation could potentially provide manufacturers with a better ROI overtime. Those who consume large amounts of power may find it useful to consider whether a new substation could benefit them and boost operational savings.

Conclusion

The goal of every business is to maximize their profit margins without impacting the safety of their employees. With decreasing budgets and tighter work schedules, many plant facilities are searching for ways to increase their production while using fewer resources. The six strategies listed above will allow manufacturing operators to optimize their electrical distribution systems in order to achieve their revenue goals. While certain solutions may not be best for every facility, these strategies can make electrical equipment more reliable and can help businesses to succeed in a competitive market.

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