In the ongoing balancing act of achieving maximum production efficiency but keeping a tight control on budgets, appointing a trusted preventive maintenance partner who can extend the lifespan of existing power installations and retrofit upgrades is the best way to keep a control on costs, buying in new equipment only when absolutely necessary.

By Jaco Richards, PD service and business development manager at Eaton South Africa

The benefits are many, starting with the fact that upgrades and repairs are usually allowed for in a business’s operational expenditure (OpEx) budget, making funds more readily available should repairs or replacements be required quickly.

Reconditioning of existing equipment also covered by OpEx, is another way to enhance the useful life and total performance of a power installation.

In contrast, replacing entire systems of infrastructure, paid for as part of the capital expenditure (CapEx) budget, could take many months, depending on the business’s budgeting and approval cycle.

Similarly, taking a proactive approach to measuring and managing the power system as a strategic, integrated asset, with ongoing ‘health’ checks and regular preventive maintenance, will in turn see both OpEx and CapEx requirements being reduced over the long term.

Effective management of power requires strategic thinking, intelligent system design, integration, coordination and control, along with global experience in best practice and local insights into regulations and controls. Doing so helps keep power systems safe, efficient, reliable and up-to-date.

Preventive inspections can identify most, if not all, defects and deficiencies before they become a problem, preventing repair costs, and avoiding the indirect costs associated with loss of production. During inspections, defects can be detected, including flaws such as cracks in the insulation systems or supports, compromised enclosures and seals, as well as more subtle problems such as symptoms of onset of insulation degradation or components overheating.

Uptime and reliability will also be improved by monitoring, measuring and controlling the power that flows through a facility, and turning it into a competitive advantage for a business by helping to reduce energy and operating costs.

Achieving cohesion between legacy systems installed by different providers over the lifetime of a power facility is not easy, but expert teams can design ways to get these systems to work together, along with system upgrades, in a fully integrated solution.

With safety a paramount concern in any business, the reduction of arc flash risks and hazards is of great concern to business owners whose teams deal with high levels of electrical energy. An arc flash event that can result in serious injury including critical burns, collapsed lungs, loss of vision, ruptured eardrums, puncture wounds and even death.

Power system modernisation provides simple ground-and-test (G&T) devices for most manufacturers’ medium voltage ANSI-rated switchgear breakers. These G&T devices test and ground medium voltage circuits to protect personnel from injury when performing maintenance on de-energised circuits.

While modern electrical switchgear and distribution systems require little or no maintenance, the reliability of equipment is also influenced by the environmental conditions and type of use, while the quality of installation workmanship, operation duty in the given application, and many other factors could also influence the lifespan and integrity of a power installation.

Eaton’s engineering and consulting services focus on understanding each business’s requirements and optimising their power system to meet specific needs, so that management teams can focus on their core business, without having to expend unnecessary time, money or energy on anything but their core business.

Specialist maintenance engineers and consultants can help diagnose problems, identify ways to improve performance or transform concepts into flexible, practical solutions that can improve productivity and use of capital.