Each day, businesses increase their demands on their electrical infrastructure. Unfortunately, the electrical system in place may not have been originally designed to support these increased loads. All electrical equipment needs to be maintained regularly in order to ensure the infrastructure operates under favourable conditions. This reduces the risk of breakdowns and enhances safety. The principal reason for electrical system failure is lack of maintenance, which can be impacted by environmental conditions, overload conditions and excessive duty cycles.
For electrical equipment, the question is not ‘if the failure will occur’, but ‘when will the failure occur’. Studies have shown electrical equipment failure rates are three times higher when not part of a scheduled maintenance program, when compared to equipment which is part of a service plan. When electrical systems are in disrepair, unanticipated downtime occurs and employees and facility visitors can be exposed to potential safety hazards. Fortunately a structured, planned maintenance program can address these concerns
Organisations have a number of maintenance program options to choose from. One option is the traditional, on-demand approach where maintenance is only performed when the business owner or related stakeholders request it. Equipment lifecycle issues are rarely taken into consideration and no long term agreement exists between the business and the service provider. In this scenario, cost is low, but the customer is not treated as a priority by the service provider and the risk that losses can negatively impact the business is high.
Another option is to engage the service provider directly by signing up for a service plan. In addition to standard maintenance, service plans offer a ‘predictive maintenance’ element that is based upon an audit of equipment to be covered by the plan. Under this scenario, it can also include maintenance activities that estimate and simulate equipment condition over time, utilising probabilities to assess downtime risks. In most instances, service plans include replacement of parts, scanning of breaker panels, system adjustments, cleaning and possible updating of physical infrastructure firmware.
Service plans hold a clear advantage over on-demand maintenance when it comes to emergency on-site intervention, labour and spare parts costs. Some businesses are more critical in nature than others.
The first step in conducting proper electrical equipment maintenance is to begin by adopting manufacturer standard requirements and specific manufacturers’ recommendations. Visits by qualified maintenance personnel serve as a validation that the electrical equipment is on track to support the organisations uptime goals. Maintenance professionals with electrical distribution expertise can identify the aging of various internal components and determine how much the component influences the overall reliability of the system.
The maintenance professional should observe the environment (circuit breakers, installation practices, cabling techniques, mechanical connections, load types) and alert the owner to the possible premature wear and tear of components. They should also point out factors that may have a negative impact on system availability such as possible human error in handling equipment, higher than normal temperatures or presence of gas in oil for transformers and corrosion. A maintenance visit should also include an evaluation of outside environmental factors that can impact performance. The depth and breadth of the maintenance visit will depend upon the criticality level of the operation and should result in the formulation of an appropriate service plan.
Investing in a service plan enables an organisation to avoid up to 67 per cent of potential electrical breakdowns and therefore avoids the financial losses that accompany such breakdowns. Service plans reduce overall maintenance expenses and also prolong the life of electrical equipment.