Completing the Circuit

Written by:

Erik Jonson

PE, Electrical Engineering Department Manager

For Semiconductor Digest

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Integrating Electrical Reliability into a Vigorous Risk Management Plan

Interruption of power supply that halt plant operations is one of the things that keep plant managers up at night. Only after a potentially catastrophic event do they realize that they overlooked their power supply when expanding production capabilities or in crisis mode during a failure. They also may not have addressed their aging electrical distribution systems which is one of the biggest challenges to industrial operations as many of these systems may be approaching end of life, increasing the probability of failure on an exponential scale.

A key and significant challenge faced by many plants is aging infrastructure. While structural elements of a building can last 100 years or more, electrical systems do not. The quality of materials, workmanship during installation, maintenance, loading and environmental factors can all contribute to the degree of degradation over time. Even in newer facilities, it is difficult to predict when electrical equipment and associated components will begin to falter or fail. Even worse, it is difficult to replace obsolete, failing, or aging equipment due to longer lead times in an unpredictable global supply chain.

Demands placed on electrical systems today will not be the same set of demands placed on future electrical systems, especially after future expansions, safety and security improvements, sustainability efforts, or upgrades to comply with regulatory requirements.

To guard against the unthinkable and to keep industrial facilities running at full production capacity, it’s critical that plant managers allocate expenditure to maintain their electrical system and to keep it functioning at a high level. This includes developing a customized Electrical Reliability Plan (ERP) to ensure a safe, reliable, scalable, maintainable, and long-term electrical infrastructure.

Investing in an Electrical Reliability Plan (ERP)

Almost every organization prioritizes risk management and allocates capital towards preventing or mitigating highly ranked threats based on the likelihood of, and how detrimental the risk would be to operations.

Before asking “When will this fail?” ask “Where are the greatest risks and how can we address them before they become problems?” The answers to these questions are complex; however, an ERP ranks risk, based on the life expectancy, cost, and critical nature of an electrical distribution system. This then gives plant managers the ability to strategically upgrade, repair, and/or replace electrical equipment when needed to safeguard against a catastrophic power failure. Thus, an ERP fits into any company’s risk management framework.

It is important to perform an analysis to identify and prioritize areas of need. Plant managers often want to know exactly how long it will be before a specific part of the electrical system fails. The ERP turns that mindset around by providing a risk management approach that identifies the most effective areas of investment.

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