Too often, electrical systems aren’t always given the maintenance priority they might deserve. Today, we understand the importance of why the electrical infrastructure is critical to doing business and why plant safety can be enhanced with a little thought and planning.
For the majority of electrical work that happens in a facility, including scheduled maintenance, de-energizing the system is the fundamental requirement for safety. The electrical infrastructure of a building, including distribution and controls, is the heart of any facility. Without a reliable source of electricity, production would not be possible. So, what can be done to make electrical system maintenance a priority?
Schedule regularly, avoid spontaneity.
Even with the critical nature of electrical equipment, regularly scheduled maintenance needs to be a primary focus. Facility managers don’t often think about maintenance until a disruption, like an equipment failure, occurs within the system.
Neglecting regular maintenance of electrical equipment, especially over a long period of time, may lead to a disruption in facility operations and possibly a damaging system failure or an incident. Reliable equipment will increase safety and decrease property risks.
Don’t overlook the obvious.
Electrical equipment, especially what modern facilities are installing today, is well-designed, it’s safe to operate and it generally has a long service life. By nature, electrical systems are usually hidden from sight.
Thus, when it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind – awareness may not be raised as long as lights turn on and everything operates as it normally would. Even new equipment requires a proactive maintenance and service program and then it needs to be inspected to ensure it is properly installed, functioning and can be well maintained.
The Electrical System Can’t Always Speak for Itself.
Though sensors and condition-based monitoring are becoming more and more common, particularly thermal monitoring of critical electrical infrastructure, a fair amount of electrical equipment in use today still can’t warn us when a failure is imminent.
It could be less disruptive to operations if workers could identify equipment that is about to fail, before the failure occurs, so proper steps could be taken to prevent or minimize the downtime impact to people, processes, equipment and operations.
Regular maintenance is required to ensure that equipment can be operated as expected. For example, contacts that are not regularly exercised have a tendency to stick, or not open at all, leading to longer clearing times than expected.
Plan for maintenance.
While de-energizing equipment is a fundamental requirement for electrical safety, de-energizing by its nature is disruptive to facility operations. Thus, it is best to anticipate and plan for maintenance.
A conscious plan for maintenance is far financially advantageous to the other option, when unplanned maintenance occurs when least expected. It also may be helpful knowing that a facility-wide shutdown is happening, so steps can be taken to ensure operational disruptions will be minimized.
Maintenance shutdowns have a cost and require planning, so it’s important to anticipate the need and even budget appropriately. If the facility does not have trained and qualified electrical workers to perform the system maintenance, then many qualified service companies exist and can offer these services.
Planned maintenance has the distinct advantage of making sure that experts can be present. Some equipment manufacturers can even be onsite to assist customers with large PM programs when maintenance is scheduled in advance and not unplanned.
My favorite part of this article is when you talked about how financially advantageous it is to have a conscious plan for maintenance compared to when unplanned maintenance occurs when least expected. My aunt works at a manufacturing business and was recently talking to me about how they plan ahead for facility repairs to keep it from being shut down. Thank you for the information about how you can plan for steps to be taken to ensure operational disruptions are minimized.
I’m glad you pointed out that since electrical systems are made to be out of sight, they’re often overlooked for regular maintenance. My husband and I just moved into a new home, and I want to keep it in the best shape possible by having all the systems properly maintained. I hadn’t considered that the electrical infrastructure needs regular maintenance as well, so thanks for pointing that out!
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