Upgrading power supplies can supercharge manufacturing operations

Adding or upgrading a new industrial power supply at a construction site or industrial facility can take productivity and profitability to new heights. However, planning and measurement are needed to get the installation right, says Emily Newton.
Upgrading power supplies can supercharge manufacturing operations
When it comes to equipment and power supplies, real-world circumstances often deliver a different experience than sterile testing conditions. Adding or upgrading a new industrial power supply at a construction site or industrial facility can take productivity and profitability to new heights. However, planning and measurement are needed to get the installation right.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), manufacturing pulls 77% of all the electricity consumed by industry in the United States by the four major industrial types. The remaining three are mining (12%), construction (7%) and agriculture (5%).

Thoughtful technology implementations and upgrades can help businesses achieve higher profits and more consistent output.

How to Tell When It’s Time for an Upgrade
All industries have felt the effects of labor and material shortages, as well as other disruptions, over the last few years. These days, every company needs to consider how technology and automation can improve their industry outlook and take on new jobs and challenges without running into capacity problems.

Manufacturing is especially ripe for modernization in this way – but it requires an electrical infrastructure ready for the upgrade. Here are two examples that can shed light on whether it’s time for a new power supply.

A Need to Improve Equipment Effectiveness
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the network of interconnected sensors and logic boards attached to assets like pallet trucks, conveyor belts and assembly equipment. These sensors facilitate predictive maintenance by recording and analyzing industrial equipment's temperature, sound, and even vibration and use these variables to predict when upkeep is due.

Proactively engaging in condition monitoring can save companies time and money and allow them to boost productivity without making bigger investments. Robert Schmid, a technologist at Deloitte, reports that one client that added IIoT capabilities to its manufacturing plant improved OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) by almost 10%.

The amount of time and material wasted fell due to fewer unexpected machine failures, and the company is taking full advantage of available capacity. It also avoided spending $25 million on a new assembly line – the previously floated suggestion to remedying its flagging productivity.

The only problem with adopting the IIoT to realize these benefits is that incorporating a distributed computing system requires almost 24/7 power consumption. Modern manufacturing presents all-new computing and power requirements, meaning tech adoption is one of the big reasons why companies upgrade their industrial power supplies. The alternatives are battery power or various exotic energy-capturing technologies, like piezoelectric devices that utilize energy from mechanical vibrations.

Happily, on-site IIoT equipment is itself a tool for optimizing electricity flow. It sports some of the most advanced voltage sensors on the market, making facilities and sites with IIoT-based power distribution safer for employees and equipment alike.

A Need to Expand Industrial Capacity
The manufacturing sector is a critical component in any advancing economy – including in Nigeria, where suboptimal power supplies are compromising manufacturers’ effectiveness all over the country. This sector directly and indirectly employs 5 million individuals and supports 3,000 manufacturers of various sizes throughout the region.

The director-general for the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Segun Ajayi-Kadir, says this critical sector is overdue for an electricity infrastructure overhaul to raise its flagging productivity and capacity. It’s also needed to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding economy. “The manufacturing sector is already plagued with a high-cost operating environment emanating principally from [the] high cost of poor energy regulation … this poor condition is responsible for the oscillatory performance of the sector.”

The solution for making manufacturing more consistent in quality and quantity of output, he says, is more government investment in technological development and energy-conscious policies. The aims are to improve the country’s existing generation and transmission infrastructure and court more foreign investments in the country’s manufacturing sector.

Knowing how to lay the groundwork for upgrades to a manufacturing power supply is critical for realizing goals like these.

Analyze Site or Facility Needs
Analyzing site or facility requirements is step one for upgrading industrial power supplies. It’s vital to bring the available project voltage up to a new potential, so manufacturers should know what questions to ask before they begin:
  • Will the new potential be divided?
  • What output and input ranges for voltage are required?
  • What physical design constraints does the equipment or facility introduce?
  • Are there any relevant regulations that need attention during the upgrade?
  • When must the new power supply be tested or certified before installation?
  • Is an isolated or non-isolated power supply required?
Each of these variables will impact the equipment that’s chosen and how it’s installed. Selecting isolated power supplies is a good idea in any situation where system and safety requirements are higher, like in medical device manufacturing. Isolating the industrial power supply ensures dangerously high voltages can’t pass through. This is why planning with an electrical engineer is essential.

Measure Correctly
The act of measuring a circuit alters its state. While it’s important to keep disruptions minimal, it’s also essential to perform accurate measurements on the load and the source to determine compatibility.

Electrical experts recommend four-wire tests even when the situation seemingly only requires a single one. Using independent leads for measuring voltage and current means introducing new resistance won’t affect the measured value.

Measuring correctly also includes assessing the end usage and intended applications. Managers that anticipate setting up yards-long wires to distribute electricity should know load requirements in detail so they can account for voltage lost over the length of the cables.

Enjoy the Benefits of an Upgraded Industrial Power System
The age of the building itself can be a sign that it’s due for an electrical upgrade. The best indications are regularly tripping breakers, witnessing shutdowns or having other problems that impact productivity.

When facility managers know what situations might call for an upgrade and some of the benefits of doing so, they’re ready to explore what modern power systems can do.

About the author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily.

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