Are You Ready for the Unexpected?


There are many things in our world today beyond our control – COVID-19, employment challenges, supply chain issues, and more. Some events directly affect your infrastructure and physical assets, such as hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, widespread power outages and damage, etc. There are also more localized failures at individual facilities. Although we can’t control these things, we can minimize the impact on facilities by looking ahead and being prepared to react.

Are you prepared for the unexpected? Consider the following categories to evaluate your readiness to react:

Documentation

Knowing what you have is key to understanding how to fix it or what you need to buy to replace it. Focusing on the electrical system, a few things you should have in place are:

  • Power one-line drawings
  • Control loops
  • Wiring schematics
  • Motor, power, and device lists
  • Process flow diagrams/P&IDs

Without proper documentation, the start of the repair or rebuild process can be tricky. If you take the time to document your systems properly, you’ll be able to react with speed and
get back online faster.

Spare Parts

Considering today’s market and supply chain challenges, it’s crucial to assess your spare parts to keep your facility operational. We often do an excellent job upfront on buying spare parts, but did we replace that spare part when it was used off the shelf? What new equipment was added that might have new hardware or parts that weren’t at the facility before? Did we buy those spare parts? Do we have all the materials and knowledge necessary to replace an obsolete part with a retrofit part?

Electrical items that should be considered for spare parts include:

  • Breakers – Remember your power distribution feeder breakers as well as the smaller breakers in MCC buckets and panelboards
  • Motor Starters – All the components: the MCPs, contactors, overloads, communication modules, VFDs, soft starters, etc.
  • PLC Equipment – Processors, I/O cards, communication cards, power supplies
  • Network Equipment – Switches, UPS, converters, etc.
  • Devices – What are the critical devices and instrumentation that you can’t live without?
  • Motors – Don’t just look at Hp, but make sure they have the proper area classification ratings as well as the application, mounting, speed, etc.
Program Backups and Parameters

Just because we have all the physical spare parts doesn’t mean we can get them running quickly. You need to have readily available and up-to-date programmable logic controller (PLC) and Human Machine Interface (HMI) programs, parameter settings for the VFDs and soft starters, firmware updates, network configurations, and breaker settings to get that equipment to work correctly. Don’t forget about those specialty controllers and skids out there. Are they set up and ready to go?

Although we can’t control what might happen in the future, we can be prepared and ready to react to restore operations as soon as possible. Evaluating your readiness and creating a solid plan will help you keep your facility operating through unexpected events, large and small.

Brent Kooiman, PE, P.Eng., Senior Project Engineer/Design Manager

This blog was originally published in the Current Connections Fall 2021 issue. 


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