Major Transformer Swap-Out Project Delivered On Time

inside of a transformer

January 12, 2024

Interstates recently spearheaded an intensive transformer swap-out project at a pizza production facility for a client in the Midwest, switching out nine 15KV transformers for 35KV versions one shut down at a time. Our experienced project managers and field crews executed all the swap-outs either early or right on schedule. Despite the challenges of working only during short shutdowns and on a sensitive schedule, Interstates ensured zero downtime for the client throughout the project.

Sam Schrader, Site Project Manager at Interstates, says, “The primary objective was to shift the plant to a 35KV system. The utility company in the vicinity was phasing out the old system and offered the client a good deal on power rates for switching the plant over. The client’s main goal was a seamless transition with zero disruption to production. We also converted the plant to an HRG system to both protect equipment from ground faults and minimize downtime.”

Safety as the Standard

With most of the switchgear having dangerous arc flash ratings, Interstates’ commitment to safety was crucial during the fast-paced shutdowns. The client appreciated how the team upheld Interstates’ safety values and spread them to others on site. Jeffrey Kellogg, Foreman at Interstates, says, “Our team works better and more efficiently when they know they are safe and watched out for, and the client and general contractor recognized this. Our lockout-tagout procedure started as a mere guide but ended up evolving into a shutdown blueprint that was used by engineers and the general contractor for safely de-energizing and re-energizing. Our power forward plan became the standard practice for all the shutdowns on the project.”

The project was packed with weekend/holiday shutdowns and tight schedules. “Every step, from de-energizing the transformer to its final activation, needed meticulous planning,” Schrader explains. Early planning began months ahead, ensuring all materials were ready well in advance. Beyond expert time management, Interstates deployed the HRG system, a solution that enables superior fault protection while minimizing downtime. “The HRG system allows a ground fault to exist while allowing the plant to continue making pizzas. Then, when the plant has planned downtime, the client can address the ground fault at that point. This results in less unplanned downtime,” explains Schrader.

Hard Work and Resourcefulness Pay Off

Swapping out transformers might seem straightforward, but as Kellogg points out, “The process was time-consuming. Each transformer had to be de-energized and separated from the utility, old wires had to be removed, and new ones installed.” Our team’s dedication was evident when they worked through the 4th of July holiday, ensuring the client’s production schedule remained unaffected. They also displayed adaptability and resourcefulness, fabricating custom-made plastic spacers for old wood spacers that had decayed over time.

This project’s success depended on the team’s commitment to avoiding downtime. The client makes money by making pizzas, so having a precise and thorough plan was pivotal for continuous production. “All the crew members, from long-timers to newcomers, played a pivotal role. Their dedication ensured that the work went on efficiently and safely, even during high-stress periods,” says Kellogg. With the transformers swapped over to the higher voltage system, the client now has access to improved power rates and uninterrupted pizza production.