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Unleashing the Power of Digital Twins: Predictive Maintenance

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Employing advanced predictive maintenance strategies, helps manufacturing organizations ensure the proper design and safe operation of electrical systems. Managing the maintenance and operation of electrical systems in a facility without proper controls can lead to safety and financial risks, including unplanned downtime that results in injuries to personnel and damage to equipment. Such disruptions can also cause excessive financial losses to the organization. Research data from the Uptime Institute found that approximately one-third of all reported outages cost more than $250,000, with many of these outages costing more than $1 million. Data centers had the highest cost of downtime, with a quarter of respondents to a survey saying that the direct and indirect costs of their most recent outage exceeded $1 million.

Plant electrical system engineers often rely on static, paper, or PDF-based electrical one-line diagrams to prevent outages and maintain their facilities. This can impose limitations, increase operational risk, and create challenges in maintaining and updating electrical system documentation. Adopting predictive maintenance best practices such as digital twins, safety audits, smart sensors, and arc flash solutions can help organizations ensure electrical safety and reduce unplanned downtime. You’ll learn more through the Latest coverage.

Tap Into the Power of the Digital Twin

Digital twins use real-time data and simulation to create virtual replicas of physical objects, processes, or systems. These digital representations can help improve the understanding, design, and operation of complex systems by providing insight into their behavior, performance, and potential problems. For example, a digital twin of an electrical distribution system can monitor the current through various components, identify potential areas of overload or overvoltage, and predict the likelihood of equipment failure.

Digital twins can be used to significantly improve safety in the design of electrical systems as well as in the operations and maintenance phases of the lifecycle. Intelligent single-line diagrams using digital twin technology create dynamic blueprints of single-phase and three-phase electrical systems. These tools facilitate seamless collaboration as well as the application of real-time insights to simplify diagnosis and troubleshooting.

Operators and engineers can improve their understanding of existing electrical systems by using the digital twin as a comprehensive digital learning environment. Next-generation predictive tools use real-time and archived data as a simulation platform, allowing power system engineers to run “what-if” scenarios. This online predictive simulation is a powerful analytical tool that enables engineers to predict the system’s response to operator behavior.

This approach has several advantages, including the ability to simulate emergencies and unstable situations without actual hazards, thereby reducing safety risks. In addition, accurate “what-if” scenarios help illustrate how to improve operational efficiency and enhance decision-making. Practical after-action analyses and event playback features can also speed up the response to incidents.

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Using Audits to Improve Safety and Electrical System Performance

Audits can be another valuable tool for promoting safety and improving electrical system performance. Having the ability to identify technical deficiencies and predict the risk of potential failures in a facility’s electrical systems is critical. Through audits, organizations can identify potential hazards and areas for improvement, enabling them to take corrective action before accidents or failures occur. Audits also help to ensure that electrical systems are operating efficiently, identify areas of non-compliance, and verify that maintenance schedules are being implemented effectively. This proactive approach can improve safety, reduce downtime, extend equipment life, and save money.

However, discovering these defects can be daunting, especially when resources are limited. Working with expert consultants and operations teams can help identify key areas for improvement, using state-of-the-art, non-intrusive techniques, conducting on-site audits, and assessing electrical installations. It creates a one-line diagram of the equipment, quickly identifying potential weak points that could compromise system safety and performance. This process helps to identify potential vulnerability hazards and make timely recommendations for performance optimization and safety improvements.

Experts with specialized software provide a comprehensive modernization plan, including a 10-year maintenance, monitoring, and management plan, spare parts, and technical documentation management. Following the audit, a debriefing session is held with all stakeholders to highlight observations, risks, and recommended next steps. A comprehensive debriefing communicates important, actionable insights and standardized deliverables across multiple locations or countries to ensure consistency across multiple locations or countries and to develop an ongoing monitoring and management strategy for the maintenance plan.

Reducing the Risk of Arc Flash in Electrical Systems

Arc flash is one of the most potentially destructive and dangerous forces in electrical installation, operation, and maintenance. It is highly complex, dangerous, and difficult to avoid and control. An uncontrolled arc has the potential to generate extreme heat over 35,000°F and shock waves of up to 1,000 pounds per square foot. The resulting noise can reach 160 decibels, and high-speed projections from the arc can reach 700 mph. The toxic gases produced can expand up to 67,000 times, posing a significant risk to workers, equipment, and facilities. Until recently, arc flash mitigation and arc flash hazard analysis have been complex. While many empirical formulas and significant tests have been developed, it remains challenging for engineers to solve existing algorithms and formulas without computational tools, and it has been nearly impossible for people to apply them to the field. However, with the industry’s growing focus on electrical safety, arc flash hazards are now more widely recognized. Mitigating arc flash risks is complex and often requires the cooperation of multiple parties, including facility owners, electrical system designers, and equipment manufacturers. However, obtaining accurate information can be challenging, especially in traditional design and build project environments. Information exchange may be limited by, for example, system short circuit levels, electrode composition, enclosure dimensions, or standard operating procedures. If these factors are not considered, the effectiveness of even the most well-thought-out mitigation program may be compromised.

Strict adherence to relevant industry regulations is required to reduce the risk and severity of arc flash accidents and ensure worker safety. A proactive approach to electrical system design can help eliminate the risk of arc flash injuries. During the design and specification phase of a new system, engineering solutions can use a design safety approach to reduce the likelihood of accidental contact with energized components. Understanding the magnitude, path, and duration of the arc current is necessary for effective mitigation. Energy level is a parameter used to quantify the risk of an arc flash. Eliminating the risk or reducing the energy level of an arc flash can be accomplished by working without power, arc-resistant switching equipment, or moving personnel outside the arc flash boundary.

However, these solutions sometimes only prevent equipment damage. Alternatively, an arc fault detection solution can be used to clear an arc fault through an upstream overcurrent protection device. However, these solutions can carry the risk of requiring auxiliary power, system design, or operator intervention, which also introduces the possibility of human error. In addition, these solutions are one-offs that require inspection or replacement of the faulty component. A simple, reliable solution to controlling arc flash hazards can be achieved with a passive, repeatable, normally open system that does not require complex engineering. A normally open arc flash prevention and control system minimizes the likelihood of an arc occurring. If a sustained arc current does occur, the system will extinguish it in one cycle or less, which is faster than any other active or reactive protection system.

Analysis information

This approach requires no operator intervention, does not rely on auxiliary power sources, and significantly reduces the risk of injury to personnel and electrical equipment. Using a passive arc flash protection system makes managing arc flash hazards simpler and mitigation strategies easier to implement. Unlike many active solutions, a normally operating arc flash prevention and control system does not cause tripping, resulting in zero downtime while controlling arc faults and no upstream equipment disruption.

The initial cost of implementing a passive, repeatable, normally operating arc flash control solution can be approximately 15 percent higher than standard equipment. However, it can deliver a significant return on investment over the entire equipment lifecycle. Benefits of the system include fewer additional arc flash engineering controls, lower installation, commissioning, and ongoing maintenance costs, and a reduction in the need for personal protective equipment and associated costs. In addition, organizations can also avoid costs directly and indirectly associated with arc flash hazards, such as medical and legal costs, fines, increased insurance premiums, and disruption to business continuity.

Improving Operations with Smart Sensors

Smart sensors, circuit breakers, and switchboards with shared visibility benefit various stakeholders along the risk management value chain. Smart sensors can be used to monitor plant working conditions and alert engineers to potential safety hazards by monitoring air quality, temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions within the plant. If levels exceed safe limits, an alarm can be sent to engineers or safety personnel in time for them to take appropriate action. Smart sensors can also detect gases that may be hazardous to human health or safety, and detect the presence of smoke or fire in a plant.

When circuit breakers and switchboards are equipped with built-in smart sensor monitoring, operational data is available from the moment of installation. These new features offer many benefits such as reducing risk to the organization, providing support for testing, inspection, and certification, and providing value-added services to customers throughout the year, not just during inspections.

Smart sensors can be used to monitor critical plant equipment and processes in real-time, enabling engineers to quickly detect any anomalies or potential problems and take corrective action before they become more serious. By analyzing data from smart sensors, engineers can predict when plant equipment will require maintenance. This allows maintenance to be scheduled in advance, minimizing downtime and reducing costs. These capabilities are evolving and have the potential to provide more comprehensive insights into electrical operations in the future.

Predictive Maintenance is the Best Practice for Proactive Safety Measures

Ultimately, state-of-the-art predictive maintenance best practices are designed to achieve safety in four dimensions: reduction, avoidance, prevention, and containment. Ensuring the safety of electrical systems and reducing unplanned downtime is critical to minimizing financial risk and protecting people and equipment. Adopting predictive maintenance best practices such as digital twins, safety audits, and arc flash solutions can significantly improve safety and reduce unplanned downtime.

Digital twins can be used during the design, operations, and maintenance phases to simplify diagnostics and troubleshooting. Audits can identify potential hazards and areas for improvement, enabling organizations to implement corrective actions before accidents or failures occur. To reduce the risk and severity of arc flash accidents and ensure worker safety, the risk of arc flash must be reduced. Taking these proactive steps to ensure electrical safety and prevent unplanned downtime can result in financial benefits to the organization, improved safety, and longer equipment life.

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