The switchgear that sees everything

In our increasingly connected world, where time is money, visibility is key.

With factory downtime costing an average of $0.5million to $2million every year or even more, the need to minimize disruption to electricity supply has never been greater.

So, what role does the switchgear play?

Low-voltage switchgear is operated in all kind of industries – from small industrial plants to large scale chemical plants and refineries – and is essential to ensure that processes stay on track. It also provides energy for cooling and ventilation systems in commercial and residential buildings.

In today’s process plants and buildings, the main priority for any operator is to reduce maintenance and OPEX costs, minimize plant shutdown time and increase production value and performance. While the switchgear is only a fraction of the budget from a total plant initial investment cost, it can, in case of a failure, result in huge financial loss, due to production downtime if the power supply is interrupted.

Historically, operators have viewed low-voltage switchgear as nothing more than steel and copper. Twenty years ago, most customers relied on preventative maintenance to ensure the smooth running of their plant. A costly exercise, this involved maintenance teams visiting the switch room regularly to visually check the condition and identify potential maintenance needs.

Low-voltage switchgear may be viewed as a small part of a big plant, but it has the potential to become a source for revolutionary change in maintenance and asset management.

So, how do customers maintain low-voltage switchgear in their plant without disrupting the flow?

Traditionally, reactive (run to and fix on failure) and preventative maintenance has been key.

If repairs were required on the electrical assembly, it often involved shutting down the process, so that work could be carried out safely. This type of preventive maintenance required effective operational planning to minimize plant interruption and high OPEX costs, since an hour of production downtime could cost businesses anywhere from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars.

But times have changed, and so has the technology.

Keeping plant assets in optimum working condition is essential. Getting data, analyzing and keeping it up-to-date, and using it at the right time, in the right place, by the right person, is key to delivering the highest plant uptime and performance. And ABB Ability™ LV Switchgear – MNS® Digital is offering just that.

ABB’s latest low-voltage switchgear solution MNS Digital is so much more than steel and copper.

While it has all the traditional properties of its predecessors – distributing low voltage up to 1000 V AC and 6300 A to consumers, motors and other loads, and is designed to survive the harshest environmental conditions for up to 30 years – it delivers greater visibility for users.

How does it deliver greater visibility?

MNS Digital turns a conventional low-voltage switchgear assembly into one that literally sees everything. It monitors the condition of electrical assets, such as air-insulated circuit breakers, and moves loads through intelligent motor controllers and other equipment installed in the switchgear.

Data is collected and presented to maintenance and plant reliability managers in a simple, easy to use web format that can be accessed anywhere and at any time. With MNS Digital, planning time to send engineers to the switch room for maintenance can be done efficiently with reduced capital spending.

MNS Digital incorporates an online condition monitoring solution that analyzes the current condition of the switchgear. How is this done? In simple terms, intelligent electronic devices, including motor protection relays, circuit breakers and temperature or other sensors send data to an Edge gateway.

Here, the data is stored and a preliminary analysis takes place to identify the current condition. Based on condition changes, maintenance messages are derived so that plant maintenance and reliability managers can access the data for their required action in real time, before it actually leads to a failure condition, thus minimizing downtime.

It’s this move away from reactive and preventative maintenance to condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance, with a digital electrical assembly that is the key to success.

The simple truth is that keeping an eye on your low-voltage switchgear, starting from day one at commissioning, will improve running costs and overall efficiency, now and in the future.

ABB Ability™ LV Switchgear MNS Digital is available for new installations and as an upgrade and retrofit solution for low-voltage switchgear that is already installed at customer sites.

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About the author

Gunnar Zank

I am the Global Product Manager for ABB's digital air-insulated switchgear business. I joined ABB more than 20 years ago and I have enjoyed being part of ABB's journey to create and form today’s innovative, digital switchgear solutions. It is my aim to bring those solutions that deliver real value to our customers in all industries now and in the future.
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