How can manufacturers best protect their power supply?

The uptake of digital technology, the government’s upcoming Industrial Strategy and strong export demand all add up to an expanding manufacturing sector here in the UK. However, this increase in demand will no doubt lead to added pressure on UK power supply, so it becomes more important than ever to have robust power infrastructure in place.

Leo Craig, general manager of Riello UPS, explains what the implications of poor or failed power supply are and how the industrial sector can be prepared for it?

Stock Power Supply - Downtime can come at a significant cost for manufacturers, with some statistics showing that just one unplanned event can cost in the region on £1.6m.
Downtime can come at a significant cost for manufacturers, with some statistics showing that just one unplanned event can cost in the region on £1.6m.

The impact of downtime

Downtime can come at a significant cost for manufacturers, with some statistics showing that just one unplanned event can cost in the region on £1.6m.

What’s more, the UK is reported as the worst performing economy in Europe when it comes to productivity, so it is even more critical to keep downtime to a minimum.

At a large-scale manufacturing plant, for example, a power shutdown or breakdown in the supply of monitoring/control information can have a disastrous effect on productivity which ultimately could impact on a business’ bottom line.

Therefore, industrial processes should be fully protected to ensure productivity remains at its best, as well as risks and cost implications around machinery failure are reduced.

Reliable power supply

There are a number of measures manufacturers can take to ensure continuous power – an uninterruptible power supply (commonly referred to as UPS) being one of them. A UPS device will not only protect against power outages, but also provide instant emergency power should the mains power fail.

The UPS will run for a few vital minutes to allow safe shutdown, ensuring that all data is backed up and that the generator has fired up properly and is providing power. But when you consider that 45% of blackouts typically occur due to voltage disturbances, the UPS is also a vital piece of equipment to correct power problems.

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Manufacturing machinery is vulnerable to numerous electrical anomalies – from voltage sags and spikes to harmonic distortion and other interruptions. In this situation, a UPS can really come into its own – not only to protect against power outages, but also to operate as an effective power conditioning unit.

By smoothing out sags, surges and brownouts to provide a clean and stable power supply, the UPS prevents damage to sensitive and expensive equipment.

In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, when producing a batch of a very expensive drugs in glass or in a semiconductor, a small dip in the voltage will cause an imperfection in the finished product making it unusable and could even result in the batch being discarded altogether.

Even in steel or brick production, if there is a micro break in the power that causes the furnace controllers to shut down, the process has to be stopped. The material being processed will be scrapped and the whole process started again, which can take days and be very costly.

The UPS can also be deployed solely as a power conditioner without batteries, which will come in handy in environments over 40°C, which is the highest temperature a battery can be kept in.

An example of this is ‘cleaning’ power to prevent light flicker in offices next to heavy industry – cranes moving cargo at docks, for instance. In this situation, a UPS can act as a power conditioner on the power supply to the offices, preventing any flickering.

Protecting the industry

As we enter this exciting period of growth and see greater uptake of digital technologies, it is wise for those working in the industrial sector to take a step back and make sure their processes and equipment is as protected as it can be.

Manufacturers can do this by having a solid power protection solution in place in the form of a UPS device. This will not only give you peace of mind if machinery does fail, but will give the added reassurance that instances of downtime will be reduced, paving the way for a stronger manufacturing future.