Leo Craig, general manager of Riello UPS, explores the impact that ‘open’ maintenance protocols are having on the UPS market and what this means for customers
Choosing an uninterrupible power supply (UPS) which is fit for purpose and ticks all of the boxes for your power protection requirements is a priority for any business that depends on a continuous electricity supply. The UPS needs to be a reliable source of backup so that when power failures occur, it can kick in instantly and provide that all important support to maintain service availability.
But after carefully selecting the right UPS for your needs, it is important to make sure this equipment is regularly maintained so that it runs smoothly and can instantly backup your mission critical systems when called upon to do so. UPS systems are complex devices requiring routine maintenance and consumable items such as batteries, fans and capacitors, which deterioriate over time, need to be regularly replaced. For example, a five year design life battery will probably require replacement within year four, and a ten year design life battery within year seven.
Essentially, how a UPS product is maintained over its lifetime will greatly affect its reliability, how it performs and the length of its useful life. It is therefore in the interests of any business that has invested in UPS products to take the issue of maintenance seriously.
Open v closed protocol
In recent years, unauthorised maintenance has become a significant issue in the UPS marketplace. Some manufacturers have chosen to tackle the problem by instigating ‘closed protocol’ systems. This is where the units are ‘locked out’ to anyone other than the manufacturer itself. While this would appear to solve the problem of ‘rogue traders’, it is in reality a breach of European Law and could prove costly by tying customers into only one available maintenance option. It also stifles competition on the market which will eventually dilute the high levels of service provided. Instead the ‘open protocol’ approach favoured by other manufacturers is becoming increasingly popular system since it means that any manufacturer authorisedengineer can be chosen to carry out the work - opening up the market to healthy competition and reducing costs for UPS owners. But this does of course bring with it the issue of ensuring the engineer is fully qualified.
Safeguarding your assets
Continuous business operation is universally vital, with even short power failures potentially resulting in income loss. Halting operation, even for a few minutes, can have a devastating effect on companies, especially those using the internet as their main customer interface. To safeguard this, it is imperitive to have a robust maintenance policy in place to keep the UPS and its parts serviced and working as efficiently as possible.
TLC for UPS
Whilst many UPS devices automatically test their batteries, nothing beats a visual inspection, on-site testing and thermal imaging. Preventative maintenance (PM) visits should take place at least every 12 months and include an overall inspection and eventual replacement of any battery sets. Long term planning should build full battery replacement into a future budget as the cost for this will usually be excluded from any on-site maintenance plans.
Warranties and response times
Warranty periods vary from supplier to supplier but as a general rule, each UPS product comes with a one or two-year warranty. However, outside of this, it is essential for businesses to have a maintenance plan in place to ensure continuity and efficiency of the equipment.
As part of this plan, a detailed service level agreement should be drawn up to indicate what the response times will be for call out for both emergency and for then fixing the problem. Response times can range from 12 working to 4 man hours. Shorter response times are possible, especially within major cities but may require provision of a crash kit on site leading to a higher initial investment. Remote monitoring systems reporting to a centralised service centre can also enhance response times and assist problem diagnosis. Consideration should also be taken as to the availablity of spare parts in the UK and how quickly they can be delivered to you.
The right engineer for the job
Within the market there are a number of third party companies offering maintenance services on UPS equipment who claim to be trained and capable of working on critical power protection systems. But in actual fact, many are not fully trained and some do not even have access to recommended spares. With reliability a key factor for a UPS, companies cannot afford to engage such ‘rogue traders’ to handle the equipment maintenance. Maintenance engineers need to be fully qualified in a range of core competencies from commissioning and battery builds to maintenance service and repair.
Certification is important as it recognises an engineer’s advanced knowledge and skills, and illustrates that they fully understand a specialist area. UPS’ are complex products and therefore it is important that engineers are fully trained, understand the latest legislation and all aspects of maintenance to enable them to do the best job possible.
As an alternative solution to the issue of unauthorised maintainers, Riello UPS has created a comprehensive network of qualified service engineers from its reseller partners. The new Certified Engineers Programme is designed to protect customers who require competitive third party servicing and approved spares for their UPS, by enabling them to check if their chosen maintainers are fully trained and competent to carry out the work. Since its launch earlier this year, the scheme has been well received by the market and there are now over 200 engineers registered.
To achieve Riello Certifed Engineer status, engineers from Riello resellers must complete training on the commissioning, maintenance and servicing of Riello UPS products. Engineers from resellers who successfully complete a rigorous training and servicing course will be allocated a unique identification number. Customers can use this number to search a dedicated website – www.riello-engineer.co.uk – to verify the certification status and core competencies of both companies and individuals.
Through schemes like this, customers can have the freedom to select their preferred maintenance provider, check their credentials on the Riello Engineer website and have the peace of mind they will receive value for money, protect their investment and receive a reliable and credible service.
Check the small print
Leo Craig offers five tips on what to look out for in UPS maintenance contracts
Response times – Maintenance agreements usually offer a number of options on response times from basic 12 working hours through to 4 man hours with additional technical support. Choose a response time will meet both your budget and your business needs.
Charges – Some contracts may include hidden charges on items such as remedial works, travel and labour and battery labour costs. If these are not clearly stated in your service agreement, check the terms with your provider before signing.
Consumables – If the paperwork does not include a definition of consumables and clearly state what these are then, again, it is worth going back to your service provider to seek clarification.
Field service – Does the contract make it clear who will provide technical support in the event of a call-out? Not all engineers are qualified to work on all UPS products. Using a certified engineer to carry out repairs reduces risk and gives you added peace of mind. Ask your supplier about any accreditations held by their field-service engineers.
Spares availability – In the event that spare parts are required to repair your UPS, you need to know how quickly your service provider can access them. Where standard parts have to be shipped from overseas this increases the UPS downtime. Checking the location and availability of parts with your maintenance service provider before you sign up to a contract should always be the recommended approach.