Features

Stephen Plant, business and development manager of NET, discusses how the decision to make the AM2 a formal unit of the new Level 3 NVQ will ensure greater competence within the electrical sector

The coming year will be marked by a change in the vocational education sector.  The Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) – which was introduced by the Labour Government in 2009, and came into force in January 2011 – will alter the way vocational training is delivered; it is undoubtedly the biggest change to take hold of vocational education since NVQs were brought in during the late 1980s. The shake-up is the result of a shift in popular opinion, predominantly led by the government, which is increasingly citing skills-based careers as the driver by which the UK economy will be rebuilt.

What is the new framework?
The QCF offers a simplified learning process, allowing those responsible for training and development to invest in a more flexible qualification structure for their staff.  They can now do this because the modules that make up QCF qualifications can be taken at the employee’s pace, allowing career development to fit around professional and personal commitments.
Qualifications will be built up in units, with each unit having a level and a ‘value’.  Learners will be awarded credits for every unit they pass, where one credit represents 10 hours of learning time. From April 2011, the electrical industry’s Assessment of Occupational Competence (AOC), the AM2, will be a compulsory unit for anyone signing up for an electrotechnical NVQ Level 3 qualification:
s Level 3 NVQ Certificate in Installing, Testing and Ensuring Compliance of Electrical Installation Work in Dwellings
s Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment (Building Structures and the Environment)

As clarification, the term NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) will still be used in titles where the qualification is competence based, and directly aligned to National Occupational Standards. So, for all trainee electricians studying for a Level 3 qualification the NVQ title will still apply.

The AM2 has long been a formal part of the national UK work based apprenticeship; but until now, it was not a compulsory requirement under the equivalent Level 3 NVQ qualification taken by adults training to enter the industry.  Embedding AM2 in the new NVQ structure under the QCF is visibly the right way forward, as it aligns requirements for all electrical trainees at Level 3, be they apprentice or adult. This will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the wider electrical industry, raising standards across the board.

The AM2 – at the heart of industry
As the AOC for the electrical industry, AM2 is the practical assessment that proves an individual’s competence in electrical work. The assessment was launched by the industry in 1985, and redesigned last year with the demands of today’s environment in mind, and with an enhanced emphasis on safety. The AM2 aims to reflect ‘real life’, assessing competence in the typical tasks and time conditions that a qualified electrician would experience at work within a property or site.

AM2 is generally the final stage of an apprenticeship or NVQ; it is taken at the end of the training period when the candidate is almost fully trained and therefore likely to be ready to have their practical ability tested across the breadth of electrical work. However, before sitting AM2, candidates have the opportunity to consider if they are in a good position to pass the assessment, by means of a pre-assessment exercise based on the tasks they will have to perform in the AM2.

Benefits to learners, employers and industry
By incorporating the AM2 into the Level 3 NVQ, employers benefit as much as learners do. Every qualified NVQ Level 3 holder will be able to provide evidence they are equipped with the right skills and employers can be confident taking on an electrician who has come through the NVQ route, rather than through an apprenticeship, is equally competent to support their business appropriately. This will be particularly important as the UK embarks on the government’s low-carbon initiatives, which will require a large number of qualified electricians to play a key role over the next 40 years.

NET has been working closely with the UK’s two awarding bodies for the electrotechnical NVQ Level 3, EAL and City and Guilds, as they incorporate the AM2 into their suites of NVQ Level 3 electrical qualifications. From next year all relevant qualifications will list the AM2 as a compulsory component, and learners enrolled on these level 3 NVQs will be required to sit the AOC irrespective of their training provider or college.  This highlights the role of the AM2 in ensuring competence within the electrical industry.

These past few years have seen inverters promoted, quite rightly, as one of the very best energy saving technologies, playing a key role in combating global warming. But Mitsubishi Electric's Jeff Whiting says controlling the power consumption of motors is only the first of their many environmental credentials

We've heard the figures many times: motors account for 65% of all industrial power consumption, and yet only 25% of motors are fitted with variable speed drives. But use a variable speed drive to control a motor with an appropriate speed profile for the task in hand, and you can slash that motor's energy usage. Last year the government woke up to the fact that use of variable speed drives represents one of the best ways to reduce the UK's carbon footprint, bettered only by a wholesale switch to LED lighting and thermal insulation in commercial buildings.

But, as the world economy recovers from its battering of the last couple of years, a more sophisticated definition of green manufacturing is emerging. And this time it makes even better business sense, because while measures such as the Climate Change Levy and the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme effectively penalise companies financially for not reducing their energy consumption, in our more sophisticated picture of green manufacturing, best practice environmental measures can actually boost productivity. As ever, it is variable speed drives that can really make the difference.

Consider, for example, the stopping of large machines, or indeed any shaft driving a load that needs to be brought to a controlled stop. Traditionally, this would be achieved with some sort of mechanical brake. But these work by clamping the shaft and using friction to bring it to a stop - an inherent by-product of which is of course heat, or wasted energy. But a key feature of many modern variable speed drives is regenerative braking, which converts braking energy back into electrical energy. This energy can then be fed back into the main supply or shared with other drives by connecting their power reserves together.

Not only does this save energy in its own right, but the regeneration function also makes it possible to achieve smaller, less expensive drive systems and simpler, more compact switchgear layouts.

It seems obvious, but better control of a motor on any machine or process, optimising speed and torque, means better controllability. When you apply that tighter control to the whole production line, what you immediately see is significantly increased useful output, with far fewer reject products, and a dramatically reduced need for any product rework. How many products, for example, are thrown away at the start of the production cycle as the machinery is tuned and optimised? How many more are rejected as processes drift out of tolerance? Variable speed drives can help in optimising machinery and processes from the minute they are turned on, and in keeping them at optimum efficiency throughout the production cycle.

A reduction in reject parts and in the need for rework can significantly impact on a company's bottom line. If a process is making greater numbers of useful products for a higher proportion of time, that makes you more competitive and better able to meet customer requirements. But it also means that you're using less energy per finished product.

We can apply the same thinking to the wider production cycle, which more and more today is characterised by frequent line changeovers that cater for short runs of many different products. The requirements of the customer and the need to optimise production efficiency can appear to be in conflict, since maximum efficiency is gained on the longest possible production run of a single product. But today's competitive global markets demand flexibility if a company is to thrive, or even to survive.

In machinery and processes without inherent flexibility, there are significant costs in product changeovers, in terms of manpower and lost production. But once we have tighter control of those processes, changeovers from one product run to another become recipe based, with complete lines reset at the touch of a button. What would have required time-consuming retuning of motor speeds and profiles can now benefit from automatic adjustment. The recipes for each product to be made on the line will store all the relevant parameters and settings, and these can automatically reset the likes of variable speed drives as required.

This optimisation of the production cycle can mean the difference between having to manufacture for stock and being able to manufacture to order - or at the very least to a more optimised inventory schedule. Because when we're simply manufacturing for stock, inevitably there will be over-production of some items which will then just sit on shelves losing value. Each of those products in the warehouse represents some degree of wasted energy in manufacturing.

We can look at the wider plant environment, too, because every motor - regardless of its efficiency rating – generates heat. Outside of specific hazardous areas, it is unlikely that the heat produced represents much of a problem to the machine itself or to personnel. But when you consider the number of motors there are likely to be around a typical industrial site, then you can see that these motors will be contributing to a measurable temperature rise.

In some controlled environments, that can be critical. In temperature sensitive environments such as cosmetics production, overall temperature has to be closely controlled within specific tolerances. If one process is generating excess heat, then another process has to be introduced to bring the temperature down - most likely some form of force air recirculation or air conditioning. And this, of course, is using energy.

Much more efficient would be to reduce the heat signature of the motors themselves - or even capturing that energy - and here again variable speed drives come into their own. The variable speed drive more closely matches the motor to the load, and so the motor generates less heat. Not only is the motor being run more efficiently, less work has to be done to compensate for the heat generated.

We can see then that variable speed drives have a hugely significant role to play in making industrial plants and processes more efficient. It may be the energy saving impact of not running a motor at fixed speed that grabs most of the headlines, but when we consider a more sophisticated picture of green manufacturing, it becomes clear that variable speed drives are making an even greater contribution to energy efficiency than might first be considered.

Here you will you find links to selected suppliers newsletters and brochures. You will also find links below to digital versions of our Lightning protection supplement sponsored by Furse and Cummins power generation supplement.

Friedrich Müller, Nexans Standardisation Director, explains why the development of standards supported by rigorous test regimes is regarded as a vital element in the success of the company’s range of automation cables

Automation applications make severe demands on the cables they rely on to deliver power and control services. They need to ensure high performance and absolute reliability across a very broad spectrum of chain, bus, sensor, robotic and control applications, and they must be capable of withstanding the extreme dynamic loads experienced at high operating speeds.

Standards for static cable applications are well established and internationally recognised. However, the situation for automation cables is rather different, with an historic lack of standards resulting in cable performance criteria being defined according to the needs of specific industrial automation applications.

Nexans needed to take the lead in defining standards that would provide a scientific way of comparing the relative merits of different cable designs, resulting in a clear and transparent way for customers to guarantee that the cables they specify will deliver the required performance and lifetime. So, working in close cooperation with the world’s leading industrial equipment manufacturers we commenced a long-term project to define rigorous standards that reflect the specific needs of the automation industry.

The initial results are a series of standards for trailing chain cables that classify them as ‘basic’, ‘advanced’ or ‘premium’ according to a set of four main mechanical criteria: bending radius; acceleration, travel length; minimum number of bending cycles, together with other properties such as chemical and temperature resistance . Trailing chain cables are automation cables intended primarily for installation in the cable chains designed to surround and guide flexible cables connected to moving automated machinery to reduce wear and stress, prevent entanglement and improved operator safety.

These standards are already applied directly to our own Motionline range of automation cables – launched in 2009 - but the main intention is they will be adopted as international standards recognised throughout the automation industry.

The standardisation process is ongoing and we are working to develop similar standards for robotic applications that will need to consider additional criteria such as torsional strength.

The trend towards a smaller bending radius
There is a current trend for smaller equipment dimensions, primarily to reduce the cost of raw materials used in their construction, such as steel plate.

This reduction in dimensions means that developers of automation cables now have to cater for an ever smaller bending radius to provide the high level of flexibility required.  The bending radius of a cable is defined as a certain multiple of its diameter. For basic automation cables the bending diameter is 18 times the diameter. The majority of applications will require a bending radius of 10 to 12 times the cable diameter – as reflected in the advanced standard, while there is a growing number of more demanding applications that require a bending radius as small as 7 times the diameter – premium standard.

The construction of the cable has a significant impact on the bending radius that can be achieved. This includes the conductors, fillers, insulation and jacketing. As well as paying specific attention to the construction, a general reduction in diameter of the cable is required. Although the design and engineering of the cable are important, the key to success is in really close attention to consistent process control to maintain the production of the cable within tightly controlled parameters.

Acceleration - the need for speed
To achieve the desired high levels of industrial productivity and throughput, automated equipment now has to move faster and faster – for example, robotic spot-welding machines routinely achieve repetition rates of several hundreds of welds per minute. To cope with this, automation cables not only need to be lighter in weight, to keep their inertia as low as possible, they must resist the high stresses due to acceleration and ensure a long fatigue life under repeated bending and stretching cycles.

At the basic level, we expect a cable to withstand an acceleration of 2 m/s2 – this equates to the SFK1 class (from the German Schleppfähigkeits-Klassen). An advanced cable (SFK class 2 to 4) should withstand 10 m/s² (ie 1g)  and the trend for new generation equipment is now considerably more demanding, calling for cables that can withstand 50 m/s2 (5g) acceleration as reflected in the premium standard (SFK6 and 7). We are encountering this requirement in a great deal of new machinery, especially laser machine tools and pick and place equipment.

Chain travel length
The chain travel length – the longest unsupported length of the cable – ranges in the standard from a basic level of 5 metres to advanced at 10 metres and premium at 50 metres.

Bending cycles
For chain applications, one to two million has been set as the minimum number of bending cycles at the basic level, while both the advanced and premium standards call for a minimum of five million cycles.

Environmental considerations
When you consider automated systems may be installed anywhere in the world, then the behaviour of cables in extreme environmental conditions becomes an important consideration. The basic standard calls for cables that can be used at temperatures from to -5°C to +60°C). But we are now seeing cables specified for both higher temperatures (around +70°C) as well as low temperatures (down to -35°C) as defined in the advanced and premium standards. In fact, one of the most demanding applications for automation cables is found not in the factory, but in outdoor applications such as dockside cranes.
It is also important cable conductor and insulation materials provide the appropriate level of fire, heat and abrasion resistance demanded for safety and performance, as well as offering the resistance to attack by oils and other chemicals essential for a long service life.
Important developments in new material technologies are being made in this area such as TPM (Thermoplastic Modified) insulation and flame retardant PUR Medoxprotect-S jacket material. There may also be a requirement for cables to offer resistance to EMI (Electromagnetic Interference).

Dedicated Motion Application Centre (MAC)
Playing a key role in the standardisation project is Nexans’ own dedicated Motion Application Centre (MAC), which is part of the Nexans Research Centre (NRC) in Nuremburg, Germany. This facility enables cables to be exposed to dynamic operating loads that simulate realistic, in-service, conditions, thus ensuring that they offer the ideal combination of bending, tension and torsional strength and vibration resistance required for their intended application. It provides clear proof that an automation cable will perform throughout its expected lifecycle as described in the relevant standard.

Nexans has been testing automation cables for 20 years. The MAC was established around 5 years ago and is the subject of considerable ongoing investment to reflect the changing needs of the automation industry, resulting in a current roster of 12 different machines designed to test cables to their limits. A key advantage of the facility is that it enables the electrical and data performance of the automation cables to be monitored under dynamic loading conditions. In addition to the mechanical tests, environmental chambers also allow the cables to be subjected to varying environmental conditions.

Throughout the tests, the electrical resistance of each electrical element of the cable (conductors, copper shield) is monitored at regular time intervals to confirm their integrity.

Engineered solutions
The Nexans Motionline brand covers a very wide scope of automation cable products. However, the catalogue range defined by the standards is sometimes only a starting point, since we frequently have to design and engineer a special cable to deliver the vital combination of high-performance, reliability and long life required for a specific application.
The development process starts with an in-depth analysis of the customer requirements for the cable, such as a miniaturized cable tailor made to fit the available space envelope or a hybrid cable combining power and data transmission. The MAC will then test the cables used currently and work with the Nexans Research Centre to surpass the existing performance in terms of durability and environmental resistance. This seamless interface between benchmarking and design theory and then back to practical implementation results in the rapid and effective development of the ideal customised solution.

The cost of getting a product to market is on the increase and the last thing you need is for machinery and plant to break down at the critical moment. Alan Lawson from PSJ Fabrications explains the benefits of specifying a bespoke motor control centre, and why it pays to invest in the right solution for you

Motor control centres (MCCs) have been in use since 1950 when they were first introduced in the UK by the automobile manufacturing industry. They are now far more common and are used in many industrial and commercial applications to accommodate a wide variety of different devices required in modern facilities.

The basic role of a motor control centre is to protect valuable electrical components and it therefore doesn’t make sense to save a few pounds by purchasing an inferior product to protect high value systems. A substandard MCC could bring with it all kinds of problems including leaks and damage to equipment, all of which will result in downtime and thus specification should not be taken for granted.

In short, the same level of time and investment should go into choosing the right motor control centre and this should reflect the time and money spent on developing the system which it contains and the machinery which it protects.

Make your choice
There are a few key items which should make up your specification for a motor control centre, including ampacity (the maximum amount of current that the main horizontal bus can accommodate without overheating), bussing material and feeder cables – all of which could mean the difference between a long and reliable service life or an early, abrupt failure.
But possibly one of the most important things to consider when specifying your MCC is ensuring it is suitable for the environment in which it will operate.

In an ideal world the motor control centre would be located in a separate air conditioned room, but with space at a premium an MCC will often be found on the factory floor next to the machinery which is being controlled. This brings with it the inevitable problem of how to protect the contents from dusty and corrosive processes which is why it is imperative to ensure the MCC which you specify is suitable for the area in which it is located.

Benefits of bespoke
There are a number of issues which you need to consider when specifying a motor control centre, the first of which is the size. How many times have you heard stories from people who have bought new machinery for the factory floor and then discovered that it doesn’t quite fit into the space which had been set aside for it? The same happens with an MCC, which is where a bespoke solution becomes the right option.

By specifying a bespoke solution you can work with the manufacturer to ensure it perfectly fits the space which you have available – which is particularly useful if you are tight for space and need to pack as much into it as possible.

The other main benefit of being able to specify the exact size is versatility, because it enables you to take into account the requirements of your factory or commercial process, and then specify exactly what you need within your MCC without having to work around the ‘standard’ option the manufacturer wants you to have because that is all that they supply. A good example of this would be the option to have fixed or withdrawable starters, distribution and control aspects or if the MCC needs to be specifically designed for harsh environments.
This brings me onto the material in which the MCC is manufactured, because the material on the outside is just as important as the contents of the MCC.

We manufacture all of our cubicles from 2mm and 3mm stainless steel, with a main frame that is fully welded for strength and rigidity and doors, shelves and mounting plates bolted in position.

Stainless steel has typically been used in the food manufacturing industry, but has grown in popularity for external applications over the years because of its ability to provide the same benefits as mild steel but with a greater longevity in harsh or aggressive environments. It is also rust resistant and has its own natural finish so requires no further treatment.

The benefits of a bespoke solution however mean that if you do require a specific finish then that option is available. We regular receive requests to match specific colours so that the MCC blends in with its environment and we then carry out a process which includes degreasing and rubbing down to remove all traces of dirt and rust, before priming and applying the paint at a depth of 50 microns to ensure colour longevity in even the harshest conditions.

The right rating
Getting the right IP rating is also a very important issue when specifying a motor control centre, particularly when it will be located in a harsh environment. IP stands for Ingress Protection and it is a rating that describes the protection from the intrusion of solid and liquid material.

The letters IP are always followed by 2 numbers, the first refers to intrusion by solids (1-6) and the second refers to intrusion by liquids (1-8). All of our cabinets are protected to IP55 which means that they are protected against the ingress of dust and dirt and low pressure jets of water.

You will find this rating is suitable for the majority of the environments in which a motor control centre is located and in order to retain the ingress protection all of our doors and covers are press formed for positive alignment.

Make it future proof
Without the aid of a crystal ball it is difficult to see what the future will hold and with the needs of every business changing rapidly it is impossible to predict your needs five years from now. But with an MCC having an average shelf life of 25-30 years you need some reassurance that the money you are investing now is well spent and that what you are specifying will match your needs well into the future.

Future-proofing your MCC is therefore the obvious answer and a bespoke solution allows you to do this. By working closely with the manufacturer it is possible to design a solution which adequately meets the needs which your business has today but at the same time it allows you to build in some space which can be used for future expansion.

It makes sense
Generally speaking we all like to be given a choice and when times are tough we are more likely to scrutinise every penny which is being spent to ensure it is being put to good use. I’m not sharing any trade secrets when I say purchasing a new motor control centre is an expensive business but at the same time it is still possible to get value for money if you look carefully at all of your options, before you part with any of your hard earned cash.

Don’t be tempted to make any quick decisions and do bear in mind the fact that a motor control centre sits at the heart of your business and while a cheaper, off the shelf solution may seem like a good idea, will it still seem like it was the best option when it fails to live up to your expectations 2 years down the line?

Downtime is costly and we all have enough on our plates at the moment without having to worry about our systems and machinery breaking down at a critical time which is why it makes sense to choose the most appropriate MCC for the job. A typical motor control centre will be in operation for the next 25-30 years and it is vitally important that this period of time is largely trouble free.

By opting for a bespoke design it is possible to tailor-make a solution which suits your needs now but will also provide space for expansion in the future, thus guaranteeing the longevity which you require and saving you more expense in the future. Reliability is also a key factor, and again, with a bespoke solution you know that it has been built to your exact specification and therefore will provide the control which you require both now and in the future.

Put simply, a bespoke motor control centre makes sense both now and for the future of your business. It therefore pays to look at all of the options available and ensure that whatever solution you choose is right for you, your budget and your business.

With the growing need to address every area of energy consumption, new technologies that enable dimming of HID light sources, including street lighting applications, have a lot to offer. Stewart Langdown of Tridonic explains

There can be no doubt not only are we now operating within a very energy-conscious environment, but we can also expect this to be the norm for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, it’s no longer enough to simply cut back on the big ‘energy-guzzlers’, there is now an imperative to address the fine detail of energy consumption.

The drivers for this imperative range from concerns about climate change and dwindling supplies of fossil fuels through to the need to reduce overheads by cutting energy costs. Indeed, this latter consideration has become even more important in the light of the changes made to the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC EES) in the Comprehensive Spending Review. Initially large energy users could look forward to receiving a refund of their carbon allowances if they were able to perform efficiently enough to be in the top 50% of their sector’s league table. Now, the government has decided there won’t be any refunds – nor are they clear about whether the league tables will be published.

Thus, without that promise of a refund, the CRC EES has effectively become a carbon tax and it’s now going to cost these organisations a lot more to use energy. There are also strong indications that the qualification threshold will be gradually lowered to capture more companies in the scheme.

On the positive side, from an environmental perspective, there is now a much stronger financial incentive to improve energy efficiency, and it’s high time that one of the most prolific wasters of energy - street and amenity lighting - was tackled effectively.

The reality is street and amenity lighting is very often guilty of wasting considerable amounts of energy and money. Not through complacency on the part of the owners of those installations (in most cases) but simply because the opportunities to exercise effective control of high intensity discharge (HID) lighting have been very limited.

That situation is changing, however, as new digital control technologies come onto the market that are able to dim HID light sources. This dimming ability has been available for indoor HID lighting for some time and can now be applied to exterior lighting. So it’s worth considering how such functionality can offer real benefits.

The key to reducing wasted energy is to match the use of the lighting to demand, a principle that has been applied to more general lighting applications for many years. So, for example, one element of a lighting control strategy inside buildings would be to use occupancy detection to switch lighting off in unoccupied areas.

In the case of external spaces it is more practical to think in terms of periods of reduced demand and, perhaps, situations where the weather may influence the lighting requirement.

So, for instance, there are many motorways and other roads that are only lightly used after around midnight. However, when it was suggested recently that lighting in these areas is switched off during the small hours a considerable amount of concern was expressed. Dimming the lighting instead of switching it off completely is clearly an excellent compromise.
The same is true of smaller roads and many other open spaces where the lighting is also of importance to pedestrians. Again, dimming the lighting at times when there will be hardly any foot or road traffic is a sensible course of action. And when you think there are over 7.5 million street lights in the UK this could go a long way to helping local authorities cope with the pressures on their budgets as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

These potential benefits are clearly exemplified by a project in Gloucestershire. When Gloucestershire County Council decide to refurbish 9,450 high pressure sodium street lanterns it also took the opportunity to fit control gear that would enable the lighting to be dimmed from 10.00pm to 05.30am, when the roads are only used lightly. Lighting levels in both full output and dimmed state had to comply with the Local Authorities specification, and the equipment had to be from a reputable manufacturer and capable of delivering a return on investment in under five years. The scheme has also been verified as safe by Gloucestershire police.

To achieve the required control strategy, the Council selected Micatron UK, which offers a part-night dimming switch that is easy to programme and re-programme, and automatically switches between Greenwich Meantime and British Summer Time.

Micatron manufactured customised gear tray assemblies incorporating these time switches, along with Tridonic OMBIS ballasts and OGLS ignitors, sourced through distributor OEM Lighting. Each tray incorporated bespoke control gear for the lantern types installed, covering over 20 types of lantern with lamps ranging from 100W to 250W. Tridonic products were chosen for their proven reliability, prompt delivery and competitive pricing. The work was carried out by Southern Electric Contracting.

In adopting this approach, the Council was able to not only reduce energy consumption but has also been able to re-use existing lanterns, so that capital costs were reduced and there were fewer waste materials to manage, thus reducing the carbon footprint of the project.

The work carried out so far has encompassed 59 parish and town councils and a further 32 areas have signed up to take part in the scheme, which will involve the upgrade of another 2,440 lanterns. Other local authorities are also looking at the results with a view to introducing similar schemes in their own areas.

As a result of this initiative, street lighting in Gloucestershire is now using considerably less energy, saving around £200,000 and nearly 1,400 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

Gloucestershire county councillor Stan Waddington, the cabinet member for the environment, commented: “This is an excellent result which has only been made possible with the support of our contractor and equipment supplier, but more importantly with the co-operation of parish and town councils across the county. Looking for new and innovative ways of saving money and cutting carbon is something we will be focusing on from now on and this is a great start. I look forward to seeing the projects progress in future.”

Lighting the black spots
In parallel, improved controllability can also be used to increase lighting levels in accident black spots, perhaps at times of day when accidents are most likely, and light levels can also be increased in bad weather. The overall effect is that these lighting systems become responsive to changes in demand, rather than remaining static irrespective of what’s happening.

While street lighting perhaps offers the biggest savings across the country there are also many amenity spaces that are lit throughout the night when there is nobody there to benefit from it. So the same principles can be applied to any external space that is lit for long periods but has variable use during that time.

In all such cases, in addition to the energy savings, there will be further benefits through the longer lamp life that results from less use. Extended re-lamping cycles will reduce maintenance costs and there will be fewer lamps to send for recycling through the life of the lighting system. As HID lamps are classified as hazardous waste and are more expensive to dispose of than some other light sources, this will result in even greater financial savings – and reduced environmental impact.

The recent development of digital dimming systems for exterior HID lighting have made all of this possible – going way beyond simply providing a dimmable ballast to exploiting all the benefits of digital control technologies to create an intelligent and versatile lighting control system. Furthermore, such systems allow all street lanterns and amenity luminaires to be controlled via the digital interface – making them very responsive.

These systems allow the luminous flux of HID lighting to be adjusted from 40% to 100% via DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) or DSI (Digital Serial Interface) signals, depending on the type of HID light source being used. In addition, a specific luminous flux value can be selected in ‘step dimming’ mode via an additional 230V control line to achieve energy savings of up to 50%. The brightness level can also be lowered via a digital power changeover switch at defined times without control lines.

Extending the principle
While this article has focused on street and amenity lighting, it’s true to say that many building operators are unaware that they can now dim interior HID lighting in factories, warehouses, retail sheds etc. The result is there are still thousands of HID lamps burning through the day quite unnecessarily. So the same principles described above for using controls to make lighting more responsive to demand apply just as much to these applications.

To that end, the electrical specifier has an important role to play in making end users aware of what can be achieved and helping them to exploit the opportunities offered by the latest control technologies.

When managing energy costs, one of the most straight forward and productive areas to focus on is the efficiency of existing lighting, both inside and outside a building. Installing the latest lighting products can make a significant saving in terms of energy wasted and several technologies are easily retrofitted within existing fixtures. Steve Kearney, business manager for the Specialist Products Division of Newey & Eyre, gives his view on some of the new technologies available

 As the economic climate continues to be tough, every business in the UK is looking for ways of saving money. One of the best and most effective ways of achieving this is to reduce energy consumption which will not only cut operating costs, but will also keep carbon emissions down.

In line with the current economic outlook and the desire to achieve financial savings, more companies are looking to undertake refurbishments of existing premises and infrastructure rather than relocate. Installing new lighting and lighting controls provides a good opportunity to achieve a more efficient building and can provide a rapid return on investment.

What is not necessarily obvious is how replacing existing lamps and the light fittings themselves can make a significant difference to the overall running costs of a building. Reducing energy consumption will offer a good return on investment in the medium term along with an instant impact on cutting energy bills in the long run.

Lighting technology is changing all the time with new developments continuing to offer increased benefits for those responsible for reducing energy wastage in buildings such as schools, hospitals, offices, shops and warehouses. Energy managers and facilities managers can turn to the product manufacturers and wholesalers for help and advice on what is best for their particular application. And with energy consumption accounting for up to 88% of lighting costs, there’s much to be gained by evaluating the existing lighting provision and looking at how this can be improved upon.

One of the methods of saving energy on lighting is to simply change to the latest generation of T5 fluorescent tubes that run on electric ballast rather than conventional electromagnetically ballasted products. Until quite recently, this would have meant replacing the luminaires as well as the lamps themselves.

A relatively simple solution to this problem can now be found through the use of retrofit technologies, such as the ‘Save It Easy’ plug in ballasts. Such units can be fitted directly into the ends of standard T5 tubes and can simultaneously provide the appropriate ballast and increased tube length to work with existing fittings. In addition to avoiding the inconvenience and disruption caused by installing new luminaires, use of these products can provide energy savings of between 25 and 56% for the user.

A useful but relatively straightforward technique to save energy wastage is to change standard 50W dichroic lamps to a 5W LED alternative which can result in a reduction in energy consumption of up to 90%. Another important benefit is that LED lamp products will normally last for up to 25 times longer, giving approximately 50,000 hours compared to 2,000 hours of use. This means that the cost of LED retrofit lamps will usually pay for themselves within a 12 month period based on energy savings alone. Maintenance is also significantly reduced over the product life.

For applications that use SON or metal halide sources such as warehouses, car parks and areas where amenity lighting is required, selecting long life, energy saving induction lamps can offer a number of advantages. Such situations usually require lighting to be installed in fittings that are difficult to reach or where replacing the lamp causes disruption of normal operations. The latest generation of induction lamps will provide excellent energy saving and extended life of up to 100,000 hours.

When compared with standard fluorescent/metal halide alternatives, induction lamps will provide energy savings of up to 60% and can also be used with PIRs to further reduce lighting loads.

The environmental aspect of installing any electrical product requires careful consideration and reducing the carbon footprint has never been higher on the agenda. In addition to the appearance and ease of installation, the green credentials of products need to be fully considered.

Further to this, with commercial applications it is now a legal requirement for all buildings to have an Energy Performance Certificate. These have been designed to improve the energy efficiency of buildings to tackle the effects of climate change. Lighting in particular is viewed as being a major contributor to carbon emission production and the Carbon Trust is offering interest free loans to qualifying businesses to install more energy efficient products.

Where changing traditional SON or metal halide lighting systems is not an option, there are still technologies that are available to assist in cutting out wastage associated with lighting loads. An example of these technologies are the latest energy systems, such as the E-Box from Newey & Eyre Specialist Products, which can enable additional savings of as high as 45%.

This next generation of products are power optimisation units that fit between the electricity supply and the lighting load. Through a combination of voltage optimisation, power factor correction and harmonic filtration, they reduce the energy consumption by stopping wastage. This has the consequence of further reducing the carbon footprint of the installed location.

In the case of the E-Box operation, it is single phase and sits in line either at the distribution board or applied to individual circuits. It constantly monitors load and regulates the supply voltage to the optimum. By introducing digital capacitance to the inductive load created by lamps, it is possible to solve the poor power-factor issue often found in lighting circuits and improves it to be as close to the ideal as possible. The additional filtration of all bad harmonics and removal of harmful spikes combine to give substantial savings.

An automatic bypass ensures power continues to the lamps should any failure occur or if the power environment changes from that set at commissioning.

Power optimisation units are suitable for any situation where there is large scale energy consumption required for lighting purposes. This kind of technology has been tried and tested throughout Europe, being used in a wide variety of applications including airports, hospitals, shopping centres, car parks, warehouses, street lighting, hotels, schools and leisure centres.

As well as savings of up to 40% for the user, other benefits include a filter against grid disturbances to help increase the life of discharge lamps and savings of up to 50% can be achieved on maintenance and disposal costs.

E-Box comes with a 25-month guarantee which can be extended if required following a technical inspection. It is fully certified by SINAL agencies in accordance with UNI CEI EN 45001. All systems carry the CE mark and are manufactured in line with ISO 9002 while also corresponding to the Norm EN 61010-1 of 2001-11.

Technology is changing and improving at an incredibly fast pace and with the rise of LED, wasted energy is now very much regarded as a design flaw in buildings. Those selecting equipment for new projects need to consider not just the lighting effects they are looking to create, but are now having to take into account the wider picture of overall lifecycle. This concept is also being driven by legislation such as the WEEE Directive.

Getting the products and equipment right at the outset of any project is vital and it is important to work closely with the manufacturers as well as electrical wholesalers such as Newey & Eyre, who can help with advice on the best options.

This year Newey & Eyre has relocated its Sheffield branch, which has been designed and built to be its flagship energy efficient and environmentally friendly facility. When the building was specified, all the very latest techniques and equipment were selected and used. This way it is possible to demonstrate today’s technology and best practice to those involved in electrical installations who are seeking the best solutions for their customers. In turn, the end customer will be able keep their energy costs low while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint.

Some of the innovations featured in the new Sheffield branch include movement and daylight sensors, alongside special low wattage tubes throughout the warehouse and offices to reduce energy usage. Metering packs are also being used to monitor the electrical output of the building throughout the day to enable energy consumption to be optimised.

Being green is increasingly becoming important to companies and organisations and as environmental awareness grows, saving energy and in turn, annual spend, is something that needs careful consideration. Drawing upon the available industry expertise can smooth the way to a hassle-free project and most importantly, the right end result.

Jim Wallace of Seaward looks at developments in PAT data management software systems

With a competitive portable appliance testing market forcing all contractors and PAT contractors to work more efficiently, linking the test functions of tester to effective results programs has taken on increased importance.

Fortunately, advances in portable appliance testing instrumentation and test data management software means that there are now integrated PAT solutions available that meet the needs of all levels of electrical safety testing.

In very basic terms PAT testers could be regarded simply as test data collection tools that measure and check the safety of electrical appliances. For fully effective risk management programmes and compliance with workplace safety protocols, how this data is acquired, managed and presented takes on even greater importance.

As a result, considerable work has also gone into the development of PAT record keeping software systems to enable the user to build and maintain computerised records of test results so that the collected data can be interrogated and used to control electrical safety programmes in a professional and orderly manner.

In addition, the HSE Memorandum of Guidance on the Electricity At Work Regulations 1989 advises records of maintenance and safety test results should be kept throughout the life of the equipment.

Software controlled safety testing record systems enable ‘real-time’ records to be maintained, which are easily amended and updated. This enables new equipment to be added and the movement of equipment from one location to another to be tracked.
Programs used for asset management purposes in this way can search through records very easily and display the record details significantly faster than making changes to a manual paper based system – and with reduced chances of mistakes being made.

Another advantage is the ease with which re-test schedules can be planned. As the re-test periods for individual items could be anything from three months to four years, it is comparatively easy for test situations and work schedules to become unmanageable. It becomes particularly unwieldy to have someone monitoring a paper record system looking for items which may have remained in use beyond their next test date, particularly when large workplaces or testing contracts can include thousands of appliances.

Now, matching the availability of different testers, a range of results recording programs possess different features and varying levels of sophistication to meet the needs of all types of PAT testing organisations and personnel.

Manual data entry systems
In their most basic form, PAT record keeping programs provide database packages capable of storing and presenting large numbers of test records.

Because most entry-level PAT testers provide simple pass/fail readings and do not have an internal memory for results storage, complementary software programs at this level permit manual entry of results.

With these systems, once test results have been entered there can be a range of data manipulation options available that allow different test report templates to be produced – for example, as PDF, TIF or jpeg files.

In addition some of these elementary or basic level programs also allow different reporting options including the presentation of test histories for individual appliances for comparison or trend analysis purposes.

More elaborate entry level packages also have the ability to link testing carried out to the automatic generation of invoices – including the option to include the costs of any repairs carried out.

Once testing has been undertaken and all data entered, it is also possible to produce special ‘certificates of testing’ that can be displayed in workplaces to highlight the electrical safety measured undertaken.

Direct data download
For those PAT testers equipped with a memory to record results, basic software packages are also available that enable the direct download of test results into database systems.
Of course one of the most important considerations for users of PAT testers incorporating an internal memory is the compatibility between the test instrument and the PC program. Most software packages are compatible with different safety tester output formats – although as the range of test instruments has increased over the years it is worth checking with the supplier of your preferred results recording program that your tester will be compatible.
Some of these types of programs allow both manual and direct download input of data and in broad terms provide the same range of test report options and administrative functions as those described earlier.

However there are some differences that may be attractive to different types of PAT contractor or user: For example some programs enable test results to be downloaded into existing customer or site specific files – while some download programs produce multiple databases with new results listings being created every time a new set of results is entered.

Uploading test data
As PAT testers have become more sophisticated, some have the ability to ‘pre-program’ the instrument with a special testcode (a test routine defined by a numeric sequence) at the start of the working day.

This is referred to as an upload capability and involves the ability to send an appliance number and testcode from PAT records held on a PC program to the instrument. By uploading this information into the tester, re-testing in the field can be speeded up considerably and detailed test histories can be maintained very easily.

As a result software programs that combine data upload and download features can be used to create fairly sophisticated asset registers for customers, grouping appliances by type or location and helping to track the movement of equipment between departments or different parts of a building.

Such high level programs also come with a host of other functions and test templates – including the inclusion of ‘view only’ CD files that enable others to have copies of test records from a parent program that can be viewed without having a copy of the original record-keeping program software.

Other features include sophisticated presentation and reporting options and the ability to link electrical safety testing records with other asset management or maintenance functions - extending the use of these programs for more general facilities management tasks.

For contractors carrying out PAT testing as part of more general facilities management functions, software programs are available that include the ability to include reports and details of other health and safety related checks on equipment such as emergency lighting, fire alarms and fire extinguishers.

Networking options have also been developed for these higher level PAT programs - enabling more than one user to access the program at the same time.

Special programs
In addition to the range of record keeping database programs a number of special software packages are available to provide specific test management or PAT administrative functions.
One example is an e-scheduler module that systematically interrogates the PAT test database and automatically identifies when equipment will be overdue for re-test – issuing e-mail alerts to notify customers or departments immediately of all re-test requirements or overdue warnings.

In this way this special software can be used to highlight and plan re-test schedules, enabling workloads to be managed efficiently. For testers with an upload capability this program can also directly transfer the appropriate test data into test instruments in preparation for on-site testing.

The system can also be configured to submit formal re-test price quotations with the alerts for a complete test scheduling and costing proposal, boosting repeat business and enhancing the levels of customer support provided.

Another example of ancillary is special time manager software that provides information on the test activity of individual users and engineers – providing such details as time of test, number of tests undertaken and time between jobs.

Analysis of such information enables service or contract managers to understand how often testers are being used, identify improvements in staff training and help field staff to test faster and work more efficiently.

With developments such as these, PAT results recording and data management solutions are available for all organisations involved in portable appliance testing whatever their requirements.

At all levels PAT record keeping programs provide real practical benefits to contractors – reducing costs, increasing revenue and productivity, improving safety and providing a truly professional approach to test data management that can only help in the long term development of their business.


Footnote: To help employers learn more about portable appliance testing Seaward has published a free booklet -
‘A Common Sense Approach to Electrical Safety in the Workplace’. This describes the importance of implementing inspection and testing measures that are appropriate to the particular working environment and which are in keeping with the specific risks posed. Further details call 0191 586 3511 or visit www.seaward.co.uk

Escalating energy costs coupled with a drive to reduce carbon footprints have resulted in a number of changes in the UPS industry. An initial development was the introduction of modular, scalable UPS solutions which enabled higher system efficiency through ‘rightsized’ power protection. However, recent product introductions boast up to 99% efficiency. While such numbers may be eye catching to potential purchasers, ‘high efficiency’ options can increase potential risk to the critical load. Shri Karve, director of business development, APC by Schneider Electric provides a guide to plus points and pitfalls when specifying UPS for data centres and critical loads

There has been a general assumption all UPS designs and technologies are born equal. It’s not difficult therefore to see why there has been a certain tendency to conclude all UPS topologies afford similar levels of protection. Essentially there are two generic types of UPS available at present - Static and Rotary covering various topologies (VFI,VI & VFD)- although it is important to understand that Static UPS enjoy the lion’s share of a global market forecast to grow in 2010 to $7.3b (IMS Research, Uninterruptible Power Supply Sourcebook, July  2010).

Static units range from 200 VA to 1600 KVA as single modules which can be connected in parallel to achieve larger outputs and or redundancy of N+1 or N+N. Rotary UPS are mainly available from 500 KVA to 1600 KVA as single modules and suitable for paralleling to reach larger ratings. There are a number of key areas to consider when selecting which type of UPS system will provide optimum protection at a competitive price. Criteria include criticality, UPS type, configuration/ availability, load rating/ battery autonomy, maintainability & installation/ structural considerations.

Criticality
The very first question is one of mission criticality, in other words what are the consequences for an organisation if a mains disruption or outage crashes its computer system or renders IT services unavailable. Depending on the application consequences may extend from a temporary inconvenience to the paralysis of the entire business. Apart from just continuity of power, quality of power is also very important for IT equipment.

Appropriate UPS selection should therefore provide protection from grid related disturbances including blackouts, brownouts (sags), dynamic overvoltage, overvoltage, undervoltage, transients (surges), frequency variations, voltage distortion Hf (burst) and harmonics. In addition, power disturbances generated within data centres, caused by lifts, HVAC, inrush current from printers or even a loose neutral connection must also be mitigated.

UPS types and codes
Industry standards have been developed to describe the technical characteristics and therefore protection afforded by various UPS topologies. IEC  62040-3 provides very clear definitions for each UPS type complete with typical block diagrams :

1. VFI –  the UPS output is independent “of Input mains supply Voltage and Frequency variations”, i.e., the primary power path is the inverter and not the AC mains for true double conversion on-line topology.

2. VI  -  the UPS output is dependent “on Input supply frequency variations, but Mains supply Voltage variations are conditioned (independent)...”.

3. VFD  -  the UPS output is dependent  “ on Mains Input Voltage and Frequency variations”.

Ensuring the correct balance between efficiency and resilience.
Double conversion (VFI) UPS systems protect the load continuously (with no switching risks) against voltage/frequency variations from the utility. However, in the recent past a number of UPS manufacturers are trying to reach unrealistic high (99%!) efficiency by sacrificing electrical power quality demanded by Servers and adding risk of unwanted source switching right at crucial moment of UPS operation. In other words such UPS systems are expected to switch between various modes of operation –VFD, VI and VFI. This kind of operational switching can impact on system resilience (due to prolonged switching periods) and reduce MTBF resulting in very low Availability values due to increased MTTR.

In addition to availability implication, high efficiency UPS also sacrifice power quality demanded by IT equipment. It’s essential never to expose the IT load to raw mains by running the UPS in bypass mode. Even if the bypass path has a harmonic conditioner and choke, it does not provide clean, conditioned and isolated power required by IT equipment. A series choke within the UPS bypass path will limit fault clearing capacity, increase losses due to load harmonics and make discrimination more difficult.

A typical diesel rotary UPS is not double conversion and does not correct frequency swings during normal operation. Furthermore, Rotary units have a very high component count resulting in very low MTBF. When utilised for IT loads, the units need a 150% oversized neutral to handle a high level of Triple ‘n’ harmonics. Blade servers impose a leading power factor load on UPS and therefore this must be a key factor during selection of larger UPS systems. However, UPS systems can be highly underutilised making it necessary for input harmonic filters to hold the distortion level (THDI) at 5% right across the load range. There is a trend to utilise a PFC type active charger resulting in very low (4%) input harmonics and almost unity input power factor.

From a scalability point of view, static units are easily retrofitted within a building, but the same cannot be said for rotary UPS, mainly due to structural issues and noise problems. Further complications may have to be addressed due to vibrations, fuel storage, fire risk, wet stacking (caused due to light load running) and exhaust fumes.

Load rating / battery bank
Sizing of UPS needs to account for Crest Factor and harmonics from the PCs and servers, not ignoring blade servers which have leading power factor and very high inrush currents. Generally all UPS units are rated for specific KVA of load at 0.8 lagging power factor. Battery autonomy must be adequate to protect the load during blackout and batteries need to be monitored as they are the weakest link in any power protection system. For larger systems it is worth sizing the battery for end of life and to meet ENBS6290 Pt.4 1997. Multiple battery strings are advisable for critical applications.

It’s common practise to have up to 15 minutes autonomy backed by diesel generators capable of handling leading power factor loads presented by blade servers. Sites without secondary generators may need a minimum of 30 minutes’ autonomy plus software to ensure a graceful IT shutdown and to protect against data corruption or loss.

Configuration / availability
In order to achieve high levels of availability, built-in system redundancy (N+1 or greater) and fast service from manufacturers are recommended. It may be worth using static transfer switches near the PDU since this improves both availability, maintainability and limits fault propagation.

Installation / maintainability
These disciplines are subject to an article in their own right as the siting and installation of equipment is a complex subject. Static UPS does not require air-conditioning but battery room needs to be maintained at temperature range - 10 to 25 C for extended life. From a maintenance point of view, this should be carried out on a regular basis either by the manufacturer’s own team to protect product liability insurance cover, or at the very least by factory-trained personnel if using a third party for this function.  Maintainability and spare parts provision are important as these have a profound effect on availability.

Conclusions
When selecting UPS systems for critical applications, the specifier must consider the impact of a loss of IT services on the organisation, since this will almost certainly cause financial loss or damage to brand. Newer, high efficiency static UPS may achieve 99 % efficiency, but only momentarily and with all the associated risks to the IT load posed by VFD operation. Rotary UPS pose a number of problems, limited scalability, the noise they create and their long maintenance period requirements.

Double conversion (VFI) UPS systems are up to 97% efficient and will protect an IT load continuously (with no switching risks) against mains events and outages. A small trade-off, perhaps, but compensated by a great deal of peace of mind where IT continuity and resilience is vital.

Our grumpy old man is seeing red. But it’s not Santa’s suit in his sights, but the fact our power distribution is now under Chinese control that’s got him hot under the collar

It’s Christmas and we’ve gifted our power to the Chinese. I have prattled on (and on) in this column about the concerns I have about the security of Britain’s electricity supply. Now I am starting to spit feathers with the news that Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI) and Hongkong Electric has bought Eléctricité de France's (EDF) UK electricity distribution networks for £5.78bn.

As a kid, most of my plastic Christmas toys came from Hong Kong. Now it’s our power that comes courtesy of that province.

That we should be dependent for one of our most vital resources on the policy, ethos and ethics of completely remote overseas business more than sits uncomfortably with me… it bloody terrifies me!

We all know how creaking our power distribution infrastructure is – yesterday I had another hour long outage (in spite of being 10 minutes from Dungeness B and the windfarm at Little Cheyne Court) – and I very much doubt CKI and Hong Kong Electric will be too enamoured about the costs of infrastructure renewal in our congested metropolises.

When will GB Limited and our illustrious new coalition leaders grasp that we must absolutely be masters of our own destiny against the backdrop of rapidly increasing demand and diminishing affordable power supplies? I am in despair.

Anyway, enough of that before I require defibrillation.

It being that time of year, I couldn’t resist looking at the Electrical Contractors Association’s guidance on the safe use of Christmas lights. While what the ECA has published makes absolute sense and I would not argue with a word of it, I had an amusing recollection from many years ago when I was still an engineer.

In the run in to Christmas, a variety of my company’s offices strung assorted lights and other paraphernalia around their otherwise gloomy lairs. A directive was circulated that all such adornments were to be taken down until they could be re-erected by qualified electricians. Now, I suspect at the time (late 70s) it had more to do with union demarcation than safety, but who knows? What I recall was the merriment it caused and the pressure it put on the firm’s electrical services team. To most of us it seemed like of foretaste of the nanny state that was to come over the subsequent three decades.

I have seen some terrifying lash-ups perpetrated by the great British public (and many other publics come to that matter). Cables connected using Sellotape, single 13A plugs with six separate sets of lights wired into them (and on a 13A fuse to boot), open connections exposed to wind and rain… the list goes on. If nothing else, such practices do endorse the need for RCDs!

My point is the ECA’s worthy warning will not reach those who need to hear it. Electrical contractors are not stupid and to give advice that lights might short or that plug connections may have become loosened is rather like instructing one’s parents’ parents to do the proverbial to some eggs.

Finally, can I send a Christmas wish to Santa? I’ve been a good boy… grumpy, but good, honest.

I would like:
A sensible energy policy based not on rhetoric or political posturing but based on need, best and most appropriate available technology and firm resolve.
A solid programme of regeneration, affordable housing and infrastructure investment that will keep electrical engineers and contractors gainfully employed for years to come without boom and bust cycles.
A shiny new generator set might be useful because I think it’s only a matter of time before I will need one.

Finally, may I wish you all a merry Christmas and the kind of new year that leaves us all a little less grumpy!
 

John Houston can be contacted on 01797 364366
or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As the UK economy continues to stutter out of recession, many in the electrical and electronics sector are working hard to take advantage of the slowly improving climate. While it is important to grasp business opportunity while it is there, getting involved in helping a charity can be extremely rewarding and worthwhile.  Pat Sheldrake, head of fund raising operations for the Electrical and Electronics Benevolent Association (EEIBA), looks at how volunteering to support those who’ve given so much to our industry in the past can be extremely satisfying, as well as reaping rewards for the beneficiaries

With the difficult economic climate continuing to bite, everyone is feeling the squeeze on their finances. Individuals and companies are all pulling in their belts and with the recently announced cuts in public sector spending, this is in turn having an effect on all charities with EEIBA being no exception. However, there are many ways to support and help our industry’s own charity, even if it is not possible to dig deep individually from a donation point of view.
The work of EEIBA takes many forms as each year the charity gives support and advice and if necessary, financial help to a wide range of beneficiaries who work or have worked in the electrical or electronics industry. Beneficiaries come from all walks of life and can include electricians, van drivers and those who have worked in manufacturing or even high street electrical retailers. Additionally, relatives and dependents of those from the industry can also be eligible for assistance in certain circumstances.

The advisory help provided can include subjects such as debt counselling, something which continues to cause problems for many, particularly in light of increased redundancies in the UK since the recession. Similarly, financial help also encompasses all kinds of scenarios, such as those in need of specialist equipment for their homes, or a wheelchair to enable them to get around better, through to providing vital respite breaks for those who may be caring for their relatives.

There are many ways to become involved and help to ensure the valuable work of EEIBA is able to continue. One of the main ways the charity is funded is via events such as our annual powerBall which is a popular, key calendar date for the industry and takes place in London every November. This year an incredible £220,000 was raised from the night. For those unable to make the journey to London, most EEIBA regional branches run their own Christmas parties and summer balls which are a great way to contribute while being able to enjoy a highly social evening.

In addition to social gatherings, there’s other activity based events such as golf days, horse racing days and angling competitions. These regional days also provide a highly enjoyable way of boosting the charity’s funds while at the same time networking and socialising with colleagues and friends from our industry.

As an organisation, EEIBA relies heavily on the support and hard work of our branches and as well as attending events, getting involved with your local region can really give a boost to finances. Even helping with organising events can make a massive difference to the amount of money that can be raised.

These days more and more people are undertaking activity challenges such as running marathons or half-marathons, as well as cycling, hill walking and even swimming the English Channel, to name but a few. It is a great way of training for a specific challenge and getting fit, while helping others and the sense of elation and achievement upon completion can never be underestimated. Frequently it is the bigger, more widely known charities that benefit from these efforts and while money raised for any charity is fantastic, those who work in our industry might like to consider taking part to fund raise for EEIBA next time. For example, there are dedicated EEIBA spaces available for next year’s London Marathon so if you want to run, why not think a bit closer to home and do it for your own industry’s charity?

EEIBA has just launched a new fund raising pack to assist those wishing to get involved in helping to boost the charity’s finances.

For those who haven’t quite decided how they’re going to fund raise, the pack includes ideas such as organising sponsored bike rides and golf days and the less energetic can also get involved with charity karaoke nights and cake sales.

The packs have been designed to support and inspire our army of seasoned fundraisers as well as those who’ve never been involved with EEIBA before.

Despite the commercial pressures we all face in our day to day lives, giving up a small amount of time to attend an event or fund raise will make a real difference to EEIBA, its work and most importantly, the beneficiaries.

For more information on EEIBA, to make a donation or to get involved in fundraising, contact 020 8673 9821 or visit www.eeiba.org

Automation within the plant environment goes beyond installing technologies such as variable speed drives and programmable automation controllers. The need for greater integration of process operations means organisations also need to deploy an integrated communications hierarchy - one which can be expanded over time as the business develops and can be adapted to meet changing needs. Here, Jez Palmer from Schneider Electric discusses the process

Over the past few years, businesses have faced an increasing amount of pressure to introduce integrated processes within their plant environment. However, the implementation of standard technologies, work processes and best practices still need to be maintained wherever possible. Therefore, the need to operate in an open environment is the modern approach that has been adopted by organisations as they address the structure of their communications hierarchy.

Barriers to information still exist between energy management and process automation systems interacting with operations management and enterprise systems. Those in the process industry should consider the impact that these barriers to information have on productivity, business opportunities, lifecycle costs, and the realisation of a strategy for operational excellence in today's plants. Process suppliers need to move to a single environment where the energy management and automation systems seamlessly interact with operations management applications.

Organisations face a number of challenges, primarily as they attempt to implement an open communications hierarchy. A shift of this nature will then enable them to subsequently move away from the proprietary standards and technologies that have previously been the legacy of yesterday’s energy management and process automation systems.

As an organisation changes and evolves, its operations will do the same in order to cope with the increased amounts of productivity. Businesses must improve in speed and agility to respond to the demands of customers, the drive towards energy efficiency, as well as regulatory pressures and standards. In addition, companies need to change in line with their competitor markets, sustainability initiatives and the views and needs of the shareholders. To manage such demanding levels of change, channels of communication must exchange information that facilitates automation and communication within the workplace.

Improved integrated systems can offer businesses a solution to successfully address operational efficiency at the right level within a plant environment. Creating a fully integrated organisational management system can often be perceived as a complex task, but in theory it should actually be achieved at a relatively basic level by having systems that operate through a standard communications hierarchy. By combining data from each of the operating systems within a common infrastructure, the business will have better control and visibility, a clearer understanding of its energy usage and productivity as well as easier and improved maintenance – a considerable number of benefits.

The breakdown of barriers between process automation, operations and energy management has been raised as a common issue for some time, although organisations are working hard to look to help address the problem. An obvious solution would be to manage operations from one single environment, which means production applications such as plant asset management, performance management and scheduling can seamlessly integrate into the same communications infrastructure as the energy management and control systems functions.

There are clearly a number of benefits to having a communications hierarchy in place. What will be pleasing to hear is that this is easily achievable and there will not be too much upheaval for businesses while the system is being introduced. Many organisations have aging systems that are still in use, but nearing the end of their useful life. When the time comes to improve these outdated technologies, businesses should consider utilising new devices that feature communications technology already imbedded in them.

To put this into context, look at the benefits of Schneider Electric’s SoCollaborative integrated software suite, to include engineering tools, as well as HMI, SCADA and historian functionality. SoCollaborative incorporates networking and communications that are built on Ethernet, which facilitates the open and transparent communication between the field, process, plant and enterprise. Network technologies and web services ensure that there will an efficient sharing and distribution of information between sensors, instrumentation, devices, controllers, operator workstations and other third party systems. The process organisation also benefits from open fieldbus and device network connectivity.

A big advantage for businesses is that implementing such a solution brings consistency throughout all process control disciplines, including engineering, operating and monitoring, maintenance and data storage, as well as reporting and optimising. It provides much needed assurances to businesses that its solutions are integrated while supporting collaboration, which helps to drive energy management at all levels of a process organisation. What is also helpful for businesses is that they can measure and analyse data, delivering advanced trending and processes visualisation as part of its standard operating and monitoring modes.

Introducing a common communications hierarchy also allows businesses to own their plant and processes, prolonging asset life through the collection and storage of all process, quality and energy data from across plant sites. From this, detailed reports can be generated to help in the decision making process by leveraging historian and process optimisation functionalities.

It is, however, important for businesses to recognise in order to meet with internal change and demand; organisations must implement a clear and concise communications hierarchy to provide an open and collaborative environment where operations embrace standards. Also, where necessary, the business needs to adapt and utilise the full scope of the automation and communications hierarchy.

Taking these steps will enable a business to successfully evolve into the future, as operations can then intelligently adapt to incorporate energy management and control systems into their business information systems.

In today’s plant environment, organisations will be constantly challenged with issues which will incorporate sustainability, preserving capital assets and extending their life, increasing asset utilisation, maximising operational effectiveness, reducing fixed costs, minimising variable costs, and empowering their workers to make it all happen.

Manufacturers are continuously introducing new software solutions into the marketplace, to help businesses reap the long term benefits of managing operations through one integrated solution. Utilising a carefully integrated solution allows an organisation to customise their strategy of energy management benefits, while addressing both automation and energy management requirements, to give a tailored plan which is centred on the needs of the business.

For organisations to evolve, solutions providers such as Schneider Electric look to introduce offerings such as the SoCollaborative software and Planstruxure solutions into the marketplace. This transformation within industry will focus on simplifying processes, to act as one solutions provider, accelerating the drive to address end user needs for customised solutions with strong energy management benefits, thereby capturing a bigger part of the value chain and leveraging its integrated portfolio of businesses by promoting a common architecture and adapting its organisation to align with end user segmentation.

For organisations this results in collaborative solutions that address both automation and energy management needs, then tailoring those solutions to be industry, application, and manufacturer specific to optimise the return on investment (ROI) and return on assets (ROA) for each individual customer.

Schneider Electric has introduced PlantStruxure to address those challenges that are found in organisations on a global scale. Addressing process challenges should involve reducing engineering time, providing high availability architectures, and solving process safety challenges.

High availability is required by all customers whose processes cannot afford an unexpected downtime because the product material costs and/or process start-up costs are high, with aggressive production targets, product quality affected by downtime, and unscheduled downtime, which combined could potentially cause harm to people and/or equipment.

Unexpected downtime may result in lost production and revenue, wasted energy, increased use of raw materials and consumables, higher maintenance costs, and have a possible negative impact to the safety of personnel and equipment. Solutions software, such as PlantStruxure offers tested and proven high availability systems at every process level, focused on providing continuous operations, accelerating the process end user return on investment and increasing plant maintainability and efficiency.