Features

The Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) and leading awarding body EAL have   worked together to develop qualifications specifically tailored to meet industry needs. Here, Iain Macdonald (pictured), Head of Education and Training at the ECA, and Ann Watson, Managing Director of EAL, look at issues faced by contractors, and the importance of training to stay ahead of the game

Challenges to Training

Iain MacDonald outlines the challenges to training:
Recent years have seen dramatic and rapid changes to training and skills requirements in the electrotechnical industry, resulting from; advancements in technology, changes in regulation and legislation, and the government's sustainability agenda. To remain competitive, firms are faced with the issue of keeping operatives up-to-date, leading to an increased need for workforce training.

Training is costly and requires a significant investment of time off the job. In light of this, I believe it would be fair to say that many firms only train when they have no other choice; when legislation dictates or accreditation is required by third parties. In an increasingly competitive market, this attitude to improving and consolidating skills may now put the future of businesses at stake. In an era where clients and specifiers are increasingly asking contractors to demonstrate competence and qualifications in the work they carry out, one of the best ways for them to do so is to train their workforce.

Faced with a wide choice of contractors in a highly competitive market, clients are increasingly likely to employ firms with the credentials to satisfy their expectations and legal obligations. Those with a trained and qualified workforce make a statement that they are likely to be competent and up-to-date with industry best practice.

There are, of course, always firms that rely solely on their track record, reputation and experience to win business, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, in a market that is increasingly defined by specialist areas such as fire, security, datacomms and now, sustainability, conventional electrical contractors that would traditionally see such work as ‘their' business are finding that clients are increasingly looking for proof that a firm is ‘qualified' to carry out the work. The result is a rapid growth in the certification of firms, often underpinned by a requirement to prove the skills and qualifications of the workforce.
There are many reasons why contractors should ensure that training remains a priority even in the current downturn, however, the ECA's ‘Incentives and Barriers to Training' report, published last year, identified several significant challenges to training. The two central issues were financial constraints, and a lack of understanding amongst employers of competency requirements and the wide range of training options available. These challenges, and ways around them, will be analysed in more detail later. First, let's examine the main drivers of change:

Sustainability
The government has set an ambitious target of 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. The construction industry plays a key role in this and is experiencing a marked impact in terms of growing legal and technical requirements on projects at all levels from design to completion.

As the demand for intelligent building solutions grows and technological advancements increase, specialist firms will undoubtedly capitalise on the business opportunities their skills and qualifications provide by creating a niche market for a particular discipline, thus presenting ever more competition for the general electrical contractor.

Standards to underpin training and qualifications in support of sustainable technologies are still to be developed and, in the meantime, firms should be careful to obtain qualifications from reputable sources. It is hoped that, once developed, qualifications such as this will provide contractors with quality-assured instruction, assessment and certification, enabling them to comply with increasingly strict environmental legislation, and distinguish themselves from competitors.

17th Edition
Last year we saw the most complete overhaul of the basic industry regulations in sixteen years, in the form of BS7671: 2008 The 17th Edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations.
Significantly, the new regulations now impose a legal requirement on the client to take responsibility for ensuring that any work commissioned is in compliance. The client's duty is no longer to simply go with the best price, but also to ensure competence, safety and quality by contracting those with sufficient technical knowledge of the regulations. As a consequence, we now see clauses in contracts specifying that contractors demonstrate competence to carry out work that complies, with the most effective way of satisfying this requirement being proof of up-to-date industry recognised qualifications.

These changes will have had most impact on those contractors with plentiful experience but little in the way of formal training. New entrants to the sector, and operatives who have not undertaken any formal qualification on the 16th Edition since 2001 require a full course, while those with qualifications taken after 2001 may only need to undertake a shorter update course. The ECA has worked with EAL and other awarding bodies to offer both the full and update 17th Edition diplomas. Another valuable qualification is the Level 2 Certificate for Domestic Electrical Installers, incorporating the necessary knowledge requirements for the majority of Part P Competent Persons Schemes.


Business Benefits of Training

Ann Watson continues on the business benefits of training:
We have seen that during times of financial uncertainty, training and the additional associated costs become less of a priority for businesses. In the current financial climate, many companies will be tempted to slash training budgets. But during a recession, companies investing in training are 2.5 times less likely to go under. So, however difficult it might be to sustain investment in training during this time, to do otherwise could lead to substantial problems in the long term.

There are significant business advantages associated with investment in training. Whilst it may be tough to secure the required budgets during the recession, if training can be sustained, the return on that initial investment will include benefits for both employers and employees alike. For example, certain qualifications and training courses can help improve business knowledge, performance and productivity, making companies more robust and successful. By increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace, training can aid turnover and reduce business costs, as well as boosting employee confidence, morale and motivation, therefore assisting with recruitment and retention. Similarly, demonstrating the high quality performance of a skilled and motivated workforce to existing and potential customers could lead to new or repeat business.

By providing employees with the opportunity to work towards nationally recognised qualifications and obtain transferable abilities, skills and knowledge, training will aid employees' career development opportunities. With the future of the industry dependent on training as a method of easing the skills crisis, investment in training is crucial in order to secure the future strength of the industry.

Funding & Advice
Government funding to undertake training programmes may be available to employers, regardless of their business size, through initiatives such as Train to Gain. Further information and advice on these initiatives, including details of how to apply, are available from Sector Skills Councils such as SummitSkills. Members of the Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) may also be able to access the ECA Training Fund, a £10m fund created to help member firms by reimbursing the course costs of approved adult training programmes. Level 3 and Level 4 Electrotechnical NVQs approved by SummitSkills are included in the ECA's list of qualifications that are available for funding, such as EAL's Building Service Engineering Technology and Project Management NVQs at Level 3 and 4, along with NVQs focusing on management and in-company career development programmes.

In Summary
I believe that through sustained investment in high-quality training relevant to business objectives, employers can ensure that their organisations are equipped with a competitive edge in preparation for eventual economic upturn. High standards of skill and expertise remain very much in demand in the electrical industry. By undertaking the necessary training and striving to deliver best practice, electrical contractors of all sizes can remain competitive. Firms that face the challenges brought about by changing training requirements and turn them into business benefits will be best placed to survive difficult times and prosper in the future.

Securing the future of the industry is of paramount importance, and this can only be achieved through sustained investment in training. We will continue to work with industry bodies such as the ECA, along with our own specialist in-house experts, to ensure that our qualifications are fit for purpose, flexible and of the high quality required. Doing so will enable us to assist businesses and the industry as a whole to remain strong, despite the current downturn.

As LED technology matures, modern manufacturing companies predict solid-state  lighting technology will rapidly outrun conventional lighting sources in performance, emissions and cost. Gary Ashburner, Managing Director of SH Lighting explains

Given that lighting accounts for almost 20% of the world's electricity consumption, it is logical to look at ways to save lighting energy, as a top priority. Compact fluorescents have been around for a good few years now but have not been as well received as ‘the powers that be' thought. Yes, they offer an extended life of around seven years, but they are bulky, ugly, have a restricted range and cannot be dimmed.

Although, manufacturers have introduced a new generation of these lamps that are definitely more acceptable, they are still seen as being too expensive; dim by comparison to current incandescent light bulbs and still contain toxins which means they have to be disposed of in a responsible way.

As technology advances, the most significant development in lighting is embodied in the field of LED lighting technology.

Over the last few years a relatively small amount of LED's have been installed in replacement or retrofit applications in certain industrial niche areas; mainly those used in fire hazard and explosive risk areas, due to their low operating temperature features. They have also created a huge impact on the ‘high street' retail and fashion markets too, as they have allowed lighting designers the opportunity to create cost saving, 24-7 low energy lighting displays, perfect for creating the desired market ambiance and consumer mood creation, through their ability to flexibly produce dynamic lighting effects and colour washes of large areas, or buildings, without creating light pollution.

Throughout the world, there is an expanding college of Government bodies, scientists and industrial partners who are currently looking at ways develop the latest generation of LED lighting technologies in an effort to fulfil a vital role across the entire range of municipal lighting infrastructures.

Faced with ever soaring energy prices, based on OPEC and other international suppliers controlling the availability of rapidly diminishing fossil fuels, together with the mounting pressure on world leaders to tackle climate change and the sustainability of the environment; a total re-think on our current lighting technology is definitely overdue
For over 130 years incandescent light bulbs have become the standard form of illumination that literally brightened and warmed the lives of millions of people as they replaced candles, gas and oil lamps; the problem is they are extremely inefficient as they are more proficient at producing heat than light, because as much as 90% of the energy that goes into lighting a bulb, is converted into heat!

However, with constant advances over the last decade or so, lighting manufacturers are now producing a whole new class of LED (Light emitting diodes) products, designed for general illumination and ready to revolutionise the way we approach urban lighting.
According to a published report by the US Department for Energy, it was estimated by switching to LED based lighting, it would be feasible for a medium sized city to save between 40% - 70% of the electricity needed to power specific lighting applications such as parking facilities, outdoor public areas, walkways and street lighting. It also reported over the next 20 years, by changing to LED lighting technology they could reduce electricity demands from lighting by 62% and eliminate 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions - negating the need to build an estimated 133 new power plants and offering an anticipated financial saving in excess of $280 billion.

So what are LED's? Basically, light emitting diodes are solid state components that have no moving parts, are incredibly robust and last for decades; which significantly reduce maintenance costs. They are a highly efficient light source with a potential to reduce electricity consumption by 50% or more and offer the most efficient and environmentally clean, no mercury lighting source available.

The long service life coupled with the efficiency of LED lighting, delivers significant benefits for a whole range of applications, especially those that are currently using incandescent bulbs, making urban lighting an attractive application for LED lighting due to several factors: 
- Large number of lights needed
- Energy saving 
- High maintenance costs due to positioning and location. 
- Quality of light solutions to minimize glare and light pollution.
- Climate change

A typical example where LED's offer an economic alternative to current lighting applications is in multi-storey car parks, where lights must burn 24-hours-a-day - mostly during peak rates. Lighting in these locations has to be designed to accommodate and function correctly with vehicular and pedestrian traffic, must endure harsh environments and be required to fully comply with all aspects of public safety.

LED lighting fixtures are considered perfect for operation in these surroundings for a number of reasons:
- Long lifetimes coupled with highly reliable service, greatly reduces maintenance costs. 
- LED's are not affected by most vibrations and typical temperature variations. 
- Highly efficient light source with a potential to reduce electricity consumption by over 50%. 
- Variable high quality ‘white light' available in colour temperatures from ‘warm to cool'. 
- Compatible with modern control systems to further reduce electricity consumption.
So, with the entire world standing at an industrial, environmental and economical crossroad, there may be no better time for Governments to skip their single minded introduction of compact fluorescent lamps and look a little bit further into the future, using their influence to encourage system designers, urban developers in conjunction with the electrical utilities suppliers to make a more thoughtful lighting choice: Invest in an emission free lighting technology that will greatly benefit the taxpayer and the environment by synergistically engaging advanced LED lighting solutions, with their blend of sustainable energy sources, to economically light our cities, long into the future.

Each month, Electrical Review's resident grumpy old man, writer and industry  commentator John Houston, explores a hot topic of the day and lets us know his views in no uncertain terms

Feeling even grumpier than usual with all the doom, gloom and despondency our beloved banking fraternity has heaped upon us, my thoughts turned surprisingly away from the concept of following the Government's lead and running a few extra quid off on my laser printer, and instead to what the future holds for energy.

Now normally, I tend toward the "if we don't so something fast, we're all doooomed" school of thought, but a couple of things I read prompted far more positive ideas.  The first was from an American industrial commentator, Jim Pinto, for whom I have great respect. Jim was speculating on the future of power and I started to reflect on the fact that he made a point that we have as a human race always been a step ahead of our own consumption. He argues (and I agree) that our ingenuity and technology has always devised new ways to avert the seemingly inevitable. Bless our opposing thumbs for that.

The fact is that why shouldn't we develop dramatically more efficient electrical devices, alternatives to the internal combustion engine (probably electrically or hybrid powered vehicles) or even compact nuclear power stations with significantly reduced environmental impacts. Certainly, the overwhelming energy source will be electricity (it already accounts for more than 60% of all power consumed). Our imagination is the only impediment to such progress and mankind has proved itself to be highly inventive. It's great what we can do with opposable thumbs - wheels for one thing.

Jim Pinto observes that our ability to invent is effectively a bottomless well. What we as a race must determine is that we find the way to reach and exploit all that's in that well.
This leads me on to the second thing I read; about a technological development that could and should change how we use and understand energy in future.  Some ten years or more ago, I was involved in a development for smart metering of electricity, gas or water. The product fitted to existing meters and relayed consumption data directly to the billing provider - spelling the end to erroneous or estimated bills, but also to the need for meter readers. Clearly, the displacement of so many jobs was always going to be a socio-political issue. But, the benefits of billing accuracy and the overcoming of the need to stay home for the meter reader is a huge consumer advantage.

Now an ambitious scheme to see all meters fitted with smart technology by 2020 has been announced by the government at a cost estimated by the Department of Energy and Climate Change at £9.29bn (quick, print some more money). However, the estimated savings in the first year alone amount to £11.79bn (hold the presses).

There is no doubt smart metering will happen. It enables not just the automatic and accurate collection of consumption data, but can enable accurate and rapid tariff changes to be effected, allow consumers to monitor their own bills and use the data to save energy.
But, there's always a but. Who will pay for the equipment and the labour of installing the upgrades? It has been mooted since there is such a benefit to consumers, we should make a contribution - probably through the element of our bills that currently pays for metering. However, the ones standing to gain most from the technology in the long term are the big six suppliers. Consequently, consumer groups are already lobbying for these monoliths to foot the lion's share of the bill.

I would also question the estimated £340 per household as the price for installation. The development I knew about had a remote metering and wireless communications interface able to be sold commercially at about £35.00 per unit and installation took less than an hour. Worst case scenario, the cost would be perhaps £70-80.00 per meter. I know technology has likely moved on over the past decade, but surely not such that costs would treble.
So, we have a bottomless well of ingenuity, but we don't have a bottomless well of money. Not that is, unless we print some more.

In the current turbulent economic climate, companies are concentrating on reducing their costs while increasing profitability. Their efforts here also involve focusing on optimising their processes. Many firms are only approving new investments in the process optimisation area after thoroughly scrutinising the proposed expenditure and verifying that it will start delivering ROI rapidly. In some cases, new investments may not even be necessary, as the so-called ‘hidden knowledge' in many companies still harbours immense potential for improvement. Tapping into these internal resources and making them available to all departments can help to boost competitive advantage significantly. Uwe Kueppers, director of software at Rockwell Automation explains

This is why the first goal should be a precise analysis of how different departments collaborate and use information, and of tasks performed by individual members of staff. This will help define ways to support staff in their everyday work. Meaningful performance figures are indispensable for this analysis, as well as for measuring success and aligning optimization processes with business objectives. These performance indicators are often used to estimate a manufacturer's competitiveness on the international market.  

Today, their use has expanded to all business areas - for monitoring company, division and departmental goals; delivering current snapshots of a particular area; and verifying results. Management uses them to prepare and validate important decisions about production and other areas. There is also a growing need for key figures and indicators to underpin decision-making processes due to the increasing accountability of each member of staff in companies today.

However, the issue with performance figures is that each department and business area has its own, so these need to be correlated so that decision-makers end up with a reliable overall view. As a rule, figures from the quality, service and production areas can be compared and combined in a common context. But this will only work if the figures have a clear and consistent definition, because this is the best way to compare different business areas or geographical locations and replicate successes in other areas.
A collaborative environment for sustainable success

The growing pressure to succeed and to control costs demands a highly collaborative working environment in any company. The next leap forward in business process optimisation can therefore only be realised if the entire collective expertise of the company is used as the basis of this working environment. This requires the type of corporate culture that encourages information sharing and open discussion about performance indicators. However, it also demands an IT and technology infrastructure that is capable of supporting a collaborative environment.

So how should companies collect figures and indicators across departments and build a collaborative system? Today, they tend to run queries in several different systems and contact their colleagues in each department to obtain information from the data silos. They then correlate all the information and produce key indicators based on the results. The data needed for a performance management system is not only stored in several places and systems, but is also analysed and interpreted in different ways depending on the user's viewpoint.

In order to quickly identify and analyse relationships within the data, it makes sense to build automation into the performance management system. This enables decision-makers to analyse different groups of figures systematically and put them in context. However, the production area is complex and it can be difficult to integrate it into these systems. Collecting key production figures often requires additional manual notes and correlation, which are both time-consuming and error-prone. The resulting calculations are therefore of questionable reliability, limiting their importance as a decision support tool.

For all these reasons, companies are often reluctant to commit resources to the integration of their production systems into a performance management system and to the creation of a common architecture for monetary and non-monetary production figures. At the same time, the adoption of Lean Management principles and the corresponding reduction in hierarchy levels has resulted in non-monetary figures gaining in importance.

They enable decision makers to manage individual production areas more directly and take action whenever needed. This is clearly much easier for managers when the decision for action is based on ongoing observations and analysis. Manufacturing companies today depend on up-to-date and easily accessible production figures if they are committed to operational improvements.

Under the theme "A day in your life", Rockwell Automation has summarised a range of everyday activities and processes in manufacturing companies that can be durably optimised by improving collaboration and using information more efficiently across departments. 
- Throughout the whole process sequence, all changes to existing machines and controllers must be accounted for. By implementing this measure in the food sector, for example, companies may not only facilitate compliance with strict quality and regulatory requirements, but demonstrably improve it. 
- The production area needs rapid access to targeted information so it can react flexibly to changing demands. Examples of requirements here range from the ability to optimise detailed planning to correlating event- or time-based information with existing cost structures and necessary quality levels. 
- Maintenance staff can react faster and in a more targeted way if they have access to information about all possible sources of errors in the quality and production areas. Also, they can make better use of the time reserved for planned maintenance work if they combine production and process flow planning with a scheduled downtime window for fitting equipment or for cleaning. In this way, one window can be used for both activities.
- Energy efficiency and the use of energy in a targeted and well-planned way is gaining in importance due to rising energy costs. To help them optimise energy utilisation, decision-makers need usage information from several different company departments. 
- The executive team also needs fast, reliable information to help it make better decisions more rapidly. Managers should be able to access all the information they need without the help of IT or other specialists, and produce analyses and reports themselves. 
- IT staff need consistent access to data to help them provide users with the appropriate information more quickly.

In most cases, there is no problem collecting the data needed for process optimisation. Quite the opposite, in fact - most companies today generate far more data than they can realistically process. However, it is stored in information ‘islands',, and although these may be able to communicate with each other, there is no mechanism for correlating and consolidating it to produce a meaningful interpretation. Business intelligence (BI) and plant intelligence systems, in the commercial and manufacturing fields, represent a promising approach to integrating different data sources. However, the big challenge here is integrating data models that are fundamentally different, with transaction-oriented data from business systems like ERP or SCM on one side, and real-time data from control systems in production and quality control on the other.

Yet this integration is exactly what is needed. It would help decision-makers analyse the influence of an individual production process on the company's business performance and identify potential optimisation measures. Practically every company has some sort of approach to integrating production and transaction data, but the time and effort needed for it is immense. Most firms use specially-developed connectors and adapters to extract data from the control systems and feed it into business systems. However, this can generate significant additional costs for customised programming as well as hundreds of hours in implementation time. Also, the additional maintenance needed for these solutions adds a considerable amount to their total cost of ownership (TCO).

Some providers of industrial information solutions are attempting to close this gap and, like Rockwell Automation with its FactoryTalk Integrated Production and Performance Suite, have invested in integrated solutions for manufacturing operations. A key requirement here is that companies can integrate their existing systems into the overall solution, and that the solution is scalable. This makes it easier for companies to take a phased and targeted approach to integration and achieve a return on investment as quickly as possible. In challenging economic times, this makes it easier to control and verify investments while using the initial positive results for further optimisation.

Rockwell Automation covers the areas of operational intelligence and enterprise manufacturing intelligence with its FactoryTalk VantagePoint solution, which harmonises data and information systems in the production area. It also allows the IT department to offer staff personalised, consistent access to corporate data and applications without them needing to know which system the information is stored in.

Alongside standard tools for analysis and interpretation, FactoryTalk VantagePoint uses a very common tool to generate an optimal reporting and performance management system that works with dashboards and KPIs. The tool is Microsoft Excel - but it is only used here as a report configurator. Once the reports are configured, they are stored and managed within the VantagePoint model and can be used statically or dynamically via web services as web-based reports.

With the addition of automated reporting based on FactoryTalk VantagePoint, Excel almost turns into a business intelligence tool.

A further important point to consider when pressing ahead with process improvements is to deliver contextual information rather than just a number. If the figures are deteriorating, the context helps managers pinpoint and analyse the reason. The performance management system should also provide drill-down options and ad hoc queries that decision-makers can use without the intervention of IT staff.

This is where FactoryTalk VantagePoint comes into its own. It offers options for report generation from a variety of data sources and facilitates the integration and correlation of data from different applications, databases and systems.

The consequence is an open and scalable system that companies can integrate into their existing infrastructure. This not only helps to protect the investments they have already made, but can strengthen their overall competitiveness. Against the backdrop of a challenging economic climate, they can use investments in a more targeted way, to build up a collaborative information system to leverage existing - but untapped - knowledge to reduce costs and optimise their process flows. In this context, the significance of ‘A day in your life' is that better use of information makes everyday business more reliable and goal-oriented. And at the end of the day, that means it is likely to be more successful.

The role of the Transmission and distribution (T&D) contractor within the delivery  chain is a demanding one where clarity of communication with multiple parties is vital for health and safety, operational and commercial reasons. This complexity is further exacerbated when products for a project are being sourced from, or designed and manufactured in countries all over the world. Although European Directives are produced, from which the UK's Construction (Design and Management) Regulations are derived, each member state's perception of what is considered to be safe can be very different

It is for this very reason that Areva T&D and National Grid have joined forces to deliver training to their overseas suppliers in order to ensure that the design of T&D products for the UK market comply with the CDM Regulations. John Nixon, Engineering Director for the Systems business unit at Areva T&D UK, discusses how this partnership also reinforces National Grid's continued commitment to health and safety through its ‘safety by design' model and forms part of Areva T&D's global objective to achieve zero accident rates worldwide, whilst adapting working conditions to local habits and environment wherever possible.

Globalisation has certainly made the world a smaller place, with increased trade, communication networks and workforce mobility. Such integration of national economies has also resulted in a steady increase in sourcing products and services from countries around the world, with cost efficiencies fast becoming one of the key drivers for many organisations. Although cost savings can be achieved by adopting such an approach, there are a number of issues to consider beforehand.

The UK construction market is one such industry that continues to benefit from forming partnerships and utilising suppliers in other developed markets. However, the challenge that these organisations now face is how to ensure that the specified health and safety regulations are being complied with. It is fair to say that resources, materials and working practices utilised in construction projects vary enormously from country to country. Safety procedures are developed in line with individual nation states' construction experiences and will naturally, diverge. In some regions, bamboo is used in scaffolding. To the Western European this is unfamiliar and appears dangerous, yet bamboo has a tensile strength superior to mild steel, and a strength to weight ratio better than graphite. However, in Western Europe where bamboo is neither readily available nor in general use as a scaffolding material, local health and safety standards are geared to tubular steel scaffolding - the material in common use. Furthermore local legislation should cover not only the material and physical assembly of the scaffold but the way in which it is utilised and mounted by operatives. Ensuring the highest standards are met is Areva T&D's priority in every case, in every location.

Foreign suppliers will of course be familiar with the concept of safety - they will have their own set of health and safety standards and regulations in place that ensure local custom and practice is appropriately healthy and safe. The issue can often be a lack of understanding and appreciation of what each country's own legislations stipulate, the methodology used by the customer's organisation and the constraints by the customer's network on how or when the equipment will be operated and maintained. Therefore, global suppliers need to appreciate and quickly realise that a more bespoke solution is required in order to align with the member state's specific health and safety legislations. In the past, designers from outside the UK have generally only considered the world market and understood the risks involved in constructing a piece of equipment and not the maintenance, operation or indeed the deconstruction of it. From Areva T&D's perspective the key is to meet and exceed local standards, whatever they are, so that globally Areva T&D can maintain the highest possible health and safety records.

Garry Bridges, SHESQ Manager at National Grid, owner and operator of the high-voltage transmission networks in England and Wales explains: "As technology evolves so does health and safety. If you look back 20 years, people didn't feel they needed to wear seatbelts - now it is a legal requirement and specific safety initiatives including ABS brakes and airbags are fast becoming a standard feature of many cars today. In order to differentiate themselves from their competitors, car manufacturers such as Renault are now looking to their designers to help them predict future expectations on aspects such as design, safety, ergonomics, comfort and speed. Employees working in a hazardous environment such as construction are no different, and expect possible risks to their health and safety to be minimised.  

Our assets have a 40 year lifecycle therefore if our equipment has been designed with an inherent risk attached, then we have to manage that risk every time one of our employee's needs to carry out necessary operations or maintenance. It quickly became apparent that the more we utilised foreign suppliers, the more health and safety was becoming an issue. Therefore, when AREVA T&D put forward the concept of educating and providing ongoing training to our suppliers, it fit perfectly with the challenge we were facing, as well as supporting our safety by design ethos of ensuring zero accidents in the workplace."
According to the HSE, 2800 people have died from injuries received during construction work over the last 25 years which is why health and safety precautions are taken so seriously, but sometimes risks cannot be completely eliminated. Therefore, it is our responsibility as designers to incorporate health and safety into the design process of our substations, allowing us to significantly reduce or avoid certain hazards altogether. To do this, suppliers must be aware of the construction methods and customer operating/maintenance regimes used onsite so that they can identify hazards, produce risk assessments and offer mitigating solutions in accordance with the CDM regulations.

These regulations which were first issued in 1994 and updated in 2007 are specific to the UK market and cover the whole lifecycle of the product including the operation, maintenance and demolition as well as construction. Within such legislation, designers are considered to be anyone who influences the design process in any way and is therefore responsible for any risk they can reasonably foresee. Take a member of the procurement team for example - by simply specifying a set of materials for a particular order gives that specifying person a responsibility to ensure how the materials are delivered, offloaded and transported around site and ask questions including: what equipment is available to perform these tasks at the location; are the site staff appropriately trained; has a risk assessment been undertaken and can all this be done with the minimum risk?

The training introduced by AREVA T&D and in collaboration with National Grid provides foreign suppliers with a coherent understanding of the health and safety issues that the UK market faces, and what is required to overcome such challenges. Consequently, designers of products are starting to consider the possible health and safety issues throughout the whole lifecycle, rather than just the risks involved in constructing a piece of equipment. Couple this with National Grid's functional documentation which defines specific, product requirements and provides in depth guidance, overseas suppliers are now giving consideration to delivering a more fit for purpose solution which helps to reduce the risks attached when operating and maintaining its substations.

For example, lighting in a substation will invariably need to be replaced over the 40 year lifecycle. Historically, employees at National Grid would have needed to use special mobile, elevated platforms to perform such maintenance (working from ladders is not acceptable) but designers have introduced light fittings which can be lowered to ground level. Such design negates the need for employees to work at a high level and therefore reduces the risk to their safety.

Ergonomic issues such as operating handles for equipment are also being addressed at the design stage. Having these handles at a poor ergonomic position could lead to people having to bend down low and risk hurting their backs. It is up to the designers to ensure access to these handles are in the optimum position in order for people to operate the switchgear safely.

Bridges continues: "There are lots of examples where more can be done to reduce the risk to our employees. We strongly believe that safety by design as a philosophy is a journey rather than a destination. It is about continuous improvement. Of course we want to embrace new technology but not if it means lowering our health and safety standards for our people. Our global suppliers need to recognise that world market, safety expectations may not always be compatible with the UK's health and safety legislative requirements and we need to continue working closely together to constantly improve."

By providing a full understanding of the health and safety requirements throughout the entire design process, AREVA T&D and National Grid can ensure that its suppliers across the globe are designing safer equipment for everyone involved in the construction, maintenance, operation and demolition of substations, including the public.

ABB's UniGear ZS1 range was launched in 2004, claimed to be the world's first ‘one  size fits all' platform for primary MV (medium voltage) air-insulated switchgear (AIS) in the 12 to 24 kV range. Since then, we have seen a significant change in the UK market. Now, instead of the traditional withdrawable circuit breaker panel, a growing number of customers are  calling for the simplicity, lower cost and smaller installation footprint offered by a fixed circuit breaker panel. Malcolm Cork of ABB outlines the testing programme behind the company's new fixed circuit breaker panel

ABB's response was the launch, in 2008, of the new UniGear 500 R fitted with the Vmax/F vacuum circuit breaker. It is just 500 mm wide - a significant space saving compared with the standard 650 mm panel, especially in typical applications of banks of 10 or more panels. It is ideally suited for various market segments requiring containerized solutions. Before it could be brought to market it had to undergo a rigorous type testing programme to ensure compliance with the relevant specifications. In particular we had to meet the Energy Networks Association Technical Specification ENATS 41-36 which covers distribution switchgear up to 36kV for the utilities. This brings together IEC 60694, IEC 62271-200 and 62271-100 with enhancements, clarifications and additional testing to meet the requirements of UK DNOs (Distribution Network Operators).

IEC standard

The starting point for the test programme was IEC 62271-200, High voltage switchgear and controlgear - Part 200: AC metal-enclosed switchgear and controlgear for rated voltages above 1 kV and up to and including 52 kV. Issued in November 2003, this international standard was a further development of the previous standard IEC 60298 of 1990. A key aim of the new standard was to focus more on functional characteristics than on design and construction. From February 2007, all new metal-enclosed switchgear must comply with IEC 62271-200 while pre-existing switchgear can continue in operation to IEC 60298.
The new standard sets a number of new requirements: Firming up of test conditions for the switching devices (making and breaking capacity);Changed sequence for dielectric testing; Introduction of new partition classes; Introduction of internal arc classified (IAC) qualifications

Test programme
ÏThe type test programme simulated situations which occur very rarely in real-life. For example, a short-circuit at the maximum current level for which the installation has been designed is rather unrealistic because of the presence of current-limiting components (such as the cables) and because the power available is normally lower than the rated one.

Short-time and peak withstand current
This test showed that the main power and the earthing circuits can resist the stresses caused by the passage of the short-circuit current without any damage.

Temperature rise
The temperature rise test was carried out at the rated current value of the switchgear unit and shows that the temperature does not become excessive inside of it. During the test, both the switchgear and the apparatus it might be fitted with was checked (circuit-breakers, contactors and switch-disconnectors).

Dielectric
These tests checked the switchgear has sufficient capability to withstand the lightning impulse and the power frequency voltage. The power frequency withstand voltage test is carried out as a type test, but is also routine on every switchgear unit manufactured.

Apparatus making and breaking capacity
All the apparatus (circuit-breakers, contactors and switch-disconnectors) was subjected to the rated current and short-circuit current breaking tests. Furthermore, they were also subjected to the opening and closing of capacitive and inductive loads, capacitor banks and cable lines.

Earthing switch making capacity
The earthing switch of the UniGear 500 R can be closed under short-circuit. In actual fact, the earthing switch is normally interlocked to avoid being operated on circuits which are still live. However, should this happen for any one of several reasons, safety of the personnel operating the installation would be fully safeguarded.

Mechanical operations
The mechanical life tests on all the operating parts highlight the reliability of the apparatus. General experience shows mechanical faults are one of the most common causes of a fault in an installation. The switchgear and apparatus it contains have been tested by carrying out a high number of operations - higher than those which are normally carried out in installations in service. Moreover, the switchgear components are part of a quality programme and are regularly sampled from the production lines and subjected to mechanical life tests to verify that the quality is identical to that of the components subjected to the type tests.

Arc-proof
When developing any type of electrical equipment, personnel safety must take first place. So the equipment should be designed and tested to withstand an internal arc due to a short-circuit current of the same level as the maximum short-time withstand level.

The tests showed the metal housing is able to protect personnel working near the switchgear in the case of a fault which evolves as far as striking an internal arc.
An internal arc is among the most unlikely of faults, although it can theoretically be caused by various factors, such as:
- Insulation defects due to deterioration of the components such as caused by environmental conditions and pollution.
- Overvoltages of atmospheric origin or generated by operation of a component.
- Incorrect operations due to not following procedures or inadequate training.
- Breakage or tampering of the safety interlocks.
- Overheating of the contact area, due to the presence of corrosive agents or when the
connections are not sufficiently tightened.
- Entry of small animals in the switchgear.
- Material left behind inside the switchgear during maintenance operations.
Careful design can significantly reduce the possibility of these incidents but not all of them can be eliminated completely.
The energy produced by the internal arc causes the following phenomena:
- Increase in the internal pressure.
- Increase in temperature.
- Visual and acoustic effects.
- Mechanical stresses on the switchgear structure.
- Melting, decomposition and evaporation of materials.

Unless suitably controlled, these can have very serious consequences for the operators, such as physical harm (due to the shock wave, flying parts and the doors opening) and burns (due to emission of hot gases).

The tests checked the compartment doors remain closed and that no components are ejected from the switchgear even when subjected to very high pressures, and that no flames or incandescent gases escaped, thereby ensuring the physical integrity of the personnel operating near the switchgear. It also checked that no holes were produced in the external freely accessible parts of the housing and finally, that all the connections to the earthing circuit remained intact, guaranteeing the safety of personnel who may access the switchgear after the fault.

ENATS
Typical areas where the international standards are enhanced by the ENA Technical Specifications relate to operational procedures, interlocking and consequently operator health and safety. ENA specifications also consider quality procedures, low voltage controls and auxiliary component requirements.

A good example of where ENA specifications have impacted on design is in how the exhaust gases are relieved. The standard UniGear 500 R is internal arc classified IAC AFLR up to 25kA x 1 second according to the IEC 62271-200 Annex A, with exhaust gas relief through the top via the main gas duct channel. The ENATS 41-36 version is classified IAC AFL up to 25kA x 1 second but with exhaust gas relief from the rear.

ENA approval lasts for three years, but it is very much a dynamic process that enables manufacturers to receive direct feedback of field experience.. For example, there have recently been reports of arc tracking occurring on fuse clips on equipment that is now over 30 years old. So we are looking at new designs to prevent this.

Applications
Following ENA approval, the equipment has already been installed in a number of applications that require a compact, space-saving, low-maintenance solution such as data centres and wind farms. The fixed circuit breaker can be replaced in less than 90 minutes. But there are some installations that will require the higher level of availability and ease of maintenance made possible by a withdrawable circuit breaker, especially on crucial  circuits. The advantage of the UniGear 500 is it coordinates with the complete UniGear ZS1 portfolio. This makes it possible to specify on the same busbar, a UniGear ZS1 with withdrawable incomer, a fixed circuit breaker outgoing and additional starter switchgear.

Ben Croucher, applications and sales engineer, Clare instruments, looks at the  paramount importance of electrical safety testing in the manufacturing environment

With verification of the safe operation and functionality of electrical products being vital to ensure compliance with established industry standards and maintain customer confidence, the focus has switched to the extent of testing required.

This requirement to ensure conformance through manufacture is clear from both generic product safety standards and European Directives, but the common reaction still seems to be ‘does this mean I have to do 100% testing?' followed by a rapid retreat into discussions that aim to reduce an erroneously perceived time/cost burden, often quoting ISO9000 procedures and focusing on sample testing as a suitable solution.

Batch sampling and or product verification tests are essentially designed to determine type test and build instructions are being maintained via a set of ‘working standards' and rely upon there being a traceable scientific relationship between the ‘sample' and the rest of the batch.  The assumption being if the sample shows conformance, then the rest of the batch also complies. However when customer safety is paramount can anyone take this risk?
In order to maintain a proper scientific relationship, back to the ‘type approved product' testing of the batch sample should really involve a repeat of the ‘type test' which could involve the use of external test house or the transfer of the sample to a dedicated, in-house  test laboratory. In either case the test will require the use of skilled and expensive labour, specialised (and usually high cost) test equipment, complex, time consuming, test routines and/or possible destruction of test sample.

Taking a typical batch sampling routine as an example, the following scenario can be envisaged: Risk analysis determines a procedure for testing one sample product for every 100 that come off the assembly line.  The sample is sent to the laboratory where it undergoes rigorous testing and fails. Strictly speaking, production should now be halted until the cause and extent of the fault is identified. 

This should include recalling and testing not only the remaining 99 items of the particular batch, but any items produced / packed and shipped out since the sample was taken.

The cost of this exercise can be worked out in terms of re-call costs (time, labour, discard packaging etc) - even greater if products have left the factory - testing costs (which will now include skilled labour), rework costs (time, labour, parts if any), lost production (highly unlikely that all items are salvageable) and late delivery penalties.

To review the real on-cost to a business a useful investigation would be an ISO9000 ‘re-call' procedural review and cost them accordingly. It might be argued that this worst case scenario only applies if the sample fails - but would anyone feel comfortable knowing that the electric drill used in a workshop has only a one in 100 chance of NOT causing electrocution.

Similarly, it is clearly in the interests of manufacturers of finished products that the safety critical components used to assemble a product are satisfactory - preferably before being incorporated into the product. Many manufacturers now request ‘certificates of conformity' (CofC's) from their suppliers of safety critical components. However the question always has to be ‘how sure are you of their test regime?'

Against this background it is clear there are increasing numbers of manufacturers of electrical products who wish to check supplied components before or during their own product assembly.

Among such companies, there is recognition of the advantages which can result in the pro-active identification of problems and defects before assembly, increases confidence in finished products, reduces the likelihood of product re-work and permits the cost of failures to be recovered from the supplier more easily.

By completing the cycle with 100% product testing, significant information can be gathered and used to improve and refine manufacturing processing and techniques. Identifiable reasons for product failures can be highlighted and quickly acted upon. Even simple fault counters can indicate particular areas of the build phase that may require further investigation.

Another major plus for 100% testing is the development of a competitive advantage, in that a company's ability to offer full testing during their own production processes reduces the need for the customer to carry out their own testing, thus offering a level of added value that can be translated into increased profitability, plus customer confidence and loyalty. But what is meant by 100% testing?

Firstly it should be noted we are talking about electrical safety requirements. Manufacturers will review their own processes for Class I and Class II products and accordingly introduce the three main tests for ensuring product safety: High current earth bond measurement, insulation resistance measurement and high voltage flash (or dielectric strength) test. In addition many manufacturers will be driven by standards/customer requirements or even their own in-house guidelines to complete functional tests (also known as run or load leakage testing).

A number of criticisms have been made against 100% testing, again usually on the basis of time and cost.

On the time factor, concerns normally arise from misconceptions between type testing requirements and the established practices for 100% routine production line testing. A typical regime of electrical safety testing to meet these routine test requirements can be completed in less than five seconds. Referring back to the earlier example, all 100 products could have been tested in less than nine minutes.

In terms of cost, equipment can be expensive if the type test requirement is to be employed. However for routine production line testing, there are a number of  systems available that can cost from as little as £1500. With simple to use set-up and control features, they can be readily incorporated into the production environment without the need for highly skilled labour.

For type testing, a flash test can require high current levels (sometimes in excess of 100mA) and extended test times (several minutes for some standards) and consequently this type of test can require application under closely controlled conditions, involving the use of highly skilled and experienced test personnel. 

However for routine production line testing, electrical safety standards define not only a lower safer trip level, but also the setting up of the test area is well defined to keep safe the operator. Experience has shown that routine test parameters provide a realistic evaluation of electrical safety and does not harm equipment that is designed to comply with the relevant standards for creepage, clearance and insulation properties. 

Where delicate electronic components are involved, far from omitting the flash test, various techniques can be incorporated to soft-start (ramp) the test voltage, apply DC voltages with discharge circuits etc...thus removing any likelihood of damage occurring - a procedure recognised by EN60950 for information technology (IT) equipment. 

Far from costing time and money, 100% electrical safety testing on the production line makes sound economic and business sense creating a competitive advantage and peace of mind. After all only 100% testing can categorically show 100% conformance.

Time is money. In any construction project the old adage rings true for both  contractors and clients. Keeping costs down whilst delivering a quality end product without going over schedule continues to be a challenging process for contractors of all kinds. It's little wonder then that contractors and their suppliers alike are constantly looking for new ways of reducing the time they need to spend on site. Paul Courson, managing director at Cablofil explains


For electrical contractors, the advent of steel wire cable management tray has dramatically reduced cable installation times, and, as a consequence, helped reduce costs too. Up to 40% quicker to install than traditional perforated steel tray, steel wire tray can be cut, shaped and fixed on site. What's more, the installer does not need to be a qualified electrician, allowing contractors to free up the time of skilled workers for other tasks and speed up the electrical installation still further.

With all these advantages, it comes as no surprise that this method of cable management has grown dramatically in popularity since it was first introduced it to the UK market 13 years ago. Many companies have launched steel wire tray products into the UK market since then - all of which is great news for the client and the contractor who want to reduce costs by using this cost-effective, time efficient material. Unfortunately, the fact that use of steel wire tray has generally been confined to data cable installations has prevented the industry from reaping these benefits still further. That, however, may now be about to change....

Compiling the Evidence
"Specifiers look for quality and strength when selecting a cable management solution," explains Tim Brown at Cablofil, "and steel wire tray can be capable of carrying similar weights to cable ladder, whilst providing a solution that is much lighter and easier to handle.
"The problem is that specifiers won't select steel wire tray instead of cable ladder unless they can be certain that the steel wire product can withstand a short circuit with equal stability. To give them that confidence, we knew we had to prove that steel wire tray could withstand short circuit faults, and short circuit testing was the most effective way to deliver that proof."

Having decided to carry out the short circuit tests, Cablofil approached Richard Shaw, the managing director of Ellis Patents, to ask whether the company would be interested in helping prove its point.

"As independent cleat manufacturers with numerous short circuit tests to their name, we knew Ellis Patents would have the expertise we needed to carry out the tests to the highest standards and with the credibility required to change perceptions," Brown continues. "The next step was to meet with the Ellis Patents team and agree the parameters of the tests; the size of cables to be used, the fault current we would test up to and the type of fixing required."

To inform these decisions, numerous consultants, contractors and local authority engineers were contacted to determine a realistic fault level for most projects.

"The point of doing the tests was to gain the confidence of people who work in the industry so that they would be happy to specify steel wire tray instead of ladder on real projects," Brown continues. "That's why asking their opinion on this was a critical part of the process."
The research suggested a peak fault of 70kA would be acceptable for typical commercial, health authority, education facility and domestic projects. However, one customer responded that if the tray could pass short circuit tests at 100kA they would specify Cablofil instead of ladder for all their power cabling so the test team decided to carry out 100kA fault tests too.

Testing Times
The team from Cablofil and Ellis Patents travelled to the Damstra Laboratory in the Netherlands to conduct the short circuit tests, accessing a specialist facility with a track record in electrical testing dating back to 1936. Part of Eaton Industries, the Damstra laboratory offers Kema and Asta certified test facilities, capable of replicating real short-circuit scenarios.

The tests were prepared using three 35mm single core cables in a trefoil arrangement. The cables were cleated at 600mm intervals and secured to CF105/450 tray using a specially developed mounting bracket.

"The choice of tray was designed to provide an alternative to the cross section of ladder products that might be used in a typical power cable application," Tim continues. "The tray was secured to channel brackets that had been fixed to the test bed at 1500mm intervals and the two lengths of wire tray were connected together using proprietary couplers. Indeed, the whole test platform was installed exactly as we would advise electrical contractors to install both the tray and the brackets so that we could be sure that the tests would offer a genuine indication of how the tray would react in a real short circuit situation."
Once the test was prepared, the three cables were connected to a generator at the head of the test bed and linked by a copper bar at one end to induce the short circuit. The generator was then calibrated before the test began to ensure accurate results.

Resounding Results
For the tray to achieve a Class 2 pass of the European Standard (EN50368) the cables had to undergo each short circuit test in duplicate. After the first fault was applied only a visual inspection was permitted. The fault was then applied a second time and a pass could only be recorded if the cables and cleats remained secure.

The first tests were carried out using Ellis Patents' aluminium ‘Alpha' cleat and a pass was achieved at 72.6kA. The test rig was then set up again, this time using Ellis Patents' stainless steel ‘Vulcan+' cleat and once again, the tray achieved a pass, this time at 104kA.
"The product was subjected to a great deal of energy during both tests," Tim comments "and it performed exceptionally well. The results showed unequivocally that steel wire tray can provide a suitable replacement for ladder as a containment for power cables. It's the result we were confident we would get but it has massive implications for the industry because it provides the proof that specifiers needed to be comfortable with using Cablofil in power cable applications."

Current Thinking
While there will always be some projects that demand the use of ladder for power cable containment, the short circuit tests have already created a sea change in the way the product is being used. A video of the tests, available to view on YouTube, provides compelling evidence of the ferocity of the tests and has already convinced several engineers that Cablofil tray should be specified more readily for power cable containment.

"The commercial benefits of using steel wire tray instead of ladder are considerable," says Tim, "and these tests pave the way for that to happen. From here on in, the cable management revolution that began with the use of steel wire tray for data cabling applications will also have a profound effect on the way power cables are installed."

Each month, Electrical Review's resident grumpy old man, writer and industry commentator  John Houston, explores a hot topic of the day and lets us know his views in no uncertain terms

Anyone who has ever knowingly bought a fake product - think long and hard about this one - has probably at some time paid the price. Perhaps it was a branded tee-shirt that faded after three washes, the trainers whose sole departed prematurely or perhaps a Rolex that was dead accurate at least twice a day. The damage is usually to the ego of the buyer, but commercially very damaging to the original manufacturers both in lost sales, but more significantly potential "cheapening" of their hard earned brand's reputations.

It's easy to dismiss such practices with a wink to the cheeky, chirpy Del boys and Arthur Daleys of the world, but counterfeiting is serious and can undermine everything honest businesses work for. Moreover, in our world of electrical engineering the outcomes from using illegal copies can be fatal.

I think it's fair to say that if we're honest, one generally knows when one is buying fake clothing, watches and luggage. That is not always so with electrical equipment and worryingly this is especially true of the smaller safety devices. I have seen first hand a circuit breaker that looked like an absolutely perfect example of a well known maker's moulding. Only when the case was broken open was a crude single copper braid revealed bridging the two poles - it was barely even a switch, let alone a device to prevent injury or death! The legitimate manufacturer couldn't tell it was a fake without breaking it open and it was the weight of the product rather than its appearance that had raised alarm bells.

So where do such potentially lethal products come from? Well, unfortunately and with no hint of jingoism, China bears the brunt of responsibility for the worst fakes. It's perhaps ironic that Western electrical equipment companies increasingly manufacture in China and one has to wonder if this does not make life a little easier for the copyists. The point is that exports from China are difficult to regulate and this is only exacerbated by easy trade via the Internet.

To test my assumption, I recently joined a "club" online where one could openly buy just about anything in fake form. The organisers even kindly mail me the latest fakes I can buy. Among such working replicas are almost any kind of electrical device you could need - many under famous brand names or carrying original manufacturers part numbers. Such sources however, are easy to guide legitimate businesses away from.

Less easily controlled are grey imports. How does one know if imported machinery is equipped with legitimate components?  The short answer is to only buy well known branded machinery, but it's not that simple. It's also impossible to properly assess equipment until something goes wrong. One case I heard of involved decent machinery, equipped with well known components, but in the event of a breakdown, no source for the components could be identified and the manufacturer of those goods denied responsibility for them as a result. The presumption was that the machinery manufacturer had sourced components (albeit genuine parts) via the Internet and therefore no local suppliers would take responsibility. Global industry still presents gaps in the responsibility chain.

All of our industry's representative bodies have addressed the issue of counterfeiting to some extent, but most see education of potential buyers as the only short term solution. I once tried to report a fake breaker and ran immediately into a brick wall. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has no power in the case of industrial or professional equipment. The Trading Standards body seems to me to be too overwhelmed with pursuing teddy bears with daggers for eyes or toasters that electrocute the breakfast cook to be able to intervene. Someone has to be seriously injure3d or even killed to raise any specific issue it seems.
As a final word, Emma McCarthy, COO of the NICEIC, has just raised publicly the problem of electricians passing themselves off as NICEIC registered when they are not. At least a quick telephone call can sort that one out.

With the growth of standby, prime and peaking power installations in highly populated areas, design engineers have focused their attention on understanding how generator set noise is propagated and controlled. The high cost of Retrofitting a site for noise reduction makes it imperative to assess noise performance requirements early in the on-site power system design stage. By applying the principles outlined in this paper, power system designers and end users alike will be able to more easily control unwanted noise from their on-site power system.  *see electrical review april 09 for part one of this article.

Strategies for reducing generator set noise
Regardless of the type of generator set that needs sound attenuation, there are basically seven strategies for reducing generator set noise: 1) reduce the sound level of the source; 2) acoustic barriers; 3) acoustic insulation; 4) isolation mounts; 5) cooling air attenuation; 6) exhaust silencers; and 7) efforts to maximize the distance between the generator set and the property line (or people). When locating generator sets outdoors, the use of enclosures - particularly sound-attenuating enclosures - combines all of these strategies into a convenient package that provides weather protection as well as sound attenuation.

1. Acoustic barriers - Rigid materials with significant mass and stiffness reduce the transmission of sound. Examples include sheet steel typical of enclosures, and concrete- or sand-filled block walls or solid concrete walls typical of indoor generator room installations. It is also important to eliminate sound paths through cracks in doors or walls, or through access points for exhaust, fuel or electrical wiring.
2. Acoustic insulation - Sound-absorbing materials are available for lining air ducts and covering walls and ceilings. Directing noise at a wall covered in soundabsorbing material can be very effective. Select materials that are resistant to oil and other engine contaminants. Fibreglass or foam may be suitable, based on factors such as cost, availability, density, flame
retardance, resistance to abrasion, aesthetics and cleanability.
3. Isolation mounts - Vibrating equipment creates sound pressure waves (noise) in the surrounding air. Anything that is physically connected to a generator set can cause vibrations to be transmitted to the building structure. These connection points include skid anchors, radiator discharge air ducts, exhaust piping, coolant piping, fuel lines and wiring conduit. Fitting these connections with flexible joints effectively reduces noise transmission. Mounting a generator set on springtype vibration isolators effectively reduces the vibration and noise that are transmitted through the floor.
4. Cooling air attenuation - Inlet and outlet air attenuation baffles can help reduce the noise produced by the cooling air as it moves across the engine and through the radiator. Noise from the movement of cooling air is significant because of the volume required - about 20 cubic meters per second for a generator set with a 50-liter diesel engine. Alternatively, the radiator can be remotely located to a roof, for example, to eliminate this noise source or direct it up and away from people or the property line. Also, making air travel through a 90-degree bend in a duct reduces high-frequency noise.

5. Maximising distance - When there are no reflecting walls to magnify the noise produced by the generator set, the noise level will decrease by approximately 6 dB(A) every time the distance is doubled. If the property line is within the near field of a generator set, however, the noise level may not be predictable. A near-field environment is any location within twice the largest dimension of the noise source (generator set).
6. Exhaust silencers - Generator sets are almost always equipped with an exhaust silencer (muffler) to limit exhaust noise from the machine. Exhaust silencers come in a wide variety of types, physical arrangements and materials. Silencers are generally grouped into either chamber-type silencers or spiral type devices. The chamber-type devices tend to be more effective, but the spiral-type devices are more compact and may provide sufficient attenuation for many applications. Silencers can be made of coldrolled steel or stainless steel. Stainless steel is the preferred material for use outdoors when corrosion is a concern. Silencers are available in several different noise-attenuation "grades," commonly referred to as "industrial," "residential" and "critical." Industrial silencers reduce noise from 12 to 18 dB(A); residential silencers reduce noise from 18 to 25 dB(A); critical silencers reduce noise from 25 to 35 dB(A). In general, the more effective a silencer is at reducing exhaust noise, the greater the level of restriction on the engine exhaust. For long exhaust systems, the piping itself will provide some level of attenuation.

Sound-attenuating enclosures
Steel and aluminum enclosures of all kinds provide at least 10 dB(A) of attenuation for generator sets that must be located outdoors. In many cases, when combined with an effective exhaust silencer, this amount of attenuation may be sufficient to meet many local ordinances in North America and throughout Europe. Standard enclosures are available from most generator set manufacturers and from a variety of third-party providers. When a greater amount of attenuation is needed to meet local noise ordinances or reduce impact on employees or neighbors, special sound-attenuating enclosures must be employed. In general, the cost of the enclosure is directly related to the level of sound attenuation required.

In critical cases, it is not uncommon for the cost of the sound-attenuated enclosure to equal the cost of the generator set. Some enclosures also may negatively impact generator set performance by limiting proper ventilation and load-carrying capacity. Careful design
from the outset is important to attain noise-control goals while maintaining generator set performance.

Special sound-attenuating enclosures combine both barrier and absorption noise control strategies to contain generator set noise. While both steel and aluminum sound-attenuating enclosures are available, steel - because of its greater mass and stiffness - provides about 2-3 dB(A) better attenuation. Aluminum enclosures are usually only specified in coastal regions where their corrosion resistance is important in the salt air.

Conclusion
With maximum noise levels permitted at a property line that range from 52 dB(A) to 72 dB(A), depending on location and zoning, and untreated generator set noise levels that approach 100 dB(A) or more, it is clear that generator set noise mitigation is a subject of great importance. Furthermore, the high cost of retrofitting a site for noise reduction makes it imperative to assess noise performance requirements early in the on-site power system design stage. Working closely with local regulators, the generator set manufacturer, consulting engineer or acoustic specialist will allow you to achieve your project's sound-attenuation goals.

For additional technical support, please contact your local Cummins Power Generation distributor. To locate your distributor, visit www.cumminspower.com

 

Time is money. In any construction project the old adage rings true for both contractors and clients. Keeping costs down whilst delivering a quality end product without going over schedule continues to be a challenging process for contractors of all kinds. It's little wonder then that contractors and their suppliers alike are constantly looking for new ways of reducing the time they need to spend on site. Paul Courson, managing director at Cablofil explains


For electrical contractors, the advent of steel wire cable management tray has dramatically reduced data cable installation times, and, as a consequence, helped reduce costs too.  Up to 40% quicker to install than traditional perforated steel tray, steel wire tray can be cut, shaped and fixed on site.  What's more, the installer does not need to be a qualified electrician, allowing contractors to free up the time of skilled workers for other tasks and speed up the electrical installation still further. 

With all these advantages, it comes as no surprise that this method of cable management has grown dramatically in popularity since it was first introduced it to the UK market 13 years ago. Many companies have launched steel wire tray products into the UK market since then - all of which is great news for the client and the contractor who want to reduce costs by using this cost-effective, time efficient material. Unfortunately, the fact that use of steel wire tray has generally been confined to data cable installations has prevented the industry from reaping these benefits still further.  That, however, may now be about to change....

Compiling the Evidence
"Specifiers look for quality and strength when selecting a cable management solution," explains Tim Brown at Cablofil, "and steel wire tray can be capable of carrying similar weights to cable ladder, whilst providing a solution that is much lighter and easier to handle.
"The problem is that specifiers won't select steel wire tray instead of cable ladder unless they can be certain that the steel wire product can withstand a short circuit with equal stability. To give them that confidence, we knew we had to prove that steel wire tray could withstand short circuit faults, and short circuit testing was the most effective way to deliver that proof."

Having decided to carry out the short circuit tests, Cablofil approached Richard Shaw, the Managing Director of Ellis Patents, to ask whether the company would be interested in helping prove its point. 

"As independent cleat manufacturers with numerous short circuit tests to their name, we knew Ellis Patents would have the expertise we needed to carry out the tests to the highest standards and with the credibility required to change perceptions," Tim continues.  "The next step was to meet with the Ellis Patents team and agree the parameters of the tests; the size of cables to be used, the fault current we would test up to and the type of fixing required."

To inform these decisions, numerous consultants, contractors and local authority engineers were contacted to determine a realistic fault level for most projects.

"The point of doing the tests was to gain the confidence of people who work in the industry so that they would be happy to specify steel wire tray instead of ladder on real projects," Tim continues.  "That's why asking their opinion on this was a critical part of the process."
The research suggested a peak fault of 70kA would be acceptable for typical commercial, health authority, education facility and domestic projects.  However, one customer responded that if the tray could pass short circuit tests at 100kA they would specify Cablofil instead of ladder for all their power cabling so the test team decided to carry out 100kA fault tests too.

Testing Times
The team from Cablofil and Ellis Patents travelled to the Damstra Laboratory in the Netherlands to conduct the short circuit tests, accessing a specialist facility with a track record in electrical testing dating back to 1936. Part of Eaton Industries, the Damstra laboratory offers Kema and Asta certified test facilities, capable of replicating real short-circuit scenarios.

The tests were prepared using three 35mm single core cables in a trefoil arrangement.  The cables were cleated at 600mm intervals and secured to CF105/450 tray using a specially developed mounting bracket.

"The choice of tray was designed to provide an alternative to the cross section of ladder products that might be used in a typical power cable application," Tim continues. "The tray was secured to channel brackets that had been fixed to the test bed at 1500mm intervals and the two lengths of wire tray were connected together using proprietary couplers.  Indeed, the whole test platform was installed exactly as we would advise electrical contractors to install both the tray and the brackets so that we could be sure that the tests would offer a genuine indication of how the tray would react in a real short circuit situation."
Once the test was prepared, the three cables were connected to a generator at the head of the test bed and linked by a copper bar at one end to induce the short circuit. The generator was then calibrated before the test began to ensure accurate results.

Resounding Results
For the tray to achieve a Class 2 pass of the European Standard (EN50368) the cables had to undergo each short circuit test in duplicate. After the first fault was applied only a visual inspection was permitted. The fault was then applied a second time and a pass could only be recorded if the cables and cleats remained secure.

The first tests were carried out using Ellis Patents' aluminium ‘Alpha' cleat and a pass was achieved at 72.6kA.  The test rig was then set up again, this time using Ellis Patents' stainless steel ‘Vulcan+' cleat and once again, the tray achieved a pass, this time at 104kA.
"The product was subjected to a great deal of energy during both tests," Tim comments "and it performed exceptionally well. The results showed unequivocally that steel wire tray can provide a suitable replacement for ladder as a containment for power cables.  It's the result we were confident we would get but it has massive implications for the industry because it provides the proof that specifiers needed to be comfortable with using Cablofil in power cable applications."

Current Thinking
While there will always be some projects that demand the use of ladder for power cable containment, the short circuit tests have already created a sea change in the way the product is being used.  A video of the tests, available to view on YouTube, provides compelling evidence of the ferocity of the tests and has already convinced several engineers that Cablofil tray should be specified more readily for power cable containment.

"The commercial benefits of using steel wire tray instead of ladder are considerable," says Tim, "and these tests pave the way for that to happen.  From here on in, the cable management revolution that began with the use of steel wire tray for data cabling applications will also have a profound effect on the way power cables are installed."

 

As uncertainty surrounding the future of energy prices grows, and firms are pressured into attempting to reduce their carbon footprint, there has never been a better time for industry to consider the merits of variable speed drives and high efficiency motors. Manufacturer ABB has developed an energy audit that quickly and accurately pinpoints the potential savings in an industrial plant

A variable  speed drive (VSD) and electric motor combination, when used to control the speed of pumps and fans, can reduce the energy bill of these applications by some 70% with a payback in less than 12 months.

And yet a survey of British manufacturing managers with engineering roles has revealed that they do not regard VSDs as being the best way of cutting their companies' energy bills. The survey, conducted for ABB, reveals the 67 engineering managers surveyed placed VSDs at the bottom of a list of the ten most effective measures for cutting energy bills.

Joint top of the list were negotiating better prices with their company's existing energy suppliers and fixing compressed air leaks. ABB had expected the survey to show significant differences in attitude between the financial and engineering managers, with the latter appreciating the role that high-efficiency technologies could play in cutting energy bills.
The financial mangers believe that clamping down on visible waste, such as inefficient lighting and compressed air leaks, is important. Investing in equipment that makes industrial processes more efficient came at the bottom of their list.

"This list is back to front," says Ruddell. "Making industrial processes more efficient can save much more than the other methods, but financial managers are simply unaware of the savings they can make. Most companies can save thousands of pounds worth of electricity and some can even save hundreds of thousands of pounds, often at comparatively low cost. Changing electricity suppliers is not going to make much difference at all in a market where prices rise across the board," he adds. "In addition, this does nothing to reduce the company's carbon footprint, which also ought to be a priority."

ABB is in the vanguard of energy promotion, launching, in 2004, its award winning 6-step energy saving plan.

6-step energy saving plan
The plan documents six basic steps towards understanding and planning an energy saving campaign.
Step 1. The facts:
Gives an insight into the latest thinking on the Climate Change Levy and UK government actions to encourage greater energy savings.
Step 2. The savings:
In just half-a-day, an energy audit can help identify the applications that offer the best energy saving opportunities.
Step 3. The finance:
Offers information on how to finance a drive purchase while still benefiting from the government's Enhanced Capital Allowance.
Step 4. The products:
Guides the end-user through selecting the best motors and VSDs for specific applications.
Step 5. The proof:
Gives examples showing how industry has benefited from using VSDs and motors.
Step 6. The action:
Gives advice and further contact information at ABB and its extensive UK channel partner network.

Energy saving audit
At the heart of the 6-step plan is ABB's energy audit. On a typical industrial site with a £150,000 annual electricity bill, £100,000 will be spent on running motors. For example, are any motors or fans running on full power all the time when they could be driven by demand?
The answer is a professional energy audit. Undertaken by a trained engineer, an energy audit will identify those applications that would most benefit from the introduction of VSDs. The results, based on measured data from the application, will help a user target their investment so that it produces the highest possible savings and gives the best return. ABB has devised a very simple and methodical energy audit that presents the customers with hard, compelling facts about the energy they can save.

1. Outlining the scope of supply
During an initial meeting the audit engineer takes a look at the inventory of motors contained within a plant.

Energy surveys are most suitable for processes involving motors of 11kW or higher, used on large pumps and fans. This is where the savings from a VSD really start to look good compared to the investment cost. Often payback times of two years and below and sometimes under one year, can be achieved. ABB meets the end-user and outlines the benefits of the audit in detail, together with any assistance the end-user might need.

2. Collecting the data
The data collection phase is an active phase. It involves an on-site audit with selected fans and pumps, to determine operating parameters such as voltage, current and power factor and the energy being used. This stage will usually be performed over seven days to gain a complete picture of the plant's typical energy use. The end-users own staff may become involved at this stage although different auditors have different approaches.

3. Analysing the data
Following the collection of the data, the findings will be analysed and potential savings identified using dedicated software. The findings will be methodically presented - often tables or graphs will be created to help see where savings are likely to arise.

4. Recommendations
The action plan will then be prepared, usually comprising an Executive Summary and a detailed engineer's report, highlighting applications that can save the most. The figures will normally be translated into monthly savings, and there will be detailed recommendations for fitting particular VSDs or motors. The report should also clearly show the expected payback time on fitting new equipment.

5. Implementation
While not strictly part of the audit the aim is that the recommendations should be fully implemented. Once new equipment is fitted it is normal to track the actual savings against the predictions shown in the report. This will also help justify the investment in VSDs.

6. Benefits
An energy audit carried out by ABB or one of its channel partners brings the following benefits:
- Clearly identified energy savings
- Complete audit results and energy saving calculations 
- History of other audits and associated energy savings
- Proposed payback times 
- Degree of customer training given as part of the process
There are also other aspects to consider, for example whether financial options are available and if your supplier offers a replacement drive scheme.

Carbon emissions calculator
More recently, ABB has added another tool to its 6-step energy saving plan. As carbon emissions take a higher priority on company boardroom agenda's, ABB has developed a simple to use and understand carbon footprint calculator.

The user enters a motor's rating, and the calculator shows the energy savings in kWh, as well as the monetary savings, the cost of a suitable drive, and the payback time.
"Quantifying the carbon footprint helps organisations to manage their footprint and reduce emissions over time," says Ruddell. "But motor energy use is frequently overlooked, despite being the largest are of electricity use in industry.
The carbon calculator can be accessed via www.abb.co.uk/energy

Corus Strip Products
It was just such an energy audit that produced spectacular benefits for a steel maker in Port Talbot South Wales, saving £1m on its annual energy bill.

Corus is one of the biggest steel making companies in the UK with annual output of five million tones. Energy was Corus' second biggest cost after raw materials and with energy prices rising year on year it was important that energy expenditure was minimised.
As part of a plant-wide energy saving programme, 24 ABB industrial drives, ranging from 140 to 400 kW, where installed to control pumps on the hot strip and cold mills, plus three fans on the coke ovens. The cost of the drives about £1m; the whole project including pumps, cabling etc. is around £2.5m.

"The pump and fan motors were oversized and running longer hours than necessary," Says Guy Simms, leader of the Energy Optimisation team at Corus Strip Products. "But with the ABB drives we are now installing, we can fine-tune the applications reducing energy consumption."

McKechnie Automotive and Engineered Plastics
Following an energy audit at McKechnie, a manufacturer of engineered plastic assemblies ABB was able to reduce energy costs by over 30%.

The plastics manufacturer based in Pickering brought in Halcyon Drives, an ABB Drives Alliance partner to improve the efficiency of their injection moulding machine. Typically most injection machines are hydraulically operated and often waste between 20 and 50 % of the electrical power they consume. By adding a variable speed drive it is possible to control the speed of the pump motor to deliver the precise amount of electricity needed for each sequence in the injection moulding cycle.

"By introducing variable speed drives our energy cost has been significantly reduced" Says Rob Howlett senior process engineer for McKechnie.