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The true worth of a working uninterruptable power supply (UPS) systems is never undervalued by a facilities manager. This importance falls into two camps; savings and improvements on energy costs, and better disaster recovery if there is a power outage. The latter because a UPS provides insurance and peace of mind that if there is disruption to energy supply in the workplace, it will not cause systems to shut down. If you are responsible for the upkeep of

the UPS unit, many factors are prioritised, mainly the price and quality of the system. The most important of these, when it comes to ensuring your organisation is resilient to power outage, is regular maintenance of your UPS. The maintenance process is designed to minimise risk and keep your UPS operating in a fail-safe, efficient manner. However, being in a role that is meant to

identify risk, it’s important to understand that the very act of carrying out maintenance can pose a risk itself. On top of that time is often tight, and with many other elements to keep in check, lengthy maintenance processes are unappealing. With this in mind, here are a few simple

checks and balances you can incorporate into your regular maintenance plan to promote efficiency in order to save time, whilst ensuring a watertight approach to keeping your UPS fully functioning.

Minimise human error As British Airways1 discovered to their cost

in the summer of 2017, and many other businesses have too, human error is often the main cause of problems occurring during UPS maintenance procedures; engineers may throw a wrong switch, or carry out a procedure in the wrong order. But, whilst it’s easy to lay blame solely at

the feet of the engineer in these instances, errors of this kind are often the result of

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Incorporating checks into your maintenance plan

By Leo Craig, General Manager at Riello UPS

poor operational procedures, poor labelling or even poor training. By ironing out these issues at the start of a UPS installation, risks can be avoided. For example, if the system being installed

is a critical one comprising large UPS’s in parallel and a complex switchgear panel, castell interlocks should be incorporated into the design. Castell interlocks force the user to switch in a controlled and safe fashion, but are often left out of the design to save costs at the start of the project. Simple things can make a difference. By ensuring that basic labelling and switching schematics are up-to-date, potential disaster can be averted. Having clearly documented switching procedures available is recommended. If the site is extremely critical, the procedure of Pilot – Co Pilot (where two engineers both check the procedure before carrying out each action) will prevent most human errors.

Embrace new technologies

Any maintenance is typically intrusive into the UPS or switchgear, so reducing this is always a good thing. Most problems arising, including the failure of electrical components, are proceeded with an increase in heat. If a connection point isn’t tightened properly, for example, it will start to heat up and eventually fail in some way. Short of checking every connection physically, the most effective solution is thermal imaging. Thermal image technology can identify potential issues that wouldn’t necessarily be picked up using conventional techniques, without the need of physical intervention.

Monitor equipment and competency Round-the-clock equipment monitoring also offers robust protection and should be part of your maintenance package. Rigorous

training is also vital, as is ensuring that the attending engineer can carry out the work competently. Never be afraid to ask questions of your

maintenance provider, it is your responsibility to request proof of competency levels pertaining both to the company itself and the engineers it uses. It’s also good practice to always check ‘on

the day’ that the engineer on site is compe- tent, has a sufficient understanding of the site and the systems used by your organisation, and isn’t a last-minute sub-contractor sent in because the original engineer is off sick.

Read the small print

A strong maintenance package should ensure that when the UPS does fail, the response is timely and effective. Service level agreements need to be appropriate to the criticality of the application. There is no point having a maintenance contract for a 24/7 response if access to the UPS can only be gained during normal business hours. Whereas if operations are 24/7 and extremely critical to the business, then a 24/7 response is a must. Be clear on exactly what the ‘response’ constitutes too – will it just be a phone call, or will it be someone coming to site to fix the fault, and, if so, will that someone be a competent engineer? Having a package in place will also buy

back critical time for a facilities manager, and keep maintenance boxes ticked.

Review today, protect tomorrow

By undertaking a review of your current maintenance procedures, and incorporating in these techniques, you will help to identify and reduce risk to critical operations that you might not have previously anticipated, as well as potentially reducing costs and driving efficiency.


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