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An Easter weekend to swap out vital obsolete LV switchgear


The challenge
Our customer is one of world’s largest pet care companies manufacturing premium pet food brands 24 hours, 365 days per year. Their LV switchboards needed upgrading for its facilities to continue functioning at their optimum level and to meet productions ever growing requirements. The brief was to improve the quality of the switchboards with long spares availability and to be installed with minimum impact to production.

Finished Switchboards at IES waiting for FAT
Finished Switchboards at IES waiting for FAT

How we approached the problem
The IES team, working closely with the Project Engineers thoroughly interrogated the brief to understand the scope of works and how best to cost-effectively design, manufacture, install and commission safely. Due to the 24/7 production schedule, both switchboards needed to be upgraded within a tight timeframe to minimise impact for production.

IES identified the Easter weekend of 2019, with a 6-day window allocated from Thursday to Tuesday.

In order to achieve this minimal install timeframe, IES took a technical and practical approach to shift-work for a full 24-hour coverage of the shutdown window. This allowed IES to fully maximise working time within the limited switch-room space constraints.

One of the original 1600A LV switchboards (second board at the rear)
One of the original 1600A LV switchboards (second board at the rear)

Steel-work inspections during build at Adams Enclosures.
Steel-work inspections during build at Adams Enclosures.

How IES went about it / implementing the solution:
The first step was careful project management and planning. For example, the new switchboards were to incorporate a restricted earth fault protection for the LV Transformers. The special requirements of these relays require a long manufacturing time (8-10 weeks) and custom manufactured Class PX Current Transformers. In order to ensure these items were available in time for the shutdown they needed to be purchased early within the project’s lifecycle.

Detailed, careful planning and design was required for the new switchboards to fit within the limited space and that practical solutions to manoeuvring and installing were utilised. To achieve this IES carried out a detailed survey of the special requirements (e.g. access routes, ceiling heights, trench locations, room size etc) and ensured the design complied to the bespoke requirements.

The existing power cables from the switchboard were to be retained and re-utilised. IES took a detailed design approach in order to ensure that the new switchgear locations were reachable from the existing cables. To enable this, IES carried out two surveys during planned production downtime to carry out a detailed inspection and survey report.

One of the surveys identified issues with existing installation, e.g. cables not the size documented and fuses above the rating of the cabling. IES worked closely with the Projects team to identify these issues and ensure the new switchgear provided correct protection for all the supplies, while fulfilling the requirements of the existing installation. To help achieve this IES created an Amtech model to verify the installations compliance with BS7671.

In order to achieve the tight time schedule of the project, IES worked closely with suppliers ensuring no delays to expected delivery of materials that could impact the schedule. IES also utilised their in-house manufacturing resource in Colchester, Essex leveraging the strong team of experienced panel builders to ensure no delays during the manufacture process.

Site Installation of switchboards
Site Installation of switchboards

What was achieved / results:

A detailed project plan ensured all information and manufacturing proceeded on a scheduled basis and helped identify milestones and key dates within the projects lifecycle. The plans were split, one to assess the manufacture in the lead up to the critical shutdown window and another to detail out allocation of works & labour during the shutdown period. The use of this project plan helped in achieving a successful completion of the manufacture and of the critical installation period, on schedule and with visibility to key stakeholders.

The weekend installation was successful
As a result of careful planning, the weekend installation was successful with power being restored to the factory at 10:00 Tuesday, eight hours ahead of schedule.
Switchboard in place and energised
Switchboard in place and energised

Technical details on the upgrade:

    • Full NICIEC Testing & Inspection carried out and certified to BS7671 Wiring regulations. Giving the existing installation an update to current regulations and standards.
    • Form factor & standards upgrade, existing switchboard was categorised as form 3b and built to BS EN 5486. New switchboard is form 4 type 6, one of the highest forms of separation, and built to BS-EN61439-2 standards.
    • Current rating increased from 1600A to 2000A providing additional load for future requirements.
    • T.V.S.S type 1/2 protection now provided to the switchboard
    • Full metering installed on all outgoing circuits and overall incomer. The new multifunction metering is consolidated back to a common metering panel for ease of display and integration into the Customer SCADA system.
    • 2x New 542kVAR Detuned Power Factor Correction cubicles installed on LVPS3/4, complete with an automatic controller and manual control functionality.