Manufacturer’s focus on manufacturing, industrial buildings
Manufacturing and industrial facilities have some unusual engineering requirements, especially air handling, power needs, and fire/life safety systems. Two manufacturers provide feedback and advice.
Kurt Carpenter, Tracer XT Product Manager, Trane, Minneapolis
Bhavesh Patel, Director of Marketing, ASCO Power Technologies, a business of Emerson Network Power, Florham Park, N.J.
CSE: What trends are you seeing in manufacturing and industrial buildings?
Kurt Carpenter, Trane: With the challenging business climate, companies are looking to improve efficiency to stay competitive. There is an increasing emphasis on using information better and faster. For instance, data centers are calculating their infrastructure efficiency, power, and energy usage effectiveness, while a plant such as a juice processing plant may be interested in their energy performance indicator. All of these key performance indicators require data and measurement systems that can deliver it. Automation systems need to be designed to make nearly any key performance indicators possible. The building environment represents another key focus, including the infrastructure that supports the overall process, involving activities such as process cooling, compressed air, lighting, power distribution, water, and similar activities. The interaction between manufacturing systems and HVAC systems can be complex, but if comfort energy demand is managed independently of manufacturing assets, then efficiency gains in one area can be easily offset by the other. Production automation, energy metering, and climate control systems typically use different communication protocols. Bringing all of the systems together allows for more efficient use of both the manufacturing assets and comfort assets. Therefore, the need for an enterprise control solution to have broad support for system integration is increasing rapidly.
Bhavesh Patel, ASCO Power Technologies: The concept of “big data” is encroaching into many facilities. Most industrial equipment today is capable of communicating with each other or a central system for status, alarms, operation, or diagnostic information. These equipments are built with advanced sensors that feed micro-processor controls to monitor proper functioning, warning for maintenance, or problem prevention. So the movement is toward use and deployment of intelligent facilities, which can become the first line of defense for facility managers. And all the data that is collected now needs to be properly organized and used for beneficial use. One can say all such data for a facility needs to be managed like an integrated and lean supply chain, which has to constantly compare and adjust, rather than a warehouse full of data that you only pull when necessary. Facility managers are also designing facilities for analytics, not just monitoring. Specifically in power reliability area, facility managers want to view details about their critical power infrastructure all as integrated solution with synchronized time clocks for easier interpretation of how everything is functioning.
CSE: What's the most important advice you could offer an engineer considering your products?
Patel: Since power reliability is critical to keeping the digital economy thriving, there is a strong push to implement solutions for power continuity. But all the electrical components have to meet the codes and standards prescribed for the intended use of such components. It is an engineer’s responsibility to ensure their designs specifically call out for equipment approved and tested for the application it is used for. This avoids potential delays during audits or approvals from authorities having jurisdiction as well as preventing challenges in case of safety issues or insurance claims. For example, many data centers are considered as “optional standby load” because they historically did not have direct/indirect life safety consequences due to non-performance. But with implementation of NEC Article 708, which elevated the criticality of many such facilities due to need of their continued operation to keep the U.S. economy functioning, engineers’ should re-visit the codes they design such facilities to.
Carpenter: It’s ideal to work with a company with domain expertise that understands the interaction between the process and surrounding environment and how to optimize it. This means looking at a manufacturing site as a single system that can be optimized. A recommended practice when assessing potential solutions is to require that manufacturers provide documented case studies and success stories highlighting equivalent installations and the benefits that the systems offered the user. It is also important to involve the domain experts in the design process as early as possible. Use their experience to help in the design and selection of the right control system components and in identifying the integration requirements for the job. Trane integrates HVAC domain expertise on an enterprise solution that allows engineers to package the experience of separate providers on a shared platform. This capability allows users to combine the knowledge of multiple providers on a project, while delivering the system it as if it is single sourced.
CSE: What factors do engineers on such building projects sometimes overlook?
Carpenter: Sometimes looking at the total system is overlooked. It’s critical for engineers to look at a building project holistically. When that doesn’t happen, they typically end up with a facility with multiple independent systems with very little synergy or connectivity. Taking a less-than-holistic approach adds to upfront costs and burdens the facility with unnecessary overhead that must be managed going forward. The technology exists to bring discrete units and subsystems together into an overall system and to proactively manage spend on a per unit cost basis. Therefore, it’s important to gather as much detail as possible about the integration needs as early as possible in the system design process. This will allow the engineer to ask detailed questions about how well the integrated control systems will meet the company’s needs. Many times a system that is designed only for HVAC is employed in production or critical control setting and limitations in functionality become clear after the facility is put on line. Correcting this situation often requires changing many of the controls and the enterprise interface to industrial quality products, which can be expensive and is also disruptive to production output during the transition.
Patel: Besides ensuring facilities are designed to local electrical codes, sometimes engineers may overlook the geographic requirements like seismic or hurricanes. Another reason for such oversight is due to fact that some of those requirements, while applicable to electrical equipment, are listed under the building construction portion of the specifications. Another factor is designing for all intended use of a facility. For instance, local hospital may also be a designated community shelter during disasters, which means code mandated backup power would not be adequate for continued use of a facility during extended outages. Also important is ensuring that critical equipment does not submerge in water during flooding condition even though codes do not specify such requirements. Essentially, engineer should use codes and standards as the starting point then build up the design to meet common-sense needs of the facility.