Taking enclosure cooling seriously

Rittal explores four excuses some companies make to avoid investing in the thermal management of their electronic equipment.

It is suggested that one of the UK’s largest automotive manufacturers could lose up to £480,000 per hour if it experiences downtime on its paint plant. Not every manufacturer’s overheads are as substantial as the above example, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that regardless of your industry and the product you manufacture, production downtime is a crucial performance indicator to monitor because of the direct impact it can have on the bottom line.

More downtime equals increased spares/maintenance costs, taken directly from profit which could have been invested in more pertinent business objectives, such as purchasing new machinery.

The following is a list of excuses not to tackle climate control provision in production and automation facilities.

Excuse one: Fix the problem when it occurs

In the past, reactive maintenance was seen as acceptable for most businesses. However, times have changed. The key goals of any sized business are now becoming: increased throughput; cost efficiency; and continuous improvement. Potential roadblocks to output targets need to be addressed early and nobody wants to be the person in the morning meeting explaining why yesterday’s targets weren’t met.

Implementing a semi-regular maintenance schedule doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Something as simple as a weekly visual check of cooling equipment filter mats or system alarms can provide time to call the experts for a more detailed review.

Excuse two: Just open the enclosure door for a while

This is treating the symptoms rather than the illness. Companies resorting to using large fans to blow ambient air into an open enclosure could be doing more harm than good. This is also a dangerous solution regarding health and safety.

An enclosure’s purpose is to create an environment in which electrical equipment is protected from contaminants. Opening the door allows a constant stream of dirty air to be pulled into the enclosure. Dirt can gather in switchgear, cause short circuits or block on-board fans in turn resulting in damaged componentry, reduced life and possible critical part failure.

If this course of action is required it suggests the existing cooling equipment is not adequate for the installation or requires maintenance to bring it back into working order.

Rittal’s free RiAssure cooling review service offers a solution where a local climate control expert will appraise the existing equipment, provide honest feedback on whether the equipment is adequate and also provide details/quotations for a service contract to suit ongoing needs.

Excuse three: The equipment is currently operating and I haven’t serviced it in months/years

Problems may be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for now but the longer cooling equipment is left unchecked, the higher the risk.

For example, if a fan unit is in a dusty environment and the filter mat becomes clogged, this will reduce its effectiveness to cool the electrical equipment due to the reduced air throughput. This can increase the enclosure’s internal temperature. As a rule of thumb, for every 10°C of internal enclosure temperature increase, the equipment life is halved and there is an increase in the likelihood of an unexpected failure.

Excuse four: The company doesn’t have the manpower or outsources the work

Many companies outsource their servicing to a third party. However, the question is what checks they are performing, given there has already been a callout to an enclosure which is overheating.

On one occasion, a customer was asked to speak with its current service provider to understand what checks were being undertaken because the cooling units were in disrepair. During the discussion, it became clear that the supplier serviced the air conditioning in the offices but didn’t do any work in the factory.

Climate control equipment is becoming increasingly efficient as new technology is launched every year. The only guarantee of the highest level of checks and service will come from engineers who have been trained by the manufacturers about the technology and its detailed workings.

Rittal has been manufacturing climate control equipment for 30-years and all of its service staff are trained on the whole portfolio to ensure they can remedy any customer’s issues.

Everyone has budgets and savings targets to hit, so ask yourself, can you afford not to have correct maintenance in place?