An order we recently took from a longtime customer illustrates the challenges that users of industrial UPSs often face. The customer, a refinery based in Turkey, was looking to replace some industrial UPSs that were about 20 years old. Now, given that timeframe, you may think speed of delivery for the new units wouldn’t be much of an issue. If you’ve been waiting 20 years, what’s a few more weeks, right?
Wrong. Refineries operate around the clock. It’s a big deal to shut down operations, so they typically do so only once every couple of years. During such shutdowns, anything that requires replacement or maintenance gets attention, as quickly as possible. The next shutdown was planned for September.
Before we go any further, what exactly is an industrial UPS?
Industrial UPSs are hardware devices engineered to ensure quality power supplies for essential equipment located in demanding environments. They are typically used at production process plants, offshore installations, refineries, pipeline control centers, gas-gathering plants, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas to liquid (GTL) plants, storage tanks, mining, transport, desalination, and chemical applications and are designed to withstand a wide temperature and humidity range with limited airflow. Many Industrial UPSs are custom-made to the precise specifications a customer requires and designed to meet the strictest safety standards. That, of course, takes time – typically 18 weeks or so from order to delivery. Well, this customer didn’t have 18 weeks; it needed the new UPS units – 16 of them – in more like 8 or 10 weeks.
The good news is that this is a story vendors have heard for quite some time. Long lead times is one of three big customer pain points that all UPS manufacturers hear about from industrial UPS customers, along with high price and large footprint.
So we did something about it. At Schneider Electric, for example, we created a new industrial UPS line that includes the features and components that customers most frequently ask for. Now customers can basically build their own industrial UPS, picking and choosing the components they need. We’ve got all the components in stock and they’re pre-engineered to work together. That means it takes far less time for us to build a UPS to your specifications, typically only 6 to 8 weeks from order to delivery.
This process also removes a lot of custom engineering, which helps keep the price down. Using only standard, pre-engineered components also enables us to reduce the industrial UPS footprint, to between 600mm and 1000mm for most models. That’s a far cry from some of the custom units we’ve built in the past. I’ve seen plenty of projects that called for UPSs of 3000mm in size and even one that had a UPS that was 5000mm long.
Hopefully this will open up the industrial UPS market to more customers who would really benefit from the technology. Too often we’ve seen customers try to get away with a traditional UPS in a harsh environment, only to come back in 5 years or so and have to replace the unit. By contrast, an industrial model should last 20 years or so.
Traditional UPSs are simply not made to withstand any of those sorts of harsh environments. As an example, check out our free special report, “Next Generation AC and DC UPS Solutions for Offshore Oil and Gas Engineering Applications.” While it’s a must-read for anyone in the oil and gas industry, it will give anyone a good sense for the technology behind an industrial UPS and make clear why an industrial UPS is a wise choice, one that will give you many years of reliable power protection.