Increasing reliability in mission-critical power systems
When it comes to designing the power infrastructure for mission-critical facilities there are many different factors that need to be considered, not least the cost and redundancy requirements. It is vital to optimally balance these factors as they greatly impact the efficiency, uptime and, ultimately, performance of the application.
Dr Duraid AlJailawi, Accredited Tier Designer and Manager of Critical Environments at CBRE, agrees: “Mission-critical power systems should be reliable and available 100% of the time. We cannot afford any failure in the critical power system due to poor design or missing scheduled preventive maintenance. According to a study by Ponemon Institute, one minute of data center downtime now costs $7,900 on average. Therefore, having a well-designed and maintained mission-critical power system is essential.”
However, the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of such a system often lies with the owner/operator of the building, who might not necessarily have an engineering background. So, how can they ensure successful delivery of a project?
According to John Peterson, Program Manager of Mission Critical, Buildings & Places at AECOM, it is all about building mutual trust: “Often the non-engineer is responsible for multiple facets of a mission-critical system – power, space cooling – and their attention is focused on many different things throughout a work day. To navigate the complexities and details of a mission-critical power system, those non-engineers often rely on experts who can help with implementation. Like most project management, those without the expertise should be involved to understand the cost, schedule and quality of the final result. It will be up to the engineers, as either owners’ representatives or consulting designers, to ensure that they deliver the implementation as planned. And like most projects, trust in the experts will need to be established by performing well. That trust dictates whether the non-engineer decides to bring in an owners’ representative, second opinions or even a third-party reviewer to ensure the implementation succeeds.”
Trust is a key ingredient to building any type of professional relationship. Chris McLean, Director of Mission-Critical Projects at Vanderweil Engineers, promotes building relationships with people at suppliers’ factories: “Go to factories, ask questions, go on witness tests and observe. Everything fails at some point, and we all need to be prepared. The folks at the factory see it all, from the inside out. But normally our point of contact is a salesperson or maybe a sales engineer. When you’re in the foxhole later, you’re going to want to have relationships at the factory. The local first line of defense will be too busy selling something new than to help get out of the immediate crisis.”
So, building strong relationships both internally and externally is key. However, there are several other actions that can be taken to optimize the process and ultimately ensure successful operation of the facility. Dr AlJailawi recommends the following steps:
- Ensure that the organization’s senior management (CEO, CIO, CFO, COO) are all on the same page regarding what mission critical means to the organization’s core business.
- Employee training should be a priority when new staff are hired, and should be conducted regularly to ensure all personnel are up to date on any changes in industry standards and organizational best practices. Properly trained employees understand how to safely operate and maintain the mission-critical equipment and what to do when equipment and systems do not function as expected.
- Proper documentation. Keep records and monitor trends. Knowledge is power, and accurate data is a great tool to making the right decisions.
- Implement a good computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to manage preventive maintenance activities.
- Complete a risk and single-point-of-failure analysis. Document and communicate these analyses to each level of the organization. Ensure that acceptable risks are documented and mitigation techniques implemented for risks not accepted.
- Get in touch with the major players in the market by attending seminars, workshops and conferences such as this one [Buyers Forum @ Critical Power Expo].
In conclusion, the experts agree that building relationships is one of the fundamental components in implementing a critical power system, as well as ensuring good communication, training your staff, documentation and risk analysis.