Keeping the Lights On

The financial consequences of a power outage could be devastating to your company. It will not only bring production to an abrupt halt, it can also cause machine damage, loss of material, and loss of income. And, if your facility is a part of a “just-in-time” supply chain, such as the automotive industry, it could adversely affect your customers’ production and, potentially, cause their plant to shut down.

“How do you prepare for a power outage to minimize the potential loss to your manufacturing business?” That’s the question that Precision Manufacturing Insurance Services asked in its article, “Lights Out: Pre-Planning for an Electrical Power Outage at Your Manufacturing Facility.” It then offered several recommendations.

Designate a person in the shop to become familiar with the electrical distribution system layout and design in your facility.

For Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the mobility industry, that person is Andrew Zblewski, Maintenance Captain. It was while Zblewski was reviewing Team 1’s electrical system that he realized that Team 1 needed to create a plan to handle long-term electrical outages.

Zblewski said that several years ago, Team 1 consolidated all of its power supply to one source by having an electrical transformer installed. (Previously, the Warehouse building was on its own power source.) Now, everything is run off of one source. He said, “I realized that we’re supposed to do preventative maintenance every three years on the transformer. But, in order to do that, we need to have the power to everything shut off for at least one day, and possibly up to three days.” Zblewski shared what he had learned with Gary Grigowski, Team 1’s Co-owner and Vice President, who directed Zblewski to begin researching electrical generators and discover what the options were for a back-up system.

Identify critical loads that will require emergency power in the event of an outage. Decide which equipment in your manufacturing facility is absolutely critical during the outage.

In the past, according to Joshua Nye, Information Technology Manager for Team 1, when the company had an electrical outage and product needed to be shipped, “we would bring in a few small portable generators to fire up the network and servers and select the computers needed to get whatever job had to be accomplished done.” However, the company had no capability to run the injection molding presses to produce parts when there was an electrical outage.

Zblewski said that when he began to research the options available for a back-up system, “We were thinking about running half the presses, plus possibly the lighting and some computers. So, that’s what we investigated.” Zblewski said that he contacted a number of different vendors about their generators. He also talked with local manufacturing facilities about what they were using. “It helped talking to a variety of different vendors. Everyone had their own input. And, I talked to local industry who have back-up plans in place.”

Consider installing a permanent emergency generator dedicated to the equipment marked as emergency loads. This may be a better solution than relying on portable generators that require being hooked-up after the power has gone out.

For some companies, having a permanent generator is the solution that they need. According to Generac Power Systems’ White Paper, “Keeping the Auto Parts Pipeline Flowing,” that was the solution that Android Industries needed. Android Industries is a Tier 1 supplier to General Motors’ truck assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, and “can’t afford to stop the flow of components in the event of a power outage … Android relies on an 800 kW Modular Power System from Generac to provide the necessary backup power supply.”

“’There is no question that with all of our critical applications, we need to have a reliable power source that will keep our electricity on all the time,’ says Brian McDonell of Android Industries. ‘The loss of power for even a few hours could mean a loss of thousands of dollars for our business.’”

Even though Team 1 Plastics is part of the automotive industry’s “just-in-time” supply chain (a Tier 2 and Tier 3 supplier), the company’s capacity planning allows the company to maintain the right amount of parts in its Warehouse, providing a buffer in case of emergencies and production downtime. This buffer was an important factor in the company’s decision to choose the option of a mobile portable generator.

Zblewski said, “We weighed it all out, and a rental agreement with Caterpillar seemed to be the best bet.” According to its website, the Cat® Rental Store Network offers the largest construction equipment rental fleet in the world with more than 1,300 locations in the United States.

Team 1 contacted Caterpillar who “did all the research and determined what we needed.” Team 1 chose the mobile XQ400 kW generator. Zblewski said, “What we have set up is that when we determine we have a need, we call Caterpillar, and they’ll have a generator here within a short amount of time – generally, it’ll be about four hours, at the most, twelve hours.”

Once the model was determined, Team 1 Plastics had its facility wired with the correct plugs to hook up to the generator. Zblewski said, “When the generator arrives, we run the cables from the generator to the building, plug them in, flip the power off to the building, and flip this thing on.”

The company has also set up a contract with a local Oil company for fuel for the generator as needed. When Team 1 contacts Caterpillar to request the generator, Caterpillar contacts the Oil company who will bring fuel for the generator twice a day.

Ensure that you have the right manufacturing insurance program in place. Coordination of Utility Interruption Coverage along with Equipment Breakdown Coverage is critical.

In its final recommendation, Precision Manufacturing Insurance Services reminds companies, “Careful pre-planning is instrumental in reducing the risk to your manufacturing business caused by power interruptions. If you do have a power outage that results in loss of business, ensure that you have the right manufacturing insurance program in place.”

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