Franklin Electric Grid Solutions: Ensuring 24/7 Uptime via Next-Gen Monitoring
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Balaji Swaminathan, Vice President
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the electric utility sector was undergoing a transition from disparate grid and distribution processes to a connected experience where asset owners can track and maintain the physical and operational performance of their equipment. With this rise of the ‘smart’ grid, utility providers across the globe were able to save a significant amount of resources while minimizing the need for manual processes, which in turn, enhanced their overall operational efficiencies. However, with the increasing need for reliability and sustainability in markets such as telecommunications, healthcare, transportation, and data centers increasing with each passing day, utility providers are struggling to maintain uninterrupted power while managing the ever-increasing complexity of their grid. And with newer markets like cryptocurrency and electric vehicles also emerging as mainstays in the business landscape, the need for grid solutions that allow seamless tracking of performance and distribution efficiencies has reached an all-time high.
However, due to the siloed and orphaned nature of some of the grid equipment, the only way for utility firms to recognize a problem with an asset’s performance would be if a customer reports a loss of power services. This reactive approach to asset management and maintenance has already led to significant losses for utility firms, both in terms of money and clientele. So how can an electric utility firm effectively shift their current asset management approach from reactive to proactive without putting a large dent in their OpEx?
Wisconsin-based Franklin Electric Grid Solutions answers this question with its portfolio of intelligent monitoring equipment for power and battery backup systems that enable asset owners to be in lockstep with the physical state and operational performance of their grids 24/7/365. Franklin Electric Grid Solutions, a division of Franklin Electric, offers power grid and battery monitoring solutions as well as commercial-grade testers that deliver real-time health and performance analytics of grid assets, facilitating data-driven decision-making. “We translate our ability to design and manufacture intelligent grid monitoring devices that ensure uptime, to provide a cost-saving, proactive approach to critical asset maintenance,” Balaji Swaminathan, Vice President at of Franklin Electric Grid Solutions.
Currently, the company serves electric asset owners across markets, be it D.C. power plants that require better maintenance, I.T. firms that want minimal downtime at their data centers, or a transportation organization that handles powering railway lines, among others. For power plants, Franklin Electric Grid Solutions’ provides round-the-clock back-up battery monitoring solutions, which include IoT-based sensors and a communications gateway that allows the equipment to monitor and share information on the voltage, temperature, conductance, discharge, and other critical facets. This real-time sharing of equipment data allows D.C. power plant owners to accurately identify potential factors that could lead to downtime and make the necessary changes to prevent it. All the information gathered by the company’s monitoring systems is sent to an intelligent and powerful backend system—UNITE, which provides a safe and secure centralized data storage that simplifies the process of proactive maintenance planning and compliance reporting for users. Additionally, Franklin Electric Grid Solutions offers commercial-grade, handheld battery testers that deliver the highest reliability to help D.C. power plants, large Telcos, data centers and others in always ensuring uptime and adhere to NERC PRC-005 regulatory mandates for periodic maintenance.
We translate our ability to design and manufacture intelligent grid monitoring devices that ensure uptime, to provide a cost-saving, proactive approach to critical asset maintenance
More recently, Franklin Electric Grid Solutions has been developed additional solutions for their monitoring and testing portfolios, namely, its circuit breaker monitoring solution called Optimizer 3 and its Celltron Advantage Digital handheld battery conductance tester. With its Optimizer 3 solution, the company is assisting its clients in tracking the performance and health of their MV & HV circuit breakers by allowing near-real-time updates on the equipment to asset owners via an ethernet or fiber-based DNP protocol that directly feeds into the user’s SCADA. At the same time, the Celltron Advantage Digital battery tester is a handheld product that measures battery signals and sends them directly to Franklin’s UNITE s/w platform. “Thanks to its ability to process the signal details completely in the digital domain, the Advantage Digital has much fewer components on its circuit board, which allows for faster and more accurate signal processing,” states Chris Chenoweth, National Sales Manager for the Americas at Franklin Electric Grid Solutions.
With such unmatched capabilities, Franklin Electric Grid Solutions has ignited several success stories since its inception. In one instance, the company helped multiple clients based in the Northeastern U.S. to effectively comply with the emerging regulations of the Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC). Initially, after collaborating with Franklin Electric Grid Solutions, the customers had implemented the company’s circuit breaker monitoring solution successfully. Subsequently, when the NPCC introduced a new regulation that stated the physical separation of trip-circuit coils, the clients approached Franklin Electric Grid Solutions again because of non-compliance. “Our original implementation galvanically separated the trip-circuit coils, which was safe and effective, but did not comply with the new mandate,” explains Don Blust, Senior Product Manager at Franklin Electric Grid Solutions. Therefore, to help these customers comply with the new regulations, the company developed a new customized solution named Optimizer Trip Coil Isolator (OM-TCI), which allowed the customers to physically separate their trip-circuit coil connections, one feeding into the Optimizer Implementation and the other into OM-TCI. Once this was done, the customer reported continual success alongside effective compliance. Furthermore, after handling the initial engineering bugs, Franklin Electric Grid Solution’s OM-TCI product was chosen by more clients as a way to achieve best practices during their operations.
Similarly, Franklin Electric Grid Solutions has helped a plethora of other clients, helping them enhance the efficacy and efficiency of maintenance processes through increased visibility and data-driven insights into asset health and performance. And according to Blust, at the heart of the company’s success is its ability to always emphasize customer feedback and develop solutions that go beyond just the needs of a client to deliver real value in terms of customer satisfaction and significant time and cost-savings.
Moving forward, Franklin Electric Grid Solutions plans to launch its innovative Distribution Transformer Monitor (DTM), an industrial IoT product that will connect with padmount transformers (a historically unmonitored asset) and allow round-the-clock monitoring of critical aspects of the equipment’s health and performance. “DTM tracks the details of a padmount transformer and reports it back to the asset owner through UNITE, giving users a secure way to efficiently monitor their asset in a game-changing way,” adds Chenoweth. On the other hand, the company is also developing additional features for its UNITE platform and newer algorithms to its analytics capabilities to help clients better understand their assets and make data-driven decisions to ensure zero downtime.