A Question of Trust - Assessing the Benefits of a Single Service Partner

Dean Furlong, Service Director at leading power protection solutions provider Invensys Powerware, explores the latest trend for service consolidation within the standby power marketplace.

Most companies looking to subcontract their non-core service activities to third party providers have just a couple of objectives in mind. First, they
need to ensure that their procedures and operations are not compromised, and
second, they want to keep costs under control.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? However, in practice, it is often anything but. The reality is that, if you are to successfully subcontract, you will need to engage and manage several contractors and possibly subcontractors, justto get the job done. And, that's never truer than when it comes to managing your standby power requirements.

UPS maintenance, generator maintenance, battery maintenance, controls maintenance and building management - they all have their own specialists,
and companies will frequently contract a supplier for each discipline. But,
is this really the best approach, and how does this market legacy affect an
organisation's ability to perform? And can global service providers really
provide a more complete service offering?

Before we examine these issues in detail, however, it might be useful to see
how this situation has arisen. Historically, UPS manufacturers' service organisations have not always been able to offer the full range of services,
including maintenance, monitoring and replacement of UPS, generators and
batteries as an integral part of their standard service product portfolio.
Therefore, a number of suppliers have arisen, each of them specialising in a
particular element of the overall chain.

Nowadays, though, companies are looking for consolidation, both in their own
capabilities, and in those that their suppliers can offer. And what this
means is that outsourcing for today's businesses has to encompass a far
wider range of resources than used to be the case.

Over the last few years, there has been a strong trend towards single
service suppliers offering a complete range of services to the corporate
sector. For reasons of cost and expertise, organisations are recognising the
immense benefits brought about by a single service provider, rather than
multiple appointments. And, make no mistake, the benefits are manifold.

Firstly, a single point of contact makes it much easier to coordinate
service and maintenance issues as they arise. In house engineers can make
contact with one organisation and obtain the right on-site assistance
swiftly, effectively and without hassle. This, in turn, enables them to
utilise their resources more efficiently, by concentrating their efforts
where they will bring a genuine advantage to the organisation.

Secondly, it is far easier to integrate the functions of a single service
provider within those of the customer itself. This means less management
time spent dealing with the administration of the relationship, as well as a
more direct route to problem solving and the day to day running of the
service contract. Moreover, having a single service provider means that one
organisation takes full responsibility for all aspects of the power chain.
This eliminates any ambiguity over accountability for specific service
issues, as well as enabling different levels of service to be consolidated
within a single package.

Many companies spend a significant amount of their time and resources just
dealing with the administration of their supplier and contractor
relationships. How much more logical, therefore, for them to forge a strong
relationship with a single organisation, providing all their service and
maintenance requirements under one roof.

However, the practice isn't quite as straightforward as the theory, as not
all service providers have the breadth of ability or depth of knowledge,
systems and partnerships to enable them to offer such a wide ranging
service. In reality therefore, any organisation looking to use a single
maintenance and service provider must choose their partner with care and
caution.

Because uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are the first line of
protection in the standby power chain, correct maintenance is an essential
part of any service provision. But, there is much more to standby power than
the UPS alone. Many organisations also see the benefits that a standby
generator system can bring, especially where continuous power is required,
rather than just an orderly shutdown of the connected equipment. Therefore
the ideal service provider will need to have experience in generator as well
as UPS service. In both cases, battery management is a critical element of
the service provision, as research shows that this is the single highest
cause of downtime for companies neglecting this element.

The advantage of dealing with a leading provider is apparent when you look
at their supporting infrastructure. A suitable provider will be trusted
supplier, able to offer a true end to end service capability, using trained
technicians to offer what is, in effect, a unique service capability.
Invensys Global Services, for example, comprises a series of elements, each
of which is important in its own right, but which combine to form a
genuinely holistic offering.

The first part of any service provision has to be battery testing. Ideally,
this should be available to both existing and new customers, regardless of
their equipment and geography, allowing customers to benefit from the
service whether or not their UPS equipment was originally supplied by that
company.

Impedance testing methods, along with voltage, (both open circuit and float)
and loadbank testing, provide the most reliable indicator of a battery's
performance and future capability. Ideally, these should be combined with
remote monitoring facilities, which allow the status of the UPS and
batteries to be assessed. Remote monitoring enables the state and condition
of the equipment to be monitored from a central site, without needing to
view a UPS that might be in an inaccessible location. This brings an obvious
benefit in that any performance shortfalls can be assessed and corrected
before the UPS is called upon to operate in an emergency, which is usually
the time when equipment faults become apparent.

Many companies will not undertake a maintenance programme on their standby
power equipment without arranging generator hire to cover potential
incidents. In particular, a temporary generator is very useful for works
such as maintenance to switchgear and transformers, where the permanent
placement of a generator on site will usually require planning permission.

And, for companies that may be concerned about the perceived cost of
generator hire, it might be time to check out those companies that are now
offering hiring charges based - at the option of the user - on hours
running, rather than on the more traditional measurement of days or weeks
hired. These companies specifically provide units with a time clock embedded
in their digital circuitry, to enable accurate measurement of the length of
time in operation.

Whether you are considering moving premises, expanding internally, or
upgrading existing equipment, your solutions provider should be flexible
enough to fit in with your plans. A suitable service contractor should also
undertake a full site survey and power audit, to advise the customer about
load distribution, location and, of course, the all important environmental
considerations. This should guarantee that the customer receives the correct
UPS for its exact requirements, while ensuring ease of delivery and
installation.

The customer should also assess the level of service offered by the service
provider. How big is its service division? Do they have a global reach? How
responsive are they? Are annual maintenance visits included in the overall
contract cost? Can the contractor provide control centre and process
maintenance, as well as service for third party equipment, including other
manufacturers' UPS, generators and batteries?

Then, the customer should make sure that the service provider can offer
total support of all key standby power services, including ups, battery,
generator and remote monitoring. This is a critical element for any company
looking to apply central management to multiple sites, as well as reducing
downtime costs by offering real time problem solving and immediate dispatch
of an engineer where necessary.

Finally, all companies need to look to the future, and your chosen standby
power protection supplier should therefore have the ability to grow with
you. At the end of the day, not everyone will have a need for all these
services. But, the moral is, choose your service partner carefully, as you
never know what you might need in the future.

Press Release Contact:
Dean Furlong
Service Director
Invensys Powerware
01753 608 700

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