Graybar, a Fortune 500 company, specializes in supply chain management services, and is a leading North American distributor of high quality components, equipment, and materials. We serve the construction market, the commercial, institutional, and government (CIG) market, and the industrial and utility markets. Graybar products and services support new construction, infrastructure updates, building renovation, facility maintenance, repair and operations, and original equipment manufacturing.
Realizing the promise of Industry 4.0 isn’t always easy for managers of older factories and plants. Here’s a seven-point guide that everyone can use to help their plants reap the benefits of IIoT, automation and other flagship Industry 4.0 technologies.
There’s a lot of buzz around Industry 4.0 right now, and for good reason. With the goal of creating “smarter” factories where all digital and physical assets are connected using artificial intelligence (AI), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud computing, robotics and other technologies, Industry 4.0 helps create more flexible, responsive and interconnected factories.
“More and more companies see Industry 4.0 as a competitive advantage,” says Michael Schneeweis, a Manager of Industrial Business at Graybar, “and are leveraging it to gain an edge in this ever-changing market through a more analytics-driven production approach.”
Getting there isn’t always easy or cheap, and managers of existing facilities can face particularly high hurdles in their quest to maximize the benefits of Industry 4.0. While the average U.S. factory was 16 years old in 1980, that number has since risen to 25, according to McKinsey. The average age of the equipment inside those plants has also increased from seven years old in 1980 to nine years old today. In most metals, machinery and equipment manufacturing applications, that number is even higher.
Rewind the clock back 25 years — the average age of a factory today — and the Global Positioning System (GPS) had just become fully operational; NSFNET had just been decommissioned, thus removing the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic; and the average person still didn’t own a personal computer (let alone a mobile phone). Factories were running pretty much the way they’d always been, and acronyms like IoT and AI were still years away from going mainstream.
Factories have come a long way since then. Machinery is built with smart sensors that collect production data in real time; humans are working alongside robots to get tasks completed more quickly and additive manufacturing enabled by 3D printing has moved from the conceptual stage to full-blown reality. Combined, these and other advanced technologies represent a combination of systems that converge in a setting where all stakeholders have real-time insights into products, processes and people.
“This new wave … is driven by an explosion in the volume of available data, developments in analytics and machine learning, new forms of human–machine interaction (such as touch interfaces and augmented-reality systems), and the ability to transmit digital instructions to the physical world,” McKinsey points out. “Such complementary technologies can run smart, cost-efficient, and automated plants that produce large volumes — or, conversely, plants that turn out highly customized products.”
Seven Ways to Maximize Industry 4.0 Technology
Realizing the promise of Industry 4.0 isn’t always easy for managers of older factories and plants. Here are seven strategies that all managers can use to start reaping the benefits of IIoT, automation and other flagship Industry 4.0 technologies.
In return for implementing these strategies, Schneeweis says most plants will experience higher productivity levels, better supply chain visibility and improved efficiencies. “Data is the new arms race and more companies are going down this path,” he concludes. “To remain competitive in their respective markets, even older plants are going to have to start moving in this direction.”
Graybar has always been committed to honoring the men and women who serve our country. We are proud to continue that tradition this year by sponsoring a new segment on KMOV4?in St. Louis called “Spotlight on Those Who Served,” which features stories from local veterans.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Missouri, December 13, 2019 – Cape Electrical Supply, a wholly owned subsidiary of Graybar, today announced that Ryan Weissmueller has been appointed President, effective Jan. 2, 2020. Weissmueller has been with the company since 2006 working in various capacities, serving as Vice President of Finance since 2016.?
Kyle Thoma has served as President since 2012 and Chief Executive Officer since 2013. Moving forward, Thoma will remain CEO and work to expand Cape Electric’s growing services business, CES Integration, or CESI for short.?
“I am honored to assume the role of President for Cape Electric,” Weissmueller said. “The wholesale distribution industry is in the midst of a digital revolution, and Cape Electric has the agility, resources and strong foundation to meet these new challenges head on. I am excited to work closely with the management team during these transformational times and explore innovative ways to provide the best customer experience.”?
Thoma added, “Ryan has played a critical role in our success over the years, and he has a passion for growing our company. Cape Electric is in good hands and will benefit greatly from Ryan’s continued leadership.”
Cape Electrical Supply is a wholly owned subsidiary of Graybar and is a leader in the distribution of high quality electrical, utility, MRO, communications and data networking products, and specializes in related supply chain management and logistics services through a 14 branch network residing in six states throughout the Midwest. For more information visit www.capeelectric.com.
How a switchgear modernization plan can save your company money while helping create a safer workplace that fully leverages modern technology.?
An estimated 60 percent of circuit breakers in the United States are 30 years or older, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy. Industrial properties should be assessing their electrical distribution systems and determining whether they are due to upgrade or modernize. ?
A critical aspect of any facility, switchgear helps to ensure a reliable flow of electricity while protecting people and assets. As it ages, the active components can break down, causing downtime or missed production. According to ARC Strategies, two hours of downtime a month costs a typical plant $2.4 million a year.?
While in some instances, your 20- to 30-year-old switchgear may still perform its original functions, aging switchgear lacks the advanced intelligence that would be considered standard in modern facilities. Fortunately, facility managers have affordable options to modernize older equipment for both its performance and safety.
In most situations, the decision to modernize switchgear is based on financial investment. If a building’s electrical infrastructure is performing as expected, why spend the money to upgrade it? The good news is that in most cases, switchgear modernization costs about 40 percent less than an entirely new equipment installation would cost. This is an important point to keep in mind as you assess your current setup and potential upgrade options.?
For other companies, the decision to modernize comes down to a total cost of ownership (TCO) argument. Much like you wouldn’t continue to funnel money into repairing an older car, continuing to maintain switchgear equipment can be an expensive proposition that doesn’t pay off in the long run.?
There's also the question of the availability of spare parts. A lot of the switchgear equipment that’s being used out in the field right now is very old, which means spare parts are no longer readily available. Like any other electrical component, switchgear also reaches an “end of life,” at which point the original manufacturer no longer supports it with spare parts. This is yet another scenario where modernization often emerges as the best path forward.
CapEx Versus OpEx?
Like anything in life, we get complacent when equipment is working properly and not costing us a lot of money to maintain. Unfortunately, companies that ignore their aging switchgear miss out on the opportunity to leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), predictive analytics and connectivity innovations that are embedded in modern-day switchgear solutions.?
Other companies assume that the only option is to “rip and replace” their current switchgear assemblies. In other words, they would have to remove their existing electrical infrastructure in order to replace with new equipment. This is a false assumption, but one that tends to scare companies that lack the annual budgets to pay for such an undertaking. By modernizing some or all of their existing infrastructure, companies can minimize costs while reaping the rewards of having a new, modern switchgear setup. ?
When deciding whether to modernize their switchgear, many companies make their decisions based on the standard “CapEx versus OpEx” argument. An operating expense (OpEx) refers to costs incurred during the day-to-day functioning of a business, while a capital expense (CapEx) covers tangible assets that a company will be using in its operations for a year or more. ?
What many organizations may not know is that CapEx expenses can be “planned,” meaning that the company doesn’t necessarily have to make a large upfront investment in modernization. Instead, spend can be planned over time using a phase-in approach. For example, let’s say there’s a pressing need to replace several circuit breakers.?
As long as the existing equipment still functions properly, there’s no reason to buy all of the circuit breakers at once and take a big financial hit. Instead, the purchases can be spread out over several years and prioritized according to the criticality of the circuit breakers that need to be replaced. Because this switchgear modernization approach incurs lower upfront expenses, it can be more affordable than complete upgrades, whose cost can’t be broken up over time.
To Repair or Replace Switchgear? Five Key Considerations
When considering whether to repair or replace existing switchgear, you should consider the following factors:?
Modernizing existing equipment with the latest state-of-the-art circuit breaker solutions — many of which now incorporate IIoT capabilities — is a viable, cost-effective strategy that many companies choose. This Schneider Electric infographic will help you select the best modernization approach for your operations. It walks you through basic questions like: Should you maintain your current systems? Should you do a complete upgrade? Would your operation benefit from modernization? Should you bring in a consultant to help with the process??
As you go through the assessment process, you’ll also want to gather data about your existing switchgear assemblies, what stage of the lifecycle they’re in, how well they’re operating and whether they’re on routine maintenance contracts (or not). If you’re running an older operation where those records simply aren’t available, then you’ll want to hire a third-party consultant to come in and do a thorough assessment before you launch your modernization effort.?
Getting Your Switchgear Ready for Industrial IoT
Defined by Gartner as “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment,” IIoT is making its way into commercial operations around the globe. For switchgear users, IIoT provides high levels of visibility into equipment monitoring and allows companies to leverage predictive analytics. This, in turn, helps facilities managers make more informed decisions about their operations.?
Companies that want to take full advantage of IIoT will generally need to upgrade significant portions of their existing facilities’ electrical infrastructures. For example, 30-year-old switchgear that may still be operating as expected won’t likely integrate with an IIoT-enabled device. The communication networks simply didn’t exist in the 1980s, so any upgrade that’s made will only connect a portion of your facility.?
This is an important point to keep in mind as you assess the potential limitations of a switchgear modernization plan. The good news is that there are workarounds for this issue. For example, you might consider upgrading an existing circuit breaker with a direct replacement or retrofill (i.e., where both new and old components are modified to work together). From there, you can install a new circuit breaker that incorporates the modern IIoT technology needed for monitoring, fault detection and alarms.?
Even more importantly, you’ll be able to add wireless thermal monitoring sensors that keep tabs on your switchgear’s temperature and health. Thanks to this continuous monitoring, you may be able to better plan and budget preventative maintenance on your electrical equipment. This gives you the power to decide whether to conduct checks more frequently (say, if the equipment is giving you issues) or less often (if the sensors show that it’s operating as expected).?
Extending the Life of Your Switchgear
When companies modernize their switchgear systems, most of the return on investment (ROI) comes in the form of a smaller upfront investment (versus a complete replacement) and the fact that equipment life can be prolonged. In other words, facility managers don’t have to look at 25-year-old switchgear and say to themselves, “Okay, now we need to make a big investment in order to replace all of these components.” By modernizing, the same facility managers can extend the life of that equipment by as much as 20+ years, in some cases.?
Modernizing also reduces the potential for equipment downtime. For example, installing a newer, more reliable circuit breaker can lessen your concerns over a potential breaker failure, emergency or shutdown. Add IIoT to the equation and you’ll have the potential to know long before any such problem exists and be able to prevent it from happening altogether.?
Finally, because older switchgear may have been manufactured using asbestos or may be lacking arc flash protection, modernizing with new equipment helps companies create a safer work environment for employees.?
These are all important points to keep in mind as you map out and prioritize a switchgear modernization plan that will take your company into 2020, and beyond.?
To learn more about how switchgear modernization could improve power system reliability and lower life-cycle costs in your facility, view Graybar and Schneider Electric’s training webinar “Switchgear: To Maintain or Modernize?” on demand now.
With 8,700 employees in 289 locations across North America including Canada and Puerto Rico, Graybar is a national company with local career opportunities, including:
??Named to FORTUNE World’s Most Admired Companies list for the 17th year (2019)
??No. 423 on the FORTUNE 500 ranking of America’s largest companies (2019)
??Named one of the Top Workplaces in Atlanta, the California Bay Area, South Carolina and Edison and Teterboro (2019)
??No. 11 on the National Center for Employee Ownership “Employee Ownership 100” list (2019)
??No. 3 on Electrical Wholesaling’s Top 200 Electrical Distributors list (2019)
??No. 4 on the Modern Distribution Management Market Leaders list (2019)
??Named one of Selling Power’s “Best Companies to Sell For” (2019)
??On Broadband Communities’ Fiber to the Home Top 100 list (2019)?
??No. 5 on the St. Louis Business Journal’s Top 150 Privately Held Companies list (2019)
??2019 Private Board of the Year Award by Private Company Director, Directors and Boards and Family Business magazines
? Awarded the BBB Torch Award for the company’s commitment to customer satisfaction and business ethics (2019)
As a leading North American distributor, Graybar operates with one clear mission: to serve as the vital link in the supply chain, adding value for customers and suppliers with innovative solutions and services. Graybar’s strategy is to sustain the organization as an independent and employee-owned company, while achieving the results that position the company as an industry leader and allows Graybar to work to the advantage of those it serves.