Industrial sectors are embarking upon an evolutionary journey towards digitalization, driven by government net zero targets and business cost cutting and energy efficiency goals.

For a building’s power system in particular, the journey towards digital transformation can be tackledinsix definitive steps.Fabio Monachesi, Global Digital Offering Leader for ABB Smart Power explains:

The journey towards digital transformation can be daunting. By breaking down the digital transformation journey into definitive steps, it is possible to overcome concerns and focus on evolving towards a fully digitized way of working – after all, digital transformation is an unavoidable market trend and an essential path in order to remain relevant and competitive.

In ABB’s experience, digitalizing a building’s power system is a major step forwards in any digital transformation journey, and requires a whole-of-building approach, or even a multiple-building-approach to realize its true benefits. Let us examine those six definitive steps in more detail:

Step 1: Search and understand smart products

The first step towards digital transformation for any organization, is to gain a thorough understanding of which components and sub-systems can be digitized.

As well as understanding what you could achieve, it is also important to consider what you do not need at this stage – it is easy to become overwhelmed with new technologies that promise a high level of functionality, when in reality somethingsimplermay be exactly what is required. When starting out on your educational journey, think small and simple, master the basics and look for scalable and modular functionality. From switchgear, circuit breakers, fuse gears and UPS systems, to network analyzers and meters for sub-distribution,searchingonthe web forwebinars or social media communities andtalking to trusted companies or partners will help to build a solid informedfoundation for your power system digital transformation.

Step 2: Detect and define

The next step is to take a whole-of-building approach to identifying the main power sources, and key consumers of power throughout the facility, along with any potential system failure points.

The main power sources and key consumers of power can be identified through a straightforward information gathering process using a dedicated energy management platform. The energy assessment is based on site data such as facility dimensions, the number of people inside, the geographical location and age of the building and how many floors it has.

Data can also be gleaned fromutility energy billing including electricity, gas and water. Historical blackouts and the presence of DER (distributed energy resources) are also helpful. All of these are useful ways to developa first analysis profile definition of the site. Your chosen solutions provider can use this profile definition to draw comparisons with similar profiles, in order to identify a benchmark.

Step 3: Develop architectures

Accuracy is key to a successful digitalization architecture. Measuring precisely the right parameters at key points throughout the installation to provide the data required to deliver the outcomes that will benefit your business.

Put simply, the process of designing system architectures ensures that the power flows are aligned with data flows so that the IT infrastructure can work in parallel with the electrical power distribution.

It is at this stage that a trusted and highly experienced solutions partner is essential to success. It is wise to select a partner who can guide your business in selecting, installing and connecting state-of-the-art equipment, with comprehensive architecture designed to meet your pre-defined business objectives.

Step 4: Install, commission, train

The installation of a digital transformation solution should cause little to no production downtime. It should be simple and effective in its design and require minimal engineering. Be sure to choose components that are pre-commissioned and only require testing as part of the whole system post-installation, to save time onsite.

Installing and commissioning smart products is easier than ever, with digital tools like the ABB EPiC app. Free to download, the EPiC app acts as a digital partner with easy and smart product configuration, installation, commissioning and assistance. 

Step 5: Monitorand analyze

With a digital system in place, the all-important monitoring can begin. Data collection in real-time will allow facilities managers and energy engineers to identify key areas of required change, in line with business objectives, and make informed decisions on future equipment or system investments.

Condition monitoring is also a key benefit of real-time data. A digitized system enables maintenance engineers to evaluate subtle performance changes that are often not visible on the factory floor.

Once monitoring is underway, allow time for it to become habit. Spotting trends over time, and carefully analyzing data patterns by scheduled reports, even detailed to specific energy groups, will enable your team to visualize and understand your power system in ways that simply were not possible before.

You may choose to integrate all energy and asset management monitoring into one single intuitive dashboard, like the state-of-the-art ABB AbilityTM Energy and Asset Manager on premise or cloud-based solution. It provides full remote visibility of asset and electrical-system behavior and insights to help minimize cost and risk.

Most state-of-the-art digital monitoring systems are highly scalable, meaning they can grow with a business, whether that’s the expansion of production processes, or the addition of an entirely new facility.

Step 6: Optimize and control

Data insights help decision makers to evaluate the right actions for improved site energy efficiency and resiliency. These goals can be linked to sustainability and continuous operation targets. Facility and energy managers, working in strict collaboration with partners such as consulting companies like ESCOs or system integrators, set up optimization strategies to achieve KPIs that are reflected in operational savings. Typical examples are resource scheduling of HVAC or lightings systems as well as coupling solar sources with energy storage units.

Automation logics ensure this to be a straightforward process and that accurate control of energy flows takes place. One of the main barriers for making it become reality is the high engineering and customization required for each facility. At this stage, software-based technologies play a significant role, especially if embedded in the smart components installed in the site. By setting them to work on pre-configured and tested scenarios, they provide an advanced level of optimization and control.