When mission critical means truly critical
How Jersey and Guernsey’s financial institutions
are benefiting from regular load testing
In industry, we often describe a system as being ‘mission critical’ or requiring ‘100% up time’ without really evaluating the consequences of failure. These phrases are particularly over used by suppliers of non essential equipment seeking to add value to their own sales. However, one firm that has really come to understand the true meaning of ‘mission critical’ is Jersey’s Computer Protec Systems. The company has been a supplier of generator sets and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) to Jersey and Guernsey’s financial institutions since the early 1990s. When Computer Protec Systems came to choose a supplier of load banks to test its generating sets, it turned to Cressall Resistors as a partner that could match its own reliability.
Jersey is an international finance centre with 47 banks, over 30,000 registered companies and more than £184 billion deposited on the Island at any one time – 60% of which is in foreign currency. It also has a flourishing fund management sector with over £137 billion under management and world renowned expertise in Trusts with nearly 200 Trust Companies, all regulated by the Jersey Financial Services Commission, established on the Island. The finance industry contributes 60% of the island’s Gross Domestic Product, 60% of tax income and employs ten thousand staff. At the end of March 2006, total deposits with Guernsey banks stood at £85.6 billion and inter bank activity stood at nearly £1million. Needless to say, tourism on both islands is now firmly in second place.
The finance industry is attracted to Jersey and Guernsey by both island’s stable government and proximity to both the UK and continental Europe. A further lure is the significant body of expertise available on the islands. The industry has a 40 year track record to call on following various economic liberalisation moves in the early 1960’s which encouraged the international profile the islands now has.
Needless to say, a consistent and high quality power supply is essential. In most industrial environments loss of power results in lost production which can be extremely costly for the manufacturer. In most built environments it can mean lost human resources, while workers sit idle waiting for the computer systems to start working again. In the worst case, there could be significant lost data, which again can be costly. However, the consequences in Jersey and Guernsey’s financial institutions are a financial order of magnitude higher. Quite simply, if the power goes down, the trading stops.
It is against this backdrop that the origins of Computer Protec Systems can be found. The company began life producing generator sets for the industry’s computer rooms. Soon, partly because of the small geographical size of the island, several customers began looking for a one-stop-shop supplier that could also provide CCTV and security. The business was able to offer this easily thanks to its in-house skill base. It also added UPS and installation and was then able to provide a complete solution to the highly demanding industries in which it operates. Now the company has 14 staff, of which nearly 80% are engineers. While Computer Protec Systems is understandably coy about the precise complexion of its customer base, it is well known that it works with nearly every major financial firm on Jersey as well as several state departments and major telecoms companies.
Computer Protec Systems uses Cressall load banks to test the generating sets it installs and to perform contract based routine maintenance. Much like one of the many insurance policies available on Jersey and Guernsey, the systems have to be 100% reliable, despite the fact that one hopes never to use them. Apart from correct maintenance of the starting batteries, regular load testing is the best way of ensuring this reliability.
The company uses two Cressall AC100 portable load banks, one of which is wholly owned and another provided by a significant customer who was so impressed with the service, it asked Computer Protec Systems to recommend a supplier for its own load bank. The AC100 is Cressall’s largest stand alone load bank, designed for testing three phase generating sets of up to 100kW rating.
The AC100 uses metal sheathed wire elements manufactured from high-grade nickel/chrome resistance wire in magnesium oxide insulated stainless steel tubes and 600V primary insulation. It is fan cooled with a single 450mm fan powered from the test load itself or an external supply. The fan is mounted in the base of the load bank and blows vertically through mesh bird screens at the top and bottom. The enclosure in which it is housed is manufactured from sheet steel with an all-welded steel frame. The load bank is mounted on braked rubber castors and fitted with push bars at front and rear with a top mounted cable stowage tray.
Martin Cruikshank, the general manager of Computer Protec Systems explains, “Most of our major maintenance work is out of hours and lots of the generators are over sized. As a result of these two factors we use the building load wherever possible. It might be that the generator is specified to 200kVA and the client in question is only using 80kVA. To cope with higher loads we sometimes bolt together the two AC100 we have available to double the load,” he explained.
“Last year, for a specific test, one was used constantly for twelve hours,” Martin continued. “Because Jersey has a very stable power source, which is another attraction for the financial industry, the systems are rarely run with a full load. Using an AC100 we are able to run the turbos properly. There are also additional benefits of testing. For instance being able to ensure that all the generator systems, such as cooling and lubricating systems, perform within correct operating parameters, up to and including 100% load. Essentially, we are able to find any faults that would manifest themselves in a real scenario.”
Peter Duncan, a director of Cressall Resistors, explains, “For many years it has been routine for all newly-installed generating sets to have a load test during the commissioning process in order to prove the performance of the set and all its ancillaries – the cooling system, exhaust system, switchgear and protection scheme. However, the infrequency of power outages in most developed countries, and thus the rarity with which standby sets are called on to run ‘for real’, make regular proving essential if sets are to operate reliably when needed. The 2003 blackouts in New York and London will have been an uncomfortable reminder of this to the many organizations who did have standby generators that failed to work on the day. They also acted as a wake up call well to those without standby power that they should look again at its benefits. This is where Computer Protec Systems’ forethought in planning maintenance really comes into its own.”
According to Martin Cruickshank, amongst of the biggest benefits of the AC100 are the unit’s rugged construction and robust performance. “Aside from the fact that the unit is completely plug and play, and thus very simple to use, we benefit from the fact that its looks totally suit the requirements. Half of a client’s initial confidence is inspired by appearance, it’s only later when they come to trust you that it’s your reliability and skill they believe in,” he explained. “Portability is another very significant factor. One man can handle the AC100 and it easily fits in the back of the vehicles we use to make site visits.”
Ironically though, it was the skill and expertise that Cressall bought to the job that meant Martin would buy from the company again. “We needed the equipment at very short notice; in fact we were only able to give Cressall a week in which to produce it. They bent over backwards to make sure it was here for us. If you sell reliability to your clients, you need reliability from your suppliers and that was exactly what they were able to offer. Additionally, we also have an ancient load bank that was supplied by Cressall years and years ago. It’s still working, although we tend to opt for the AC100 most of the time!”
Peter Duncan concluded, “I’ve worked with Computer Protec Systems for some time and during that period a bond of trust has developed between the two companies. As a result, it is a particularly enjoyable application for us to see succeed so impressively. I think the market that the company has found is one that looks sustainable for the long term future.”