How to get the most out of your electrical control system

Electrical control systems play an increasingly essential role in most manufacturing and industrial production processes. From simple electronic or electrical devices to sophisticated computer networks, electrical control systems are everywhere.

 

They continually regulate electrical, electronic or mechanical devices, systems or processes to ensure they behave in a repeatable, predicted way and perform to a consistent high standard.

 

However, as will all machinery and equipment, things can occasionally go wrong, which can have catastrophic implications for your business if left unchecked. Here, we take a closer look at some of the things you can do to keep your electrical control system working as it should, to help you get the most from your investment. 

What are the different types of electrical control systems?

Electrical control systems are split into two categories – open-loop (or non-feedback) and closed-loop (feedback).

Open-loop control systems have no automatic correction of the variation in their output. They have no in-built mechanisms to sense the actual output and compare it, through feedback, to the desired output. Without feedback, the system can’t take into account any variances or disturbances and automatically adjust itself to ensure desired output is achieved. Instead, changes in output can be addressed only by manually changing the input.

While open-loop systems – such as automatic washing machine controls, timer switches, thermostats and simple signal systems – are often easier and cheaper to create, they can be unreliable and inaccurate. They also don’t take into account any external factors which may affect their output and automatically make corrections to compensate for them. It is usually down to human judgement to make the necessary adjustments.

Closed-loop systems include in-built sensors or other mechanisms to provide feedback, which the system uses to adjust and correct any variances in output automatically. In a closed-loop system, the controlled variable is continually sensed and compared with the desired output. When this is not achieved, it creates an error signal, which directs the control system to take the necessary corrective action to achieve the desired result. They also consider external factors that might cause disturbances that affect the output.  

In general, closed-loop systems are more complex than simple open-loop systems. However, they provide greater stability, accuracy and reliability, and are less affected by external influences like noise, vibration or temperature. So, while they may be more expensive to purchase, in the long run, in terms of the quality and efficiency improvements they provide, closed-loop systems usually represent much greater lifetime value.

Tips to get the most from your electrical control system

Electrical control systems play an essential role in the effective operation of a vast array of industrial manufacturing, engineering and production processes. They help streamline operations, improve productivity and safety, and enhance quality. They also help keep maintenance, disruption and service interruptions to a minimum.

However, as with all physical equipment and machinery, general use, wear and tear, user error, and accidental damage can all impact the way they perform and, in some cases, shorten their service life. Here are a few things to consider to keep your electrical control system running as it should for longer.

Regular inspection and servicing

Many industrial processes take place in harsh environments where noise, dust, vibration, heavy movement and other factors can significantly impact the equipment. Over time, it’s not uncommon for parts and components to become worn or faulty. This can lead to regular, unforced disruptions of production time while they are sorted out and, as most businesses know, time is money. As such, it’s vital to carry out regular inspections and servicing of your electrical control systems to make sure that everything is working as it should, identify any potential issues and nip them in the bud before they become major problems that can impact your production schedule.

Repair or replace?

Cost is a big factor in deciding whether to repair or replace individual components within your electrical control systemMinor faults and issues, such as worn or broken switches, relays, sensors or connector blocks, are quick and cheap to replace and shouldn’t have a big impact. However, faulty legacy equipment can be harder to replace, so repairing it may be best. In some cases, replacing your entire system might be justified if it’s outdated and the parts and components are no longer available.

Location

As we said earlier, industrial environments are usually harsh and demanding. Heat, dust, humidity, chemicals and vibration can all affect the performance of your electrical control system, and especially the control panel. Choosing the correct location for the control panel is vital to prevent putting it under too much stress. Keeping it away from areas that generate too much heat or airborne pollution is necessary. So, too, is locating it in a place where your engineers have easy access for inspection, maintenance and servicing purposes.

Environmental issues

Closely linked to the above, environmental factors like power surges, heat or humidity, and water ingress can all negatively affect your electrical control system. As such, these should be taken into consideration whenever you inspect your equipment to ensure any risks are mitigated. If these do become an issue, relocating the system, or getting to the root cause to prevent it, is essential.

Neat & tidy control panels

When it comes to maintaining your electrical control system, it’s arguably your control panel that will require the most work. Different engineers may also work on it at different times, including your in-house team and external technical support. Because maintenance work often requires system downtime, time is usually of the essence. This can lead to work being carried out and upgrades being done in a rush, which, over time, can result in an untidy and disorganised control panel. This, in turn, can make it more difficult for other engineers to work on the panel, increasing the risk of further mistakes and issues. So, whenever anyone carries out any work on your control panel, it’s best practice to ensure they’re as neat and tidy as possible to help prevent problems in the future.

How can Banelec help?

Banelec is an industry leader in creating, upgrading and maintaining electrical control systems for a wide range of manufacturing and engineering applications. We’ve integrated PLCs and robotics into electrical control systems for some of the world’s biggest manufacturing brands.

Our team of highly skilled and qualified engineers brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and skill to every project we work on, to help you get the most from your electrical control system. Whatever you do, get in touch if you want to do it better.