Now is the Time to Phase Out Inflexible Pipe & Wire Conduit and Phase in Track Busway in Your Facility
One of the major trends in facility management in 2023 is faster time-to-value and the flexibility to scale, according to Facility Executive. This means that facility managers need to have a high level of flexibility in all aspects of their operations and must work with infrastructure that can incorporate new equipment quickly, easily and cost effectively. Many scenarios that facility managers encounter require electrical infrastructure changes, such as adding or upgrading equipment, reconfiguring floor layouts, adding onto an existing building, construction of an additional facility, moving operations to a new location, or responding to rapidly changing market demands.
Regardless of the reason for change, power distribution needs are always a crucial consideration in this process. When considering flexibility in power distribution, electrical conduit is NOT what springs to mind. Conduit, known more widely as busduct or “pipe & wire”, is a rigid option that does not offer the flexibility needed for moving, adding or reconfiguring equipment within facilities quickly or easily.
There are three main drawbacks to using conduit for power distribution in most facilities:
1. Time Consumption
With this more traditional method of supplying power, removal, rerouting and installation of pipe & wire systems take a significant amount of time, making it difficult to complete changes within tight timeframes. These modifications require electricians to tear out the existing conduit, rewire power distribution to the new locations and reconnect wiring back to the breakers in their respective panels. And that doesn’t take into account the inevitable unforeseen scope changes to the project. Any updates to the original plan for equipment placement means a change to the power distribution plan as well, adding more time to redesign, source material, and move the conduit runs.
Expenses for installing or making changes to a pipe & wire electrical system come from the obvious sources – materials and labor – but another expense that must be considered is downtime. Any time equipment within a facility is down represents a loss of productivity that will impact the bottom line. All efforts to control expenses for making power distribution changes in any facility should factor in the cost of downtime and aim to minimize it.
3. Lack of Future Proofing
Because it’s difficult to predict what growth, innovation or unexpected events will mean for facilities, it’s necessary to plan for the fact that there will be future change, even if those changes aren’t yet predictable. Starline surveyed manufacturers and found that 84% of them will make at least one significant change to their electrical power distribution system each year. That means that the conduit for these power distribution systems may be reconfigured annually, incurring downtime and other expenses associated with it.
A Better Alternative
Track busway systems are a better option for meeting the needs of today’s facilities, whether manufacturing, industrial, distribution, medical, agricultural or a myriad of other applications. A track busway system offers high-performance power distribution for machines and equipment with a wide range of power needs.
Track busway system components are designed to allow substantial flexibility for a configuration to meet specific facility needs. The system essentially operates as a custom overhead power grid with an open channel for insertion of power plug-in units at any location to provide a power source at the exact location needed. The system is offered from 40A through 1200A and consists of straight sections, elbows and tees that create the paths for power distribution and are coupled with power feed units to supply incoming power. The plug-in units integrate the circuit breakers and electrical outlets that provide power to equipment.
Because track busway systems are not hardwired into ceilings or walls, they offer flexibility for making quick changes to the layout of power distribution systems. Track busway sections and plug-in units are reusable and can be moved from one location to another. Repositioning the components of a busway system can be done in mere hours rather than weeks and can often be completed overnight, saving up to 90% on installation time. This saves on labor costs and minimizes – or eliminates – extraneous downtime.
Track busway systems are scalable to grow and change easily along with the facility’s needs. It’s simple to add new busway sections when expanding, or to move sections when making changes. Track busway also allows facility managers to have power deployed at the point of use rather than install various runs of conduit from equipment back to the panels. Busway systems are an ideal alternative to pipe & wire, and the next generation from Starline (stay tuned for more on that soon!) will be even more versatile for use in challenging environments.
If you’re ready to say goodbye to pipe & wire systems and hello to a busway solution that’s right for your application, contact a Starline team member.