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ROMAC Switchgear Retrofit Saves Abbott Laboratories More than $1 Million
Aging switchgear at Abbott Laboratories’ nutritional supplement packaging plant in Casa Grande, AZ, was causing unplanned downtime, thanks to 70 aging and poorly designed Sylvania SSPB draw-out circuit breakers. The problem had grown so bad that engineers dreaded the quarterly rotation of their eight substations because they would have to manually reset each breaker, adding several hours to the rotation. Looking for a solution, Abbott contacted industrial electrical supply specialists ROMAC (Commerce, CA) to see if there was a way to retrofit the existing switchgear and avoid relocating and replacing the entire switchgear set – a cost of more than $1 million.
ROMAC’s engineers and project management staff looked at the switchgear configuration – and in particular the Sylvania SSPB circuit breakers inside the switchgear housings – and determined that newer Cutler-Hammer RD breakers with a new set of machined bus fingers could fit inside the existing SSPB breaker frame for a plug-and-play solution. The retrofit would save Abbott hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and labor costs. As additional benefits, the retrofit could be done during nightly downtime, avoiding the need to shutter the plant for at least one week. And since the new breakers would be constructed to fit directly into the existing housings, Abbott wouldn’t need to relocate the switchgear to a new building outside the plant with all the new cabling and conduit the project would require. Finally, the new Cutler-Hammer RD breaker’s modern solid-state controls meant that Abbott could put nuisance alarms behind them and stop dreading the quarterly substation rotation.
“The Sylvania SSPBs were a very short-lived product line with older, analog solid-state trip technology,” explained Bob Arnold, ROMAC’s inside sales representative for the Abbott project. “SSPBs were only manufactured for about a year because they were not very accurate. Unfortunately for Abbott Labs, they built their plant during that time frame. The most primitive modern solid-state technology is much more accurate and faster than the SSPB line using a thermomagnetic linkage to the solid-state programmer.”
ROMAC designed and fabricated the new bus fingers for the 70 Cutler-Hammer RD breakers, which came in a mix of 800A, 1600A, and 3000A frames, and mounted them in Sylvania SSPB frames for shipping to the Casa Grande plant. Because ROMAC had engineering and fabricating capabilities right on site, as well a full inventory of both the new Cutler-Hammer RD breakers and surplus Sylvania SSPB frames, ROMAC was able to ship all 70 breakers to Abbott within two months.
“The plant engineer was thrilled,” says Nick Arena, ROMAC’s manufacturing representative in the Phoenix, AZ, area and Principal of ESP Inc. (Phoenix). “Without the switchgear, the only way to minimize downtime was to relocate the gear to a new area with equipment costs upwards of $300,000 and labor of around $500,000 – not to mention the cost of shuttering the plant and putting 250 workers on hold. With the ROMAC solution, a local electrical contractor working during the evening could pull out an old breaker and rack in the new breaker within 15 minutes without any downtime at all.”