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Power quality in the process sector

We spoke with Eaton managing director Australia and New Zealand, electrical sector, Lou Rosen, about the importance of power quality in the process sector. By Sarah Falson.

Eaton Industries’ electrical business, which develops power management, power quality and power distribution for the process control sector, made US$7 billion alone in 2008, partly due to demand for the company’s UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) products, PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and power distribution gear.

Eaton Australia and New Zealand managing director – electrical sector, Lou Rosen, says the company is unique from other process vendors in the market – including Schneider Electric and ABB Australia – providing its customers with peace of mind and also a variety of avenues to access products and services.

“We power everything from aerospace to electrical applications with our equipment, which are mission critical areas,” Rosen told PACE.

Process control applications

Eaton also supplies a range of fluid handling, instrumentation, and test and measurement equipment and will be rolling out a slew of new products this year after acquiring Moeller Group, a controls supplier for industrial equipment.

Eaton’s portfolio of self-branded products is also joined by Kyoritsu, ETA, Circutor, Conta Clip and Gevea – all of which were acquired by the company. One of the company’s most popular products in the process control market however is the self-branded Easy Relay – an entry-level PLC.

“The Easy Relay allows a small machine builder to incorporate the I/O and the interfaces they need to develop a small piece of equipment without having the technical knowledge and the cost of the higher-end PLC,” Rosen said.

A big trend that Rosen identifies is the requirement for meters that allow site managers to monitor their energy utilisation, especially in today’s financial climate. “You can use our energy meters to figure out how to shed operating costs,” he said.

Local operations

Rosen foresees the Australian Eaton business as becoming increasingly important to its global presence, especially due to our profitable mining, oil and gas industries.

“Eaton is doing over US$1.5 billion in the Asia Pacific, which is close to 20 per cent of the global portfolio. We want to become a major force in the Australian electrical industry,” he said.

Eaton’s local headquarters in Sydney is joined by 13 outlets around Australia and New Zealand, along with two manufacturing sites in Sydney and Melbourne and branch locations carrying stock in all the major metropolitan areas. This includes a small satellite centre which acts as the research, development and manufacturing site for the company’s smaller distribution boards, including UPS.

While Eaton imports 70 per cent of its components for assembly in local areas, it tests and customises all its products locally especially for the market, for customers including Alcoa Alumina and Claremont Coal.

Changing focus

Energy efficiency, safety and uptime will be the major business drivers over the next year, according to Rosen, especially while industry require ways to reduce their overheads as the economic crisis worsens.

“Our customers want to do more with less. Getting more out of your equipment allows you to take advantage of your existing assets, and spend less,” he said.

However, safety plays an important role here, too. “You have to have very skilled people when deadling with electricity. Up until recently there was such a shortage of skilled electricians, meaning companies would be hiring junior operators or electricians and they were always afraid they were going to get hurt,” Rosen said.

“We have to make sure they have the right safety interlocks on their equipment, so if something goes wrong, they won’t have an explosion. A major driver here is also the growing cost of worker’s compensation.”

Eaton will also focus on rolling out new products, including control equipment like motor starters, drives, soft starters, and also instrumentation and sensors.

The next 12 months will also see Eaton focus on power quality solutions designed for particular market applications. “Why is power quality so important?” said Rosen. “Can you imagine having a big power spike that interrupts a process, and the safety control system goes haywire because of it? By us being able to package the UPS with the rest of the power distribution equipment, it makes for a much safer, reliable system.”

Eaton Industries

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