Contingency power planning

03 August 2021

As manufacturers work towards full recovery from the pandemic, ensuring processes remain operational is key to maximising profitability. However, with even minor blackout significantly denting margins and recent weather conditions posing a risk to power supply, there is increased need for an effective backup plan on site. Chris Rason talks through the importance of deploying a robust contingency plan

POWER BLACKOUTS have long been the bane of UK industry, with even the shortest periods of unscheduled downtime significantly marring production. For example, when a power outage struck a British snack manufacturer in late 2020, it sparked a fire that left process equipment severely damaged. As anyone who has experienced a blackout can attest, it is at best a major nuisance, and at worst a total catastrophe.

Though power outages are by no means a new problem, the stakes have grown undeniably higher in light of the pandemic. The past 18 months has been one of the most challenging periods to date for UK industry, with many sectors experiencing a steep decline in profits. However, as restrictions ease across the nation, there looks to finally be a light at the end of the tunnel. With hospitality set to return to full swing, sectors such as food and beverage can harness resurging demand to fuel their post-pandemic recovery.

It is critical that manufacturers ensure that blackouts do not hamper productivity

For this reason, it is critical that manufacturers ensure that blackouts do not hamper productivity during this upcoming industry boom, lest they are left behind while their competitors take full advantage. Often, the cause of a power outage can be put down to factors out of the organisation’s control, such as lightning strikes, flooding, accidents or equipment faults. As such, with these eventualities virtually impossible to forecast, the best way to mitigate the effects of a power cut is to have contingency solutions on standby.

Planning report

In recognition of their growing importance, Aggreko commissioned a report, Planning for Failure, to examine the ways in which operators currently approach contingency. Within the report, in which 200 UK energy decision makers were surveyed, 82% described power continuity as a major or significant concern. While this is a heartening sign, worryingly, 25% disclosed that they did not currently have a contingency plan in place.

This concern is amplified when the true cost of downtime is factored in. According to statistics from Oneserve, downtime costs industry £180 billion each year in the UK alone. Moreover, three percent of all working days in manufacturing are lost annually due to faulty machinery. This is the equivalent of a staggering £31,000 per company.

Downtime frequency

More alarming still is the prospect that the frequency of downtime may be on the rise at a time when such incidents are more damaging than ever. Freak weather conditions have long been a cause of power outages, and have grown increasingly common in recent years. In just the past few months, extreme flooding has been observed in both Germany and China, while closer to home, the UK has been subject to multiple prolonged heatwaves.

When coupled with UK industry’s longstanding challenge of rapidly ageing equipment, it is clear that many operators are on the verge of a major outage should extreme weather strike. Ensuring processes remain operational is key to ensuring that businesses achieve a full recovery from the pandemic, so the need for a robust contingency plan is more vital than ever.

Contingency plan type

When the increasing occurrence of hazardous weather conditions is taken into account, it is clear that operators simply cannot afford to gamble on the reliability of their equipment during such a critical period. Contingency plans have become a necessity to any organisation, but it is important to invest in the right one in order to draw the maximum benefit. There are two prime considerations when looking to partner with a contingency supplier – the ability to meet the demands of the site and response time.

Primarily, if a business’ National Grid connection fails, then it is essential that the interim solutions available are able to fully power the site. Secondly, ensuring that contingency power is able to be deployed as quickly as possible minimises the amount of time that processes are disrupted. Together, these two factors minimise the impact that downtime has on production, meaning that profits are not harmed in turn.

Comprehensive contingency services, like those offered by Aggreko, first complete a technical site survey to assess the unique needs of each business in order to plan for failure. This approach takes infrastructure, logistics and potential necessary modifications all into consideration, meaning that the correct solution can always be sourced in a time-sensitive manner.

Wider benefits

Besides providing companies with a valuable safety net should breakdown occur, a recognised contingency plan can bring a number of wider benefits to business operation, such as allowing organisations to secure new business contracts and cheaper insurance premiums.

In the forecasted industry boom, many companies will be on the lookout for suppliers that can guarantee their supply chain will not fail under any circumstances. As such, a robust contingency plan is one of the most effective ways to gain an advantage over rivals when pitching to new business, with ISO accreditations also available to certify the reliability of backup plans.

A robust contingency plan is one of the most effective ways to gain an advantage over rivals

Moreover, with a disaster recovery plan in place, operators can benefit from reduced insurance premiums. Due to the minimised risk of an outage occurring or having a substantial negative effect on production, some insurers will even offer litigation against any losses.

Final thoughts

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” is an old adage most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Although this saying has admittedly grown into somewhat of a cliché, for UK industry, it has undeniably become truer than ever post-pandemic. Ensuring processes remain fully operational will be one of the most crucial factors in allowing operators to take advantage of the upcoming post-COVID boom, so it is vital that a contingency partner is close at hand should the worst happen.

In times of such uncertainty, the sense of security that an effective backup plan offers is invaluable. When coupled with the wider benefits it can bring when looking to secure new business deals or cheaper insurance premiums, it is clear that investing in a comprehensive contingency plan is a wise choice for any business.

Chris Rason is managing director at Aggreko

For more information on Aggreko’s services and to read Planning for Failure in full, visit: