The Value of Power Control Rooms

Powell, the creator of the Power Control Room, teams up with Wago to further improve its manufacturing quality and productivity.

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Since first coming up with the idea of the Power Control Room (PCR) in 1968, Powell has been recognized as a market leader in modular electrical equipment design. By utilizing innovative products in the design and construction of these PCRs, they improve quality and productivity while lowering costs and reducing labor. Used in a wide range of markets from utility substations to oil & gas projects to transportation systems, PCRs have been transported and installed in all 50 states and more than 70 countries.  

The size of the PCRs created by Powell varies depending on the final application. “Some are so large they need to be split apart and shipped in sections,” explained Rick Deiss, production designer at Powell. When Powell assembles these larger PCR buildings, the sections (or rooms) are first physically joined together. Then the interconnected wiring between each building must be reliably terminated during the manufacturing phase and subsequently “de-terminated” before the buildings are split apart again so they can be shipped to the final job site. Each section typically includes shipping split boxes for wiring.

In the past, when these boxes were shipped, wires would sometimes become loose due to vibration or through installation errors, which created safety and reliability concerns.  Therefore, upon delivery, prior to connecting the rooms together, engineers would need to enter each box, reconnect the wires, and re-tighten the screws that held the wires in place using calibrated torque screwdrivers. This made the process both costly and time consuming, as these specialty tools carry not only a high initial investment but require calibration annually.    

For mounting connections, Powell had previously used an internally fabricated aluminum angle bracket modified with seven pre-punched square-mounting holes which would allow a third-party, two-piece pull-apart terminal block assembly to snap into each square hole. This design was considered labor intensive and could cause reliability issues, as the connectors would sometimes become dislodged from the mounting bracket. As a result, Powell began to look for ways to improve their design while simultaneously gaining a higher-quality connection. 

“We needed a terminal block for power connections that could be disconnected by pulling it apart,” Deiss said.  

The Wago connection
In 2016, Ciarah Tapley-Smith of Future Electronics, Wago’s local distributor in Houston, Texas, along with Kevin Stevenson, Wago regional sales manager, introduced Powell to Wago’s Cage Clamp design technology.  Specifically, Powell was shown the 831 Series connectors and learned how they could improve their connections integrity while reducing production and labor costs. 

Powell then requested samples to see if the connectors could indeed fit their company’s specific application needs. Deiss pointed out that he and his colleagues were also able to visit Wago’s manufacturing and testing facilities in Minden, Germany, to learn more. “The 831 Series connectors are just what we needed,” stated Deiss, “while touring the Wago factory in Germany, I saw parts being manufactured as well as many tests performed on their products. I was amazed by the quality of their products and how well they held up to the grueling testing.”

Powell soon realized that the 831 series would prove to be an innovative component in the manufacturing of their PCRs. This would empower them to offer more value to their customers and remain an industry leader.  

“It was evident by their implementation of our original tool-operated, DIN-rail mounted 831 Series that they value our connection technology and form-factor, not only for its time and labor savings, but also for the improved connection integrity it provides,” said Cory Thiel, Wago’s PCB interconnect product manager. 

Since its partnership with Wago, Powell has eliminated the cost of lugs and the labor for crimping as well as the need for the pre-fabricated aluminum mounting bracket.  With the use of spring pressure connection technology, there are no screws, thus eliminating loose connections and the need for torqueing. These products have sped up the process of manufacturing, connecting, and disconnecting the shipping splits, ultimately reducing labor costs.

Keeping up with technology
Over the last four years, both Powell and Wago have developed more innovative solutions to help with the production and shipping of Powell’s Power Control Rooms. Currently, Wago is producing a new version of the 831 series with tool-free lever actuation.  Powell is also looking at using Wago’s new 832 Series connectors to replace additional competitive devices and some old connections that need larger wire connectors. 

“Powell is looking to implement more of our products in their design and are very excited to hear that we will soon have the 832 Series connectors coming out later this year with a DIN Rail-mount capability,” Stevenson says, “which will allow them to use our Cage Clamp technology on larger wiring circuits ranging up to 4 AWG.”  

Deiss noted that the 832 terminal blocks have larger ampacity ratings, allowing for pull-apart connections on up to #4 gauge wire. “Currently wiring larger than #8 requires lugs, screw terminations, and torquing,” said Deiss. “With the help of these products, Powell will continue to work on speeding up and simplifying the wiring process, all while remaining the standard bearer for electrical equipment design.”  

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