For Latin American business, energy management goes beyond saving equipment during lightning, it means reducing downtime in production.

By: Greg Larson *

For different reasons, the electronics in Latin America are at a particularly high risk of damage. On one hand, the rays abound in the region, which is simply compounded by the fact that buildings generally have copper lines running between them. In addition, building codes in the region are not always obeyed or complied with.

The chances of a non-existent jump to neutral ground are almost 50 / 50. For consumers and home theater components High technology, this has proven to be a permanent problem. However, businesses have much more at stake. Lightning can not only ruin your expensive equipment, but can produce downtime in the company, implying a decline in production and a corresponding drop in revenue.

Traditionally, businesses have had contingency plans to minimize downtime that arise as a result of natural disasters or those caused by man and these plans are increasingly designed to prevent the company from a complete stop. In coastal regions of Latin America, where environmental conditions are the most severe, this is not always the case.

During the rainy season, lightning usually occur in the afternoons and many factories and customers literally shut down their computers and close businesses by the end of the business day.

a lack of awareness also arises when it comes to energy management and how to keep factories in operation at all times. After working in this region since 1988, train building owners is nothing new to me. Generally, companies turn to me when the damage is already done, looking for a solution to avoid another event of the same type. Then I'll give you three examples of companies that experienced loss of equipment and downtime due to lightning and how future mishaps avoided with proper energy management.

Kellogg's, Guatemala City

As a world leading manufacturer ready to eat cereals, Kellogg's hopes that its manufacturing plants never cease to operate, even in areas prone to lightning strikes areas. Eight years ago, I counseled Latin American Kellogg's plant on protection against voltage surges. At that time, the company was not interested and argued that their buildings had wonderful connection systems land and also had a UPS to protect equipment.

When he began the rainy season that year, lightning struck an old radio antenna was between two buildings of the plant. Lightning struck the ground and was raised by telephone extensions. It all started by the telephone system and was affecting all facilities. Ten computers with modems were destroyed when the voltage increases traveled by data lines. After computers, they followed switches, 25 destroying them before proceeding with laser printers. From there it spread to the server room and fully five servers and UPS were damaged. electrical outlets followed through copper wires and finally ended with the destruction discharge of color television plant and microwave were in the kitchen.


Although replacing office equipment proved something really expensive, higher expenses occurred by downtime. The plant was closed for two weeks, representing a huge impact on the balance sheets of the company. Kellogg's called me at that time and asked me 100% protection against high voltages. He implemented a plan that cost about US $ 45.000, but the company budget was tight and the plan had to forget.

I received a second call from that company after another storm appeared. There was lightning again and the teams that had recently been replaced in the server room, which resulted in other downtime in the production of the company was destroyed. The company decided to invest minimally in protection against high voltages in critical areas and continues to improve gradually the protection system. The strategy worked and since then there have been no more plant closures storm.

Steels Guatemala, Escuintla-Guatemala


Steels Guatemala is a metal recycling company off the coast of Guatemala, which produces energy from scrap recycling and sells it back to the government. However, in the lightning-prone area in which the company is the production usually had to stand in the past. Each time a storm arose, Steels had to disconnect their equipment, which he represented the loss of 12 hours of work and a lot of lost revenue.

"During my first two rainy seasons as head of the IT department, learned about the problems of the rays in our region in the worst shape," said Julio Garcia, IT Manager in Guatemala steels. "One Monday morning when I arrived at the office, four computers were damaged. They were not disconnected from the wall outlet; the damage was produced via the LAN line. From that moment, when we saw that the sky was getting cloudy, we ran to disconnect everything in the office, both the AC and the LAN "lines.

10 years ago, Steels contacted me to see in the newspaper an ad for energy management system Panamax. After discussing the situation of the company and attend a seminar on energy management, they decided to spend US $ 2.000 monthly (during 5 months) before the season started ray and protect servers and telephone systems company.

When he began the era of lightning, the company management was nervous and kept calling me to ask if I was sure that they should disconnect the equipment. With the sound of thunder across the phone, I assured them that their teams would be fine. So Steels decided not disconnect more equipment and, since that time, did not have to stop production never because of lightning. To ensure that things are kept in this way, provided the company buys new equipment, also acquires its protection system.

"Once we made all the arrangements in relation to energy management, became company policy not to install any piece of equipment without proper protection for both AC and data lines," adds Garcia. "We remain very concerned about lightning storms, but we can continue to work without damaging our electronic equipment".


Pantaleon, Escuintla, Guatemala

Pantaleon is the largest sugar farm in Central America. The company is unique in its awareness of the benefits it brings protection against high voltage and even produced their own guards for a while, but just were not working well for them. In the location of Pantaleon, the company is exposed to the rays of the year 80%. Beyond the damaged equipment, there were several occasions when employees were affected by voltage surges when they were talking on the phone. The situation reached the point that they had to completely stop the work.

The company contacted me to inquire of your problem. Pantaleon had a tight budget, but had annual allocations for the replacement of damaged equipment. I convinced the company that instead of spending all your budget in replacing damaged equipment, you could spend some of that budget on a protection system to prevent, first, the damage of equipment, and have the benefit of not having to stop their operations. The company agreed and arrangements worked perfectly, while Pantaleon introduced a rule that employees could not work on any computer that is not connected to a power conditioner.

ABC protection

A. Provide protection to the primary electronic devices that are most important to you, such as servers or workstations. The device shown in the figure can be placed next to and includes outlets for telephone and Ethernet.

B. shared devices such as servers, telephone systems, audio and video distribution, routers and switches are easily destroyed by increasing voltage on the data line. That is because there are many lines of data with different levels of resistance. When a voltage increase, teams suffer from these differences in land line data, thus destroying the equipment is presented.

C. A protective service entrance is the first step in the preparation of the AC lines and data lines, as they enter buildings. This type of device is the first line of defense to protect major appliances and sensitive electronic circuits.

*Greg Larson, based in Guatemala, is the account manager Panamax - Furman for America and the Caribbean. It is responsible for supplying the advanced technology of the company for demanding customers in the Latin American region that require power conditioners high-tech home theaters and other advanced applications. Larson began his career in energy management with Panamax in 1988, as the first international distributor of Panamax in Guatemala. Since then, he has continued to expand its functions within Panamax / Furman.
Author: Latin Press

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