Those undergoing life-saving surgery in the hospital’s new surgical ward knew nothing of the potential crisis, nor the women bringing new life into the world in the new multi-million pound birth unit. Neither, for that matter, did any of the hundreds of other patients, doctors, nurses and staff.
But there was real concern in the voice of the hospital’s maintenance team member when he called Applied Integration on the morning of December 30.
He had discovered a significant problem with the on-site electrical control system which controlled power to the entire hospital including the bustling neonatal clinic and busy operating theatres.
Fortunately, staff at the hospital in Mid-Yorkshire had experts on 24/7 call. Within minutes of receiving the emergency call, Applied Integration director Graham King was in his car and beginning the 75-mile journey from his Teesside home.
Vastly knowledgeable in the technical workings of control systems, the patients and staff could not have had a better-equipped engineer on route. And that very expertise in systems engineering would ensure that they remained none the wiser about his motorway dash to their hospital’s aid.
What King found on his arrival 90 minutes after leaving his home was worse than he had imagined. A surge in power had irretrievably damaged 80% of the components that formed the hospital’s electrical control system. In the event of a mains power failure, the hospital could be ‘blacked out’. He needed to get to work fast.
“We fitted the hospital’s original electrical control system a number of years ago so we knew what they had, but most of the kit was basically fried,” recalls King. “There was no doubting the criticality of the situation.
“It was a catastrophic failure of the electrical control system, which is something that can happen, and why clients always need 24/7 emergency callout from their systems supplier. It’s a valuable service that Applied Integration offers to all customers.
“It was considered likely that a power spike had damaged the vast majority of the system’s electrical components. The main protection unit had failed which protects the control system components from such power spikes and surges.”
King needed every bit of his knowledge and experience as he worked throughout the day to redesign damaged critical components with spare parts he salvaged from the 20% of the system that had escaped damage.
“I was able to rearrange the working components and get a temporary system back up and running,” King explains. “It was a short-term fix but it gave us some breathing space, allowing the hospital to get through the Christmas period without further issues, while we ordered the replacement equipment.
“From that first, understandably frantic call, we were able to reassure the hospital that they were in good hands. Our experience and expertise meant we were able to salvage the system and put a temporary solution in place.
“It was a long day but the patients, doctors and nurses had no idea there’d been an issue, which is exactly how it should be.”
Within a week, King returned with new kit, reconfigured the components and made enhancements to the system.
Applied Integration, who also installed the control system for one of the biggest super hospitals in Europe, are leading independent systems integrators, delivering cutting edge solutions and maintenance to 21st Century industry including the oil, gas, petrochemical, defence and public sectors.
This episode served to highlight the need for an ongoing maintenance contract for organisations with control systems, whether they be a hospital, food factory or chemical plant.
King adds: “Fortunately, the hospital had the foresight to retain a maintenance contract but there really are a lot of organisations who expect immediate responses when things go wrong but haven’t bothered to cover themselves with a maintenance contract.
“A maintenance contract isn’t just about emergency call-outs and maintaining what’s in place. It’s about having a road map and an agreed executable plan to manage planned maintenance and obsolescence.
“It’s essential, not an optional add-on, if any organisation wants to minimise the risk and potential disruption that can come when things go wrong, especially when elements may have become obsolete.
“And yet some still prefer to penny pinch with the result that they put at risk their entire operation. If their control system crashes and elements of it are obsolete then there’s the potential for their plant or business to be down for weeks while the necessary changes are carried out.”
• Contact Applied Integration today for your tailored maintenance solutions, keeping you covered 24/7. Call 01642 717555 or visit www.appliedintegration.co.uk