Head of the Electricity Section in Inmesol’s Production Department
Specialists say that one comes to be an expert in a subject when one has worked in the same field for ten years. Antonio Rodrigo has been working for 26 years in the Electricity Section of Inmesol’s Production Department. He is presently director and also “the brain”, so to speak, of the smooth functioning of this section of the company’s production system, which manufactures generators, light towers and hybrid systems.
You have been working for Inmesol since 1987, almost ever since the company was first established. What significant changes have taken place in your area over this time?
I would certainly stress the technological evolution of electrical switchboards. Technological advances have enabled us to design much simpler installations with regard to their wiring and components and this, in turn, has made it possible for us to develop highly reliable automated machines, which is to say much more efficient machines.
What is the job of the Electricity Section in the production process?
Electrical power and control boards for generators, light towers, hybrid systems and motorized welding equipment are designed and produced in our section. The electric switchboard is an essential part of all these machines.
Why are the electric switchboards so important?
In the case of power generators, for example, the switchboards house the generator’s monitoring and protection unit. This is the intelligent unit which regulates the power supply it generates and informs us of any possible malfunctioning that might occur in either the electrical or mechanical variables. Should this be the case, it is designed to “make decisions”, including shutting down the motor if the incident is assessed as being potentially damaging to the generator.
What other functions does the electrical switchboard have?
Also installed in the switchboard are the instruments that show us, on reading the variables, whether the machine is functioning properly (voltmeters, ammeters, frequency meters, hour counters, and so forth). The electrical switchboard also houses the magneto-thermal and differential protection devices, together with another essential element, namely the part that pertains to power, which is to say, the place in the switchboard where the loads connect.
Could you describe the manufacturing process from the point of starting to work on a new idea through to the presentation of a new electric switchboard on the market?
First of all, we study the requirements, the applications and the viability of each case with the Engineering Department. Next, we work on the design and, finally, a highly specialised team takes charge of production, meticulously supervising the process so that the electric switchboard is manufactured according to the original specifications.
You design and manufacture electric switchboards. To return to the beginning of this interview, what are the main advances that have marked their evolution?
To put it simply, we could describe this evolution by citing in sequence the different types of generators we have produced:
1. Manual generators
2. Generators with remote control starters
3. Generators with automatic starting devices in case of mains power failures
4. Reserve generators, whereby one replaces another
5. Generators working in parallel with others
6. Generators working in parallel with the mains power supply
7. Hybrid systems
In technological terms, what does this sequence imply?
Today’s control units are capable not only of starting up and shutting down generators as stipulated, and acting as a protection mechanism for the machine and the installation, but they can also manage the power supply in an installation with different loads in keeping with the demand and priority given to any particular load within an installation by activating and deactivating the supply of these loads.
The different kinds of programming in the switchboard and the availability of many inputs and outputs, mean that this device becomes a true PLC (and, indeed, it has a small PLC incorporated in it), which can manage – as well as all the details pertaining to the generator – other separate systems within the same installation, such as surveillance systems, ventilation systems, fuel systems, et cetera.
Another example which should be highlighted as an application of the new technologies is the remote control system. At present, we can manage equipment thousands of kilometres away by means of a PC, a tablet or a mobile phone via GPS and GSM 3G. Only a few years ago, this would have been unthinkable.
What do you think makes Inmesol stand out as a company?
Our commitment to excellence, a value that imbues our company culture and that aims to respond to the needs of our clients, which are sometimes very specific. We establish a close relationship with clients and maintain it from the beginning to the end of the project.
What innovations might we expect to see in the near future?
The generator’s control unit (the switchboard) is not yet being used as the only system of monitoring and management for an installation, by which I mean that several external systems are used to check surveillance, ventilation and so on, within any one installation. This probably happens because a lot of clients are still unaware of the single-system possibility as it is relatively new. We believe that the tendency is towards eliminating these external systems and managing everything by means of the generator’s control unit, which would make it possible to manage an entire system from a computer thousands of miles away.