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Feature | July 2017

Gaining prominence

Increasing awareness on the need for quality service is resulting in more and more companies opting for testing their products before hitting the market.

Reliability, quality and standardisation are the three principal norms in the electricity segment. On one side, the retail consumers look for quality power supply. To make this possible, numerous electrical and electronic equipments play a crucial role. Wires, connectors, transformers, switches etc., are some of the very common electrical equipment that are known to all. Apart from this, there are various tools that are used to ensure the reliability and quality of supply.

These equipment falls under the Testing and Measurement (T&M) category, which in a normal course is not spoken about. In a highly competitive market, it becomes the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that their products follow standards and quality parameters that make the end product reliable and durable. So, how does a company make the client believe that their products ensure quality, reliability and follow the prescribed standards?

The testing and measuring (T&M) industry has a variety of apparatus that help one to measure, identify faults and gauge the quality of power. The T&M segment has in the past few years have gained significant attention in the market owing to the growing awareness on quality of products and services. In addition, with the smart grid and smart metering taking over, there is an increasing need to give real-time and accurate outputs.

Sizable investments are seen in research and development (R&D) activity by electrical and electronic equipment companies in India. It is expected that this will further strengthen the growth in the T&M segment. Interestingly, from the beginning of the current decade, T&M segment was growing in double digits. Some report even puts the rate of increase at 20 per cent for 2010-2011.

T&M market
An earlier report estimated that the T&M market will touch US$ 1 billion by 2015-2016. According to the latest report published by Future Markets Insights, the India electrical testing services market will expand at a CAGR of 4.4 per cent from 2016-2026. And the report also said that it is anticipated to cross Rs.1,000-crore of revenue by the end of 2016 and is expected to touch Rs1,616 crore by 2026. The report, which was published in the second week of June this year, also highlighted the growth drivers and hurdles in the Indian market.

'Factors positively affecting the growth of the market include frequent testing of electrical equipment to restrict breakdowns, rapid electrification of the railway lines, improving transmission and distribution network, demand and growth of electric power requirement in villages. The other factors that are creating robust growth of electrical testing services market in India are steady Increase in steel production, periodical electrical testing resulting in longevity of life of the equipment and focus on electrical equipment and personnel safety. Improvement in transmission and distribution network in India is one of the prime drivers associated with the growth of market for T&M equipment.

'Few restraints are however hampering the growth of the India electrical testing services market. For instance, the high cost of testing equipment and requirement of qualified personnel, and the increase in in-house capabilities are acting as deterrents for electrical testing services market in India,' the report highlighted.

On the other hand, the global T&M market is expected to reach US$ 6.8 billion by 2020 predicts a research report titled 'General Purpose Electronic Test and Measurement Instruments - Global Strategic Business Report'. Asia-Pacific region would register the fastest growth with a CAGR of 7.4 per cent.

Type of devices
The major category of products include, tools that measure current, capacitance meter, power factor tool, curve tracers, meters that measures the distortion added to a circuit, electricity meter, apparatus that measures the equivalent series resistance of capacitors, frequency counters, heat measurement devices, leakage testers, Microwave power meter that can gauge the power at microwave frequencies, Multimeter that measures voltage, current and resistance, network parameters analysing tools, Ohmmeter, Oscilloscope that displays waveform of a signal, allows measurement of frequency, timing, peak excursion, offset, device that can interpret audio frequency (AF) signal level and noise, Q meters that is used for the Q (quality) factor of the radio frequency (RF) circuits, signal analyzers, signal generators, spectrum analysers, sweep generators, transistor testers, tube testers, Watt meters, Vectorscope, Video signal generator that uses video signal for testing purposes, Voltmeters, VU meters etc.

In addition to this, with the onset of digital and smart equipment augmentation in electricity segment, there are a variety of equipments that help the companies to test and measure the digital mode devices. To cite some examples, hand-held transformer turned ratio tester, digital multimeter, dual channel US-compact cable fault locator, non-contact digital phase detector, GPS sync, clamp-on current transformer, voltage tester with moving coil level indicator etc.

Testing facilities
While those stated above are the testing equipment that is being widely used to ensure quality and reliable electricity supply, one would wonder what standards these equipment would have to follow. There are various testing labs in India that follows the norms and standards set by various regulators and the government. In India, the two departments that set the standards are - BIS Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).

Electrical Research and Development Association (ERDA) is one of the testing institutes for electrical equipment. ERDA has BIS accreditation for testing of 135 number of electrical products and materials. The primary products that get tested at ERDA are distribution transformers, low voltage switchgear components e.g. ACB, MCCB, switch fuse unit, fuses, MCB, RCCB etc., L.V. switchboards, isolators, compact substations, Bus ducts, Bus Trunking, High Voltage & Low Voltage Cables, Current Transformers, Voltage Transformers, Capacitors, Motors , Pumps, Energy Meters, Transformer Oil, CRGO, Conductors, Insulators, Bushings, Lamp & Luminaires, Home Appliances, etc

Technological development, up gradation of the end user applications, stringent quality, safety and environment norms put up by the government has made the T&M market gearing momentum. Compact devices have taken over the market in the last few years. Fast changing technology at times poses a challenge to those who are in the testing segments. The testing facilities have to upgrade themselves at the same pace as that of technology.

Dr MK Shah, Director, Electrical Research and Development Association said, 'ERDA is a Not for Profit organisation. ERDA's surplus income is ploughed back for improvement of its infrastructure and conducting Research & Development in the field of Electrical power. For the last few years, ERDA is investing on an average Rs.20-30 crore per annum for development of new testing facilities and for upgrading its facilities. The government of Gujarat has also provided some grant for establishment of new testing facilities at ERDA.'

In line with the changing pace of technology, ERDA also keep keeps adding T&M facilities, in its laboratories. 'The new facilities which have come up in last few years at ERDA are solar lighting system and solar pumping system facilities, solar inverter testing facility, flameproof testing facility, Type'C' Goniophotometer for testing of LED lamps and luminaries, communication protocol testing facilities for communicable relays and IEDs, smart meter testing facilities etc,' said Shah.

'Presently, High Voltage Partial Discharges Laboratory is under construction with grant from the Government of Gujarat. ERDA is also planning to set up testing facilities for new generation High Temperature Low Sag (HTLS) conductors. Setting up of a Medium Voltage Short Circuit Laboratory is also under planning stage. However, it requires huge investment, and ERDA is looking for grant from the Government of India and Government of Gujarat to transform this dream into a reality,' Shah added.

While discussing the standards that ERDA follows for the testing of power measuring and testing devices, Shah. 'ERDA has all the necessary accreditations from National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (ISO 17025), recognised by BIS as third party laboratory, BEE, Electricity regulatory commissions of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Central Boiler Board, Consultancy Development Centre (Ministry of Science and Technology). International organisations like Intertek (ASTA), USA have been using the facility regularly.

Conclusion
T&M devices have become indispensable for validating purposes. And it is gaining importance for evaluation of processes and measuring quality and reliability, beginning with production line to the end consumers. Wire to wireless technology is fast catching up. In the coming days T&M equipment would achieve an important position along with the electrical and electronic devices used in electrical supply. Protection testing devices may be a segment that could be sought after in the short term. Transformer testing will continue to remain the focus area. Technology is set to dominate the market, with cutting edge technologies and changing requirements of the electrical market driving the T&M market.

- Renjini Liza Varghese

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