How should industry navigate AS/NZ61439?

Eaton Corporation

Wednesday, 16 March, 2022

How should industry navigate AS/NZ61439?

In this interview, Mark Anning, General Manager, Eaton Corporation, Australia & New Zealand, takes an in-depth look at what the updated standard will mean for businesses.

What does the AS/NZS 61439 standard mean for the industry in both the long and short term?

Overall, the updates from AS/NZS 6139 will introduce a positive step towards safety mandates, including fault containment and type-tested assembly, ensuring longevity in operator, equipment and customer safety.

It is clear that the new standard will impact manufacturers, assemblers and end users involved in all types of switchboard assemblies — from distribution boards up to 250 amps, right through to main switchboards above 250 amps.

Before the introduction of the industry standard, switchboards only required a simple calculation to be deemed safe and compliant, so the change to a new criterion for compliance is an evolution in the industry.

In the short term, there will be an adjustment for all the switchboard builders, regulators and specifiers in Australia and New Zealand to implement the changes and understand what it means to be compliant.

In the long term, the standard will set the bar for future revisions and the industry will gravitate towards systems developed and tested by the major manufacturers in the electrical industry. Another long-term benefit for the industry is that the end user and the consumer will see uniformity across all the testing and performance compliance amongst available systems offered in the market.

How can businesses best navigate the updated standard?

Switchboard builders and manufacturers have been, and will continue, on a learning journey whilst adoption of the AS/NZS 61439 standard and systems is still new. The first step I recommend is getting well-versed with the new standard, including the updated verification and testing requirements.

Furthermore, businesses should look to adopt a verified switchboard system from a manufacturer on the market offering training and certification who is able to provide full-time support and assist in the transition to AS/NZS 61439 compliance.

Mark Anning

How will the new standard change future innovations?

The main aim of AS/NZS 61439 is to bring consistency across testing, performance and compliance to all systems offered in the market, so for now I don’t see any big innovations on the horizon as a direct impact of the standard.

If we look back at how switchboards have evolved in Australia and New Zealand, the initial option for switchboard builders was to manufacture their own. With the introduction of compliance mandates moving forward they will need to adhere to the standards even with customised solutions.

This will trigger a shift towards modular fully type-tested solutions, like the one that Eaton offers with the xEnergy. Modular systems have been prevalent in other markets, like Europe, for a much longer time and have proved to be great solutions so it’s a promising direction for the Australian and New Zealand market.

Are there any additional liabilities of which businesses need to be aware?

Compared to the practices of the past there is a new responsibility of being the original manufacturer or ‘owner’ of the system to ensure that if you’re continuing with a customised solution, all the relevant tests have been done.

Businesses currently using custom systems will need to understand there are costs involved to update their verification and meet compliance. Costs associated with custom solutions include new tests, inventory and materials, shelving or floor space, machinery, and staff or labour costs.

If adopting a verified manufacturer’s switchboard system, none of these costs associated with custom systems apply. This is because the responsibility of the design and its compliances lies with the manufacturer. Meaning if these systems are designed and assembled in accordance with the rules and guidelines of the AS/NZS 61439 standard, then design verification is guaranteed.

What industries are best suited for the new standard, and why?

The new standard aims for uniformity and consistency amongst all switchboards manufactured; therefore, it benefits all industries and applications. That includes commercial buildings and industrial applications as well as hospitals and data centres.

It’s a large undertaking going through the testing, and a timely and expensive process too.

How has Eaton responded to the new standard?

With over 100 years of industry knowledge and experience, Eaton has always been ahead of the standard through vigorous testing, product research and development. In Australia and New Zealand, Eaton has invested in stock and dedicated engineering support personnel to assist partners with design, engineering and construction of compliant switchboards.

This, in conjunction with our Partner Program, differentiates Eaton’s approach in the market and adds another layer of confidence in the end user regarding the integrity of the system. Eaton also plays a role in education and training via webinars, consultant and industry group presentations, roadshows and partner training programs to educate and inform the market on the changes and responsibilities of the new standard.

Our upcoming roadshow is dedicated to the new Eaton xEnergy solution and, more broadly, all products which offer an end-to-end solution for AS/NZS 61439 compliance, and will be an educational event to inform the market on the suite of products to support compliance with the standard.

How is Eaton helping to drive the industry forward?

Eaton is providing a vehicle forward by offering a complete solution with a class-leading switchboard system, including switchgear and distribution boards backed by full-time support. Eaton also sits on the standards committee contributing to driving change in the industry’s future.

An area of particular interest for Eaton is the transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon future offering renewable energy solutions as well as the technology to monitor, manage and optimise energy usage. In line with their long-standing reputation, Eaton is at the forefront of the energy products of the future working towards megatrends and digitisation.

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