It only takes 200 milliseconds for some production lines in high-tech semiconductor plants to break down.
Compare that with the blink of an eye, which takes 100 to 150 milliseconds.
If a dip in voltage from the power grid goes more than 50% for over 200 milliseconds, the high-tech robotic arms making micro-circuits will come to a grinding halt – resulting in millions of ringgit in potential losses.
"If the lights in my house suddenly flicker, then I know some of the equipment in my plant may be in trouble," said K.W. Lee, Corporate Services Director for Malaysia & South East Asia, Intel Technology.
A lot of times, Lee said it was not anyone's fault. It’s just Mother Nature.
"We get a lot of lightning in Malaysia. When lightning strikes a transmission tower, it has the capability to divert abnormal high current to the ground to prevent damage to the infrastructure which could cause a power outage. However, the process which lasted less than 100milisecond created a voltage dip.”
"Most of our appliances at home can handle this dip but not some high-tech equipment in the electrical and electronics (E&E) industry," explained Lee.
How often does this happen? It varies year over year but we have seen up to 17 times a year, Lee said, though not all those dips will disrupt production.
"To Tenaga Nasional’s credit, Malaysia really has one of the most stable power grids in the world.”
"This is an important requirement to attract high-tech manufacturing facilities," he said.
Lee was not exaggerating.
In the recent World Bank publication Doing Business 2020, Malaysia improved its ranking in the Getting Electricity category from 60th position in 2011 to fourth in the world last year.
To make sure Malaysia stays high up on the list, the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) has been hard at work ensuring that high-tech stakeholders work closely with government agencies.
The Technical Working Group on Getting Electricity (TWGGE) spearheads initiatives to improve the quality and stability of the country's power supply.
Established as a public-private sector collaboration, TWGGE is chaired by Energy Commission chief executive officer Abdul Razib Dawood and co-chaired by Electrical and Electronics Productivity Nexus champion Datuk Seri Wong Siew Hai, who is a member of Pasukan Petugas Khas Pemudahcara Perniagaan (Pemudah).
Tenaga Nasional Bhd is also in TWGGE, along with giants like Intel, supported by MPC.
Last July, Lee said Intel hosted TWGGE representatives on a fact-finding mission in the United States.
The delegation studied the best practices in power quality improvements at Intel’s Phoenix (Arizona) and Portland (Oregon) manufacturing plants.
They also visited the Arizona Salt River Project and Port General Electric utility companies.
Lee said Intel wanted to help MPC make it possible for Malaysia to evaluate the standards and power generation performance in the US, where Intel's decades-long collaborations with utilities companies had been a success and set a standard Intel operations globally.
"Under the TNB-Intel pilot initiative, we are looking at key improvements in the power grid and distribution infrastructure.”
"These include the installation of more lightning arresters, substation asset rehabilitation and encroachment control to improve the quality of power and benefit all E&E plants in the northern region.”
Several other companies are also key partners in this initiative, in which MPC acts as the secretariat, Energy Commission as the regulator and TNB as utility provider, Lee said.
Stressing the importance of a high quality power supply, he said E&E plants must also ensure that their manufacturing equipment are designed to tolerate voltage sags as per the global standard dubbed SEMI F47.
"The E&E industry recorded the highest approved investments last year, RM25.7bil or 31% of all total approved investments.
"To support the nation's growth, power quality management is crucial to ensure minimal power disruptions," Lee said.
“TNB is actually comparable in term of reliability to other utility service providers in first world countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan, ” said TNB Distribution Network Division (Asset Management) head Wan Nazmy Wan Mahmood.
“However, one thing’s for sure, voltage sag is not a reliability issue but of power quality instead. This occurs in every country and is a major issue globally” he added.
Since voltage sag is unavoidable in the power system, continuous improvement efforts are required to mitigate this incident.
TNB has carried out initiatives to improve power quality performance in Northern region. The main main initiative is ensuring “transmission tower footing resistance” is in good condition.
Another initiative being carried out is asset replacement project for 132kV underground cable in Penang Island that cost TNB approximately RM110mil.
Besides that, TNB also carry out an asset rehabilitation programme for the substation assets in Penang Island to ensure high reliability of the installation which in turn will prevent the voltage sag occurrences. This programme is expected cost around RM100mil.
These initiatives are not only implemented for Intel but also carried out for other locations as well.
For more details on initiatives by Electrical & Electronics Productivity Nexus (EEPN) visit www.mpc.gov.my.