Starline is a global leader in power distribution equipment and provides a revolutionary, overhead power distribution system through its track/distribution busway products. The company is now expanding its offering into high power busbars. Intelligent Data Centres caught up with David Skeans, Director of International Sales, Starline, to find out more about the new addition to the company’s portfolio and the global support offered. He also suggests how data centre leaders can ensure successful project management.
Starline is expanding its offering into high power busbar. Why has Starline widened its portfolio beyond track busway/distribution busbars?
We have found that our customers have very specific power distribution needs and while we’re doing an excellent job in servicing white space, they needed more assistance in connecting that white space to the grey space or to the electrical rooms.
We found that they would often have to use another manufacturer to make that connection from the electrical room to the data centre, so we decided to expand our offering to include high power busbar, which is commonly needed in those spaces. So, it’s a decision that’s been driven by customer needs.
Can you tell us how customer demands or requirements have changed and how that’s shaped your own innovation strategy?
Over the past few years, one of the biggest demands is a need to meet global project requirements. Typically, our larger customers have a global footprint or are trying to establish a global footprint. That requires them to have products that meet the needs of local electrical certifications and electrical requirements, whether it be different voltages, different frequencies, or sometimes special safety requirements.
That has caused us to do a lot of innovation work and provide products that meet multiple certification needs. There are also requirements in many of the local markets such as China or India and Mexico.
We offer a product that can be used for all global markets and that really simplifies the application and allows our customers to have a single product that works for their global footprint.
How does Starline support the global data centre market with the XCP and distribution busbars?
Our support is a major part of our business and investment. Customers want us to handle all aspects of projects so we’re providing both the product and services, which are vast. They require a lot of input and close communication with our customers, both pre- and post-sales. And we have a full staff of people with lots of unique talents to support those customers.
Can you explain more about what type of global support Starline offers?
It really starts with pre-sales where the teams are heavily involved in configuration and application. Our sales staff generally have engineering backgrounds or technical training, so they understand our products – physically and also electrically.
They work in conjunction with regional application engineers to provide the best configuration for the space that the customer is looking to power.
Configuration would typically explore how you might line up the busbars, configuring the tap off units, the interconnection between the high power busbar and the low power busbar and integration in connection to UPS or switchboards.
Once the pre-sales configuration is done, we have an agreed-upon bill of material and we work with our product engineering and manufacturing teams to make sure we’re covering all the unique aspects of a particular project.
This involves creating AutoCAD drawings that are used in production and also communicated out to the customer for their use and design, before being transferred to the project management team.
The project management team then works at the site and continues to engage with the application engineers. There is also operational support and a whole commercial team that handles contracts, contract execution, logistics and so on.
How has Legrand supported your global support capabilities?
We were acquired a couple of years ago by Legrand, a global leader in electrical product manufacturing with a global footprint and resources all over the world, which has been particularly helpful in those markets where we’re not normally involved.
Legrand is also very helpful in supplying components. Our busbar products use quite a few electrical components and circuit breakers to connectors and meters, and having access to design teams and manufacturing resources and factories means Legrand has been a tremendous asset to both us and our customers.
Project management is a key component of any build project. What does Starline offer as far as services to support the success of a project?
We really focus on customer satisfaction. We take all aspects of the project seriously and make sure we are supporting properly.
Again, this starts with pre-sales. Most of our project management is involved in the pre-sale activities for large projects, so they’re familiar with the special needs of that particular project.
It then goes into manufacturing support, making sure we are meeting the schedules by doing everything we can to get the product to the location when needed, co-ordinating with the site and making sure we understand the unique site logistics, whether it be service elevator access, crane access or coordinating with site personnel and scheduling.
Then we are also heavily engaged in commissioning support, providing products to assist in commissioning, providing commissioning data review or, in some cases, providing commissioning services themselves.
We then have installation, so if a customer chooses to use Starline installation services we have a full team available for that and if they choose to use a local resource then we have training available to make sure that the local resource understands how to install.
Along with that goes operational support. Once the product is installed and commissioned, the operational support is to make sure that customers are comfortable using our product and in their spare parts supply or inventory.
What advice would you offer data centre managers on ensuring successful project management?
Regular communication with the project team is very important and getting the project team together early is also key, making sure you’re communicating all of the changes. There are always many changes, whether it be to schedule, design or things that come up during the course of the project.
We like to think of ourselves as being very flexible and being able to accommodate changes as they come up, but the more advance notice that we have, the more likely we are to be able to satisfy those needs.
How does Starline service the unique needs of a site and how do you handle site coordination for projects?
As we are a global company doing global business, logistics is an important part of what we do. We’re servicing the world through three factories in the US, the UK and Singapore, and from those factories we’re shipping to most of the major country markets.
We are often faced with logistical problems, whether it be lack of containers in a port or problems booking aircraft or ocean vessels. We put a lot of effort into our logistical support to make sure that we understand how we’re going to get the product to the customer when they need it.
Along with that goes a lot of support to make sure that when the customer is doing the installation, they understand how to do it correctly.
Which industry trends do you believe will impact the market and how should data centre teams be preparing or responding?
Probably the most immediate situation is concerns about global supply of raw materials and components, as well as factoring in lead times.
It’s no secret that there are issues throughout most industries with component lead times, particularly electrical components. The more advance notice that we have about a project or customer’s intention, the more we can do advanced purchases and firm up our position with vendors to make sure that we don’t run out of material.
We’re putting a lot of effort into that and have a process where we actually treat potential projects as if they’re orders so that we can begin the process of procuring materials and scheduling a manufacturing build so we do all we can to support the scheduling for the project.
Can you give us some insight into Starline’s regional plans for the coming year?
We are always trying to expand geographically. We’re looking more at the Eastern European markets and have put some more resources in Asia in particular to focus on the Korean market, which we feel is up and coming.
We’re adding project support resources as we take on larger projects, both in Asia and Europe. We’re also doubling the size of our factory in Singapore and increasing resources and production time in the UK. So we’re doing everything we can to meet the growing demands for our product – that’s our primary focus right now.Click below to share this article