American switchgear leader relies on DEIF controller

SAI Advanced Power Solutions

A nationwide industry leader in switchgear due largely to its ability to specialize in custom solutions for customers. Founded over a century ago, SAI has continually applied ingenuity – and unique customization – into its electrical design and manufacturing processes. Their efforts have always paid off, and with its modern vertically-integrated platform, the company can now control every aspect of their in-house manufacturing process, located at their main facility near O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Reliable and long-term solution

To secure its long-term success in customized switchgear solutions, SAI engineers needed a reliable, go-to controller that did not need specialized programming when it wasn’t required. They also needed to avoid creating a steep learning curve every time a controller was installed. That’s where DEIF came in.

“SAI pursues mostly critical power that must be on all the time, with no interruptions,” says Brad Bell, president and CEO of SAI. “We needed something reliable and available to meet all of our application needs using one device. DEIF is what made the big difference in the AGC-4 controller.”

Bell explains that one of the benefits of having a DEIF controller versus a proprietary design is “that it is hardened, meaning it’s been designed and it’s been tested, so we don’t have to worry about problems in the field that we didn’t predict,” he says. Bells explains that by choosing DEIF, it allowed for “tremendous cost savings and avoids the lengthy start-up process” that typically comes from designing a controller. Bell says proudly that SAI and DEIF have worked together for nearly a decade, but the choice of DEIF came only after extensive research and testing of other control systems.

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“Every application is different. Our customers often have different needs, with these many generators, this many utility services or generators, or this type of equipment. The AGC-4 gives us the ability to use one controller and meet all kinds of applications within our industry.”

Brad Bell

President and CEO | SAI Advanced Power Solution

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Moving away from PLCs

“We tried and tested nine controllers before selecting DEIF,” Bell says. “Had we gone a different direction, we would have had to include PLCs (programmable logic controller) of varying degrees depending on the application to give us customization in our applications. We try to avoid having any custom PLC-driven applications because it drives up cost. Our customers also want redundancy, and the DEIF controller gives us exactly that.”

Bell says he tells nearly every prospect or customer about why the company has taken the path away from PLCs. “I believe in my engineering department, but I’d rather have a product in the field that has been tested and works over and over. Development would mean thinking about and planning for every scenario and every failure, and then create a way around it. DEIF’s controller is my sales tool to show people why the relationship between DEIF and SAI works so well.

“The other advantage is the local support and global support that DEIF offers,” Bell says. “When it comes to the engineering support where we need help in some variation in the software, we can work with DEIF to make a slight change to fit the application if needed. That approach is very unique in this business, where someone would take their own controller and make it work to fit your application.”

Key partnerships open doors to new type of customers

A core competency of SAI is the design and distribution of low and medium voltage switchgear. By being more aggressive in medium voltage applications, SAI has enjoyed
expansion in its footprint of customers from data centers and hospitals to larger utilities and the commercial and industrial market (C&I).

Mehran Mohsenian, vice president of sales and marketing for SAI, explains that there would have been a limit to SAI’s success if the right partnerships had not been in place.
“We established key partnerships to provide tremendous value to our customers,” Mohsenian says. “From the big players such as DEIF, we have now established key supplier partnerships to enable us to grow.” 

Mohsenian says there’s another advantage for choosing DEIF. “We have access to new products too, which means we don’t have to do everything ourselves. And that’s the key ingredients to our success.”

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