GSTEC sees automation as the next great opportunity for switchboard manufacturers

GSTEC team members with a new modular switchboard being assembled. From left to right, Toby Qiu, Switchboard Build Team Leader, Imogen Curran, Electrical Apprentice, Laryn Zabakly, Switchboard Production Manager, and Ian Sweeting, Operations Manager.

A leading electrical, building automation, and electrical for mechanical organisation, GSTEC, sees outstanding potential for switchboard manufacturers, as Net Zero drives the electrification and automation of buildings in Australia.

“Commercial buildings in Australia typically have three sources of energy – electricity, gas, and diesel fuel. Decarbonisation means the replacement of the latter two energy sources with renewables, which then requires increasing the electrical capacity within building. This is where switchboard manufacturers can shine,” says Ian Sweeting, Operations Manager, GSTEC.

GSTEC has more than 40 years’ experience in the industry, with 90 employees and an office and workshop in Marrickville, NSW, where they build switchboards and building automation panels to suit their customers’ unique requirements.

“As Australia moves towards electric vehicles, there will be a need for significantly more capacity, and in quite a short timeframe – likely over the next five years. The solution to the problem of capacity constraints will be automation,” says Sweeting.

“Electrification and automation are coming together in ways never seen before, as buildings and the grid become integrated through demand response, load shedding, peak shaving, and other load management applications,” he said.

GSTEC Electrical Apprentice, Imogen Curran, working on a distribution section for a new switchboard

“This is where automation is highly relevant to the NESMA network, and a great opportunity for switchboard manufacturers to participate in the upgrades required over the next decade, as buildings prepare for electrification and increased capacity.”

In addition to switchboard assembly, GSTEC provides a suite of services including building automation and networks, electrical for mechanical, as well as performing service and installation work.

“We pride ourselves on our upgrade and retrofit work, replacing decades old switchboards with new ones in live buildings without interrupting building operations. Our experienced teams come in over the weekend, and have the replacement completed before start of business on the Monday,” says Laryn Zabakly, Switchboard Production Manager, GSTEC.

“But our industry does come with more risks than others, which is why it’s essential that safety Standards are strictly adhered to. We were excited to see the introduction of AS/NZS 61439, which marks a time of real change in the industry, where safety standards are able to be upheld like never before,” she adds.

Safety is non-negotiable

Zabakly explains that safety was one of the key drivers for GSTEC’s engagement with NESMA. “NESMA has a clear position on AS/NZS 61439, and is actively working to remove non-compliance in the industry. And it’s not just about winning work – we’d rather lose a job to a NESMA member company that follows the new Standard, than have any person put at risk by a non-compliant switchboard,” she said.

Ian Sweeting showcases GSTEC’s switchboard design capabilities

“Before the adoption of AS/NZS 61439 some people were essentially writing their own rules, creating their own designs with no reference to the Standard – this presents significant risks for electrical workers in contact with these switchboards. The new AS/NZS 61439 addresses these risks, and is clear on what is required for compliance from switchboard manufacturers and assemblers. This is a positive change, because at the end of the day, the consequences for non-compliance can be as severe as death. Everyone should go to work expecting to return home safely.”

Importance of education

Sweeting says GSTEC is looking to leverage its relationship with NESMA, by using NESMA’s knowledge and resources as an educational tool for its clients.

“A lot of the more specialised safety and compliance knowledge is not widely known throughout the industries in which we work. People may have every intention to do the right thing, but without the latest knowledge and training, they can sometimes fall short,” he said.

“NESMA has great resources, and regularly runs conferences and events focused on educating the industry. GSTEC plans to take this back to our clients with the aim to keep them up to date on switchboard safety and compliance issues.

GSTEC Commissioning Technician Isobel Demol checks over a new switchboard at 255 George St Sydney. In this project, the redundant Mechanical Services Switchboard (MSSB) was de-energised at 7pm on a Friday night, with the new MSSB installed, terminated, tested, energised, and serving the central HVAC plant by 6am the following Monday morning