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Bank ATM Inverter Backup Guide

By Afam Nnaji on June, 23 2008

Views: 7,959

Inverter backup systems have become the preferred choice for bank ATMs these days and it is important for banks to have a reasonable guide that will reduce the risk of project failures to the barest minimum.

This guide is for banks that may be contemplating deploying inverter backup systems for their ATMs and indeed any critical loads that may not be cost effectively powered by generators and banks that may have had some disappointments in the past from solution providers.

Based on my dealings with a few banks I have come to the following conclusions

1. The banks as a matter of urgency want reliable inverter backup solutions for their ATMs
2. The people at the top want the best solutions from reliable solution providers as they have more to lose or gain in terms of reputation.
3. The people lower down the cadre (those that interact with the solution providers) are more interested in deals and kick backs than in the success of the project. They are the ones that decide who to contact, what information to provide, what information to withhold or conceal and if they so wish can mislead you. So, with these group of people you either play ball or you are out of the project.

As simplistic and harsh as these conclusions are the unfortunate thing is that it is the truth, it is real and it is happening in the banks as regards ATMs (and I won't be surprised if it is not just with ATMs).

Considering the fact that those in the banks are not experts in inverter backup systems the banks will ultimately be at the mercy of solution providers and simply hope and pray that their projects do not fail. With the state of the economy today you can always see contractors that will accept projects even if they know from day 1 that the project cannot be completed with the money being budgeted.

The only workable way out of this situation is for the banks to ensure that inverter backup systems for their ATMs are based on sound energy calculations which will in the final analysis determine the rating of the inverter required and the battery bank (number of batteries connected together) needed to guarantee the autonomy sought for by the banks whether 24hrs, 48hrs or 72hrs.

This can be achieved by hiring independent energy consultants that are pure professionals and these consultants will not be allowed to take part in the project in any capacity but for the consulting they are being hired for.

The jobs of these independent energy consultants will amongst other things include the following

1. Carry out a comprehensive energy audit for the load requirement including ATM, lighting for signage and/or illumination so as not to undersize the inverter backup solution.
2. Based on the energy audit carried out make recommendations on the minimum rating and type of inverters required and the minimum number of batteries required to guarantee the autonomy needed for the project.
3. Verify that inverters and batteries being proposed by vendors or contractors meet the minimum ratings as it is very possible for these inverters and batteries to be supplied with lower ratings even if the labels display higher ratings and this can be done even at the manufacturer level.
4. At completion of the project will be required to verify that the inverters and batteries installed meet the minimum specifications earlier agreed upon between the bank and the vendors.

With these measures put in place the banks would benefit from independent professional input.

The other alternative is of course for the banks to trust vendors or contractors with their solutions. If things go well, then fine otherwise it's another failed project and the banks begin to plan for the next project as no bank can afford not to have ATMs that are out of service due to lack of backup systems when other ATMs are working just fine.

To drive home this point of the banks not having a handle on what their energy requirement is and what they want as solution I will summarize a recent experience.

I was asked by a bank to provide 48hrs backup for ATM, illumination and signage at a cost that would never come close to carrying out the project. To make matters worse they insisted on a particular brand of inverter (an inverter that was due to be phased out by the manufacturer by June 2008), they also insisted on a certain number of batteries even when these batteries have been known to disappoint in backup applications. And of course they wanted 2 years warranty for the inverter and batteries even when they do not know their exact energy need as questions or requests concerning this were diverted or vague and meaningless responses provided.

Obviously, someone must have come up with the type and brand of inverter and the number of batteries which I considered an overkill considering the fact that an ATM is basically a note counter with a small printer run by a microprocessor.

My advice to them was simple, your budget cannot do the project (even when some providers had already agreed to handle the project at the initial budget) and that even a 30% increase would not be enough and as such I will not get involved. I also advised them on the choice of inverters and batteries.

After a couple of weeks the budget was increased by 60%, they no longer insisted on the brand of inverter and the brand of the batteries.

Even at these developments the power ratings of the required load could not be provided by the bank and I wonder why anyone would provide 2 years warranty on a backup system when you do not even know the power requirement you are supposed to provide backup for. It is like going into a battle with a blindfold.

6 companies were asked to handle the project and when it was clear that the required information wasn't being provided I made a call to them and thanked them for their time as I was not going to get into any dirty politics for a project like this.

So, it is important that all the processes involved in providing inverter backup solutions remain transparent and fair to all, this is the only way to checkmate the activities of a few people who would not mind substandard solutions as long as they make money in the process.


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