February 10, 2006 A Prism Business Media Publication Vol. II No. 3



CONTENTS
Fire Detection Systems

Fire Protection Systems

Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

Communication Networks

Practical Implications of OSHA 1926.300

NEC on the Production Floor

Business Confidence Index
Still Pointing to Expansion, But...


Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz



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About This Newsletter
This twice-a-month
e-newsletter is brought to you from the publisher of EC&M magazine.

MRO Insider addresses topics such as:

  • Working with management and supervision
  • National Electrical Code® on the production floor
  • Safety procedures and programs
  • Troubleshooting techniques
  • Equipment maintenance and testing tips
  • Managing motors and generators
  • Trends in training and education
  • Managing energy use


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    Maintenance
    Fire Detection Systems
    Whether you have just a few individually mounted smoke alarms or a networked fire detection system, you don't have reliable fire detection without routine testing and maintenance.

    If your facility uses the same individual units found in residential applications, you already know to regularly replace the battery and push the "test" button. But what if you have a more sophisticated system? Maybe it's one that initiates area-specific fire suppression, identifies specific zones on a central display, automatically notifies the fire department and first responders at their personal phone numbers. You need to do more than replace a battery and push a "test" button. You must perform a detailed maintenance procedure coordinated with your first responders and your fire department.

    Consider outsourcing this to a firm that specializes in such maintenance. These firms conduct the tests more efficiently than the typical in-house maintenance staff can.

    Fire Protection Systems
    Every commercial and industrial facility has portable fire extinguishers. These extinguishers have inspection frequencies, and each inspection has an expiration date. If you don't have a process in place to ensure your extinguishers are current, they probably aren't.

    But few facilities rely on just portable extinguishers. Most facilities rely on a sprinkler system for automated fire suppression. Not only could a sprinkler fail to operate when needed, but it could also fail such that it operates in the absence of fire. Neither outcome is acceptable. While it's a good idea to operationally test fire alarms, it should go without saying that it's generally a bad idea to operationally test sprinkler systems. What to do: Perform regular inspection and maintenance. Unless your staff is knowledgeable on sprinkler systems and fire water supply systems, outsource this task.

    You may also have a fire suppression system. The typical system is fed by bottles containing an extinguishing agent. Maintenance requires more than just checking the pressure gauges on the bottles. These systems have both active and passive components that require timely inspection and testing.


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    Repair
    Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    In the administrative offices, all of the desktop computers occasionally reboot at the same time. This has been going on for several weeks. What are the initial steps you should take to fix this annoying problem?

    The answer to this question appears at the end of this newsletter.

    Communication Networks
    Production equipment without a data connection is almost unthinkable -- today just about everything is networked. The typical response when there's a network failure is to locate the responsible hardware and replace it. Yes, if a surge zaps a router or a lift truck operator snags a load on those overhead data cables, replacing the damaged parts gets you up and running again.

    But increasingly, firmware is an issue -- mostly due to compatibility issues with other upgrades (some of which you do not control, such as those performed by your telco or other provider). Pay special attention to routers, firewalls, and data switches. If your network is down anyhow due to a hardware issue, see if the firmware is current on all devices. There's typically an IP-based interface for doing this. Sometimes an update requires resetting the device, so take advantage of the downtime window to accomplish that. If you've been trying to track down an intermittent problem, you may find the firmware update eliminates it.


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    Operation
    Practical Implications of OSHA 1926.300
    This standard provides specific requirements for guarding and securing equipment so it's safe to operate. But what do these requirements really mean?

    When someone loses a finger to production equipment, the cause is nearly always a missing guard or defeated guarding device. In a typical scenario, the contacts of a particular switch must be closed for the machine to operate. But suppose the switch goes out of alignment or fails, or the wiring breaks (simulating an open switch). The employee has almost met quota for the day, so decides to "jimmy" the switch and continue making parts. The immediate problem is gone, so there's no report or repair of the malfunction -- or the bypass.

    Months later, an employee pulls that hand back a bit too slowly, and watches a finger disappear. Post-incident inspection reveals an undocumented bypass of a safety switch.

    Another employee gets dragged into gears after a pant leg snags on a drive chain. The chain cover had fallen off, but nobody wanted to shut the line down to re-attach it.

    If equipment isn't safe, take it out of service until you can make it safe. Besides the obvious human empathy issues, the legal implications can be daunting for the company and for individuals who ignored the problem.

    NEC on the Production Floor
    Feeder circuits bring power to distribution transformers, which then supply power to branch circuit panels. They also may supply power to large equipment, such as plant air compressors. At the feeder level, you have higher fault current than at the branch level. Consequently, the cost and downtime of a feeder problem is potentially much greater than that of a branch circuit problem. Thus, meeting the requirements of Article 215 is an important part of ensuring continued production. In some cases, exceeding some of those requirements may be advisable.

    Example 1. Per 215.4, you could run a common neutral between separate feeder circuits. But if those circuits supply high harmonic loads, the common neutral may be inadequate for the current that could be imposed on it.

    Example 2. Per 215.6, you must supply a grounding (here, the NEC means bonding rather than earthing) means and connect the grounding (bonding) conductors of the branch circuits to it. In critical facilities, there is at least one additional bonding means for every Code-required one.


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    Manufacturers' Corner
    Business Confidence Index
    Still Pointing to Expansion, But...

    The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Electroindustry Business Confidence Index for current North American conditions continued to signal expansion in January. Registering a reading of 55.2 points, the index topped the 50-point threshold for the 33rd month in a row. However, the index has declined in each of the last four months, which suggests that conditions have moderated since reaching a near-term peak in the late summer of 2005.

    The index is considered a barometer of business confidence in the electroindustry and is based on the results of a monthly survey of senior managers at NEMA member companies.

    For a complete summary of the January 2006 index, including charts and a list of participating companies, visit www.nema.org.


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    Quiz Answers
    Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz Look for the causes that are common to that office. One common issue that jumps out immediately is time. Because this has been going on for several weeks, think about what's different now compared to several weeks ago? Here are some possibilities:
    • New copying machine or laser printer
    • Copying machine or laser printer now on UPS
    • Uncoordinated application of point of use UPS units
    • Additional loads on central UPS
    • Recabling that has introduced "two grounds" though failure to bond network cabling grounding system to electrical supply grounding system
    • Nearby facility on the same substation transformer changed its load characteristics, severely affecting your power quality
    A power analyzer is a great tool to help you troubleshoot this situation. But you'll also have to do some detective work. Talk to people, and try to pin down what is going on when these reboots occur. You should also ask neighboring facility managers about any changes they have made in the past several weeks -- or if they are experiencing similar problems with the same timing factor.


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