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August 24, 2006 A Prism Business Media Publication Vol. II No. 16

Introducing the EC&M

Plant Closures on the Horizon

Maintaining Batteries, Part One

Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

Replacing Lift Truck Batteries

NEC at the Facility

OSHA and the Manager in Maintenance

Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz


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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    The designations "National Electrical Code” and “NEC” refer to the National Electrical Code®, which is a registered trademark of the National Fire Protection Association.


    EC&M E-Tradeshow
    Introducing the EC&M

    EC&M magazine's new online tradeshow and conference series is now open! Use it as often as you like at no cost to you. The E-tradeshow is a 3D exhibition where you can examine some of the latest in electrical products, meet with exhibitors, and gather information. Plus, you'll be able to attend conference seminars inside the E-Tradeshow throughout the year.

    Just click here and you'll be connected to detailed information about how to get inside and make full use of the E-tradeshow. In minutes you'll be exploring in the 3D environment, be visiting in our charter exhibitors' booths, and checking out some very cool products.

    See you in the show!

    Fix Equipment Problems Faster with C-more!
    12-inch C-more machine operator panels are among the easiest to use in the industry. The Event Manager logs alarms and send email messages to multiple addresses based on alarms, changing tag values, periodic events, or even particular screen changes.
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    Plant News
    Plant Closures on the Horizon
    According to marketing information resources company Industrial Information Resources (IIR), 165 U.S. industrial plants will close their doors between January 2006 and the end of 2008, translating into 64,000 lost jobs. The regions most affected appear to be the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes, each losing between 30 to 32 plants and 9,000 to 13,000 jobs. Many of the plants are tied to the automotive industry.

    But the news isn't all bad. IIR is also tracking 742 plants scheduled to open throughout North America during the same time period. The new plants are projected to add approximately 155,000 jobs.

    A Better Way to Connect Electrical Equipment
    Decontactors are a UL rated plug, receptacle and disconnect switch in one device. With Decontactors installed electrical equipment quickly can be quickly connected or disconnected - up to 60hp, 200A. NFPA 70E and NEC code compliance is simplified because a safety shutter prevents unintentional access to live parts and 100 kA short circuit ratings protect users in fault conditions. Click below to learn more and to request literature or a free sample.

    Maintaining Batteries, Part One
    Ask the typical manufacturing plant engineer about batteries, and you'll hear about lift trucks. In a data center, you'll probably hear about racks of stationary batteries and lift truck batteries.

    One appeal of electric lift trucks is they eliminate fuel storage and fuel handling issues. For indoor operations, they eliminate air quality problems that arise from combustion fumes. However, their downside can be costly.

    When an internal combustion engine runs out of LP gas or diesel, it shuts off (in a diesel, this shortens the life of the fuel pump). An internal combustion engine doesn't start overheating as the fuel tank nears empty. But an electric motor does.

    How do you manage battery care? Do you leave it up to the lift operator to monitor battery life, stop work, drive to the lift truck depot, have maintenance swap out batteries, and then resume work -- all while production managers are hollering for the machine? If so, you have identified a curable cause of the high motor failure rate in your lift trucks.

    But it's not just the motor that is in danger with a "leave-it-to-the-operator" policy. Does the operator carry loads up grades? That's when the battery drain will be most noticeable. The lift truck motor, unable to produce enough torque with the low battery, fails on the ramp, causing the truck to roll backward.

    Does your battery replacement program account for the fact that batteries lose capacity over time? Burning up lift truck motors because you run on old batteries to reduce battery purchase costs equals false economics.

    On the other hand, a formal battery maintenance program is a sensible way to reduce battery purchase costs -- and it helps ensure reliable operation of your lift trucks.

    Exclusive TightSight Display helps set a new standard for clamp meters.
    They're packed with features and like nothing you've ever seen before. When we began designing the line, we certainly started at the bottom and worked our way up. The innovative TightSight™ display gives you a level of testing freedom and safety beyond any test tool on the market. In tight, dark or bright locations, it's invaluable. Other features like a high voltage indicator will ensure that you've never felt safer. Visit for a preview of the 600A and 1000A clamp meters from IDEAL.

    Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    An electric lift truck has burned up three motors in as many months. The battery is less than a year old, and it gets a full charge every night. What are some possible causes?

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

    Replacing Lift Truck Batteries
    Because so-called "maintenance-free" batteries are "sealed," the myth exists that they neither leak acid nor need maintenance. In reality, they are not sealed, and they do require maintenance. In fact, they contain a pressure valve that regulates the gas pressure inside the battery.

    All batteries produce gas. Exposure to sunlight can heat up the battery, raising the gas pressure -- do your trucks ever sit outside? Excessive charging or discharging also raises gas pressure. If the gas pressure is too great, the battery may vent acid in addition to gas. If the battery can't vent fast enough, the case will bulge and may even rupture.

    When replacing a battery, take the time to clean the battery tray with a neutralizer -- even if it's just baking soda and water. Clean the mounting hardware, cables, and terminations. Inspect the cable ends -- are they still serviceable, or should you replace them? Inspect insulating materials for damage.

    A maintenance tech changing a lift truck battery in an Illinois gear factory made inadvertent contact between his screwdriver and the truck frame. He wasn't shocked or burned, because he was wearing the correct PPE. But a large portion of his screwdriver blade vaporized. Training in the proper procedures is essential, which is one reason many firms simply outsource their lift truck maintenance to specialty shops (net cost savings is another).

    Battery storage, transportation, and disposal each bring requirements that you may not have considered. Ask your battery vendor or a lift truck maintenance service for advice.

    Carhartt's Flame-Resistant Twill Shirt
    Carhartt's flame-resistant twill shirts are available in khaki, medium blue and dark navy. This shirt has an ATPV of 8.2 and meets hazard risk category two. Premium construction offers double-stitched shoulders, and a shaped shirt tail for increased mobility. All Carhartt FR can be home or industrial laundered and is guaranteed to be flame-resistant for the life of the garment.

    NEC at the Facility
    Electricians regularly engaged in construction tend to be well-versed in Art. 310 -- not confused by its many nuances. The opposite tends to be true of facility maintenance electricians or plant engineers performing the infrequent new wiring job. Some tips will help you avoid confusion:
    • If you run parallel conductors, think of them as "clones." If the conductors differ in size, insulation, terminations, or length, you are doing the job incorrectly [310.4].
    • Don't run THHN for everything, just because you have THHN in your storeroom. This may not be the proper insulation for the application. Follow the requirements of 310.7 through 310.10, and 310.13.
    • Where more than one ampacity could apply to a circuit, use the lowest value. See the FPN in 310.35(2) for the one exception to this requirement.
    • Remember that the terminations limit the conductor temperature rating you can use. If you are using a 90°C conductor with a 60°C termination, you must consider Tables 310.16 through 310.20.

    OSHA and the Manager in Maintenance
    The typical plant has a safety director onsite. This leads to the common misconception that safety plan enforcement is the duty of that person, not the individual managers.

    Company executives are responsible for ensuring the company's safety plan includes an enforcement component. Enforcement procedures typically range from progressive discipline for minor infractions to termination for willful violations. And, yes, OSHA does track willful violations.

    While it may be tempting to overlook safety violations, doing so can create legal problems in addition to creating an unsafe work environment. It can also cost you your job. If you have concerns about properly disciplining and documenting safety violations, ask your HR manager for assistance.

    Quiz Answers
    Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    Just because a battery is fairly new doesn't mean it's in good condition. A full discharge does permanent damage. What's the discharge/recharge history on that battery? Or do you track battery charging cycles? Here are some other questions to ask:

    • Is the new battery the right size and model for that truck (it may be replacing an incorrectly specified battery)?
    • What is the condition of the battery; how long does it hold a charge?
    • Is that truck the right size and configuration for the work being done?
    • Is the operator frequently cycling the truck on and off, thus heating up the motor unnecessarily?
    • What's the condition of the drive train?

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    Copyright 2006, Prism Business Media. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, re-disseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Prism Business Media.