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September 7, 2006 A Prism Business Media Publication Vol. II No. 17

Huge Drop Off in Planned Maintenance Blamed on Auto Industry

Maintaining Batteries, Part Two

Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

Replacing Weak Battery Strings

NEC at the Facility

The Practical Implications of OSHA 1926.441

EC&M E-Tradeshow Webinars


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MRO Insider addresses topics such as:

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  • 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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    Project Watch
    Huge Drop Off in Planned Maintenance Blamed on Auto Industry
    Overall planned expenditures on maintenance work for the fourth quarter of 2006 were down 25% compared to 2005. In the same quarter last year, approximately 80 maintenance projects worth $236 million were planned in the U.S. industrial manufacturing industry, according to marketing information resources company Industrial Information Resources (IIR). Although more maintenance projects are planned for the fourth quarter of this year (almost 100), overall spending has dropped to $175 million.

    "This decline in maintenance spending for the winter of 2006 can be laid squarely at the feet of the flailing American automotive industry," says IIR. "The American automakers and their suppliers ... are toning down the spending associated with these maintenance programs by performing only what is truly necessary to keep their respective plants operational."

    It's interesting to note that the foreign automotive assembly companies and their suppliers are not showing this same restraint. This group continues to spend whatever is needed as it has in the past.

    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 sends email messages to multiple addresses based on alarms, changing tag values, periodic events, or even particular screen changes.
    C-more...learn more at

    Maintaining Batteries, Part Two
    Knowledge is power, but what happens if the power goes out? For information systems and other critical processes, the answer usually depends on the maintenance program for stationary batteries.

    Maintenance for stationary batteries shares some requirements with that of lift truck batteries (covered in the previous issue). For example, electrolyte levels are critical, and technicians need proper training on specific procedures.

    But there are significant differences in purposes, operating environments, and loads. But most importantly, the consequences of maintenance failures are far greater for stationary batteries.

    You may be able to schedule around losing an hour of lift truck use due to a battery failure -- thus minimizing the economic impact to nearly nothing. But lose the load in a credit card processing facility, and you may be looking at millions of dollars in losses.

    To ensure your stationary battery maintenance program doesn't set you up for failure, you must evaluate your program and fix the deficiencies. To do it right, you must divide the job up into discrete areas of concern. Then, focus on each area so you can address it thoroughly. A haphazard approach will leave you vulnerable.

    A consulting engineer who works in a given area of specialty can help you identify the weaknesses and how to fix them. Begin with these:

  • Battery monitoring. Understand what to do with the information the monitor provides.
  • Battery inspections. If you don't know how to read jar sediment, hire someone who does.
  • Post and connector maintenance. If your maintenance team can't list five post and connector items to inspect regularly, consider outsourcing your battery maintenance.
  • Venting equipment. Company executives like to talk about "exploding sales." They don't like to talk about exploding battery rooms.

    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 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.

    Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    You've discovered that some battery strings take much longer to recharge than others after a discharge. All of the batteries are:
    • The same model, size, and age.
    • Charged at the same rate.
    • Equally maintained.
    Why would this difference exist, and what are the implications?

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

    Replacing Weak Battery Strings
    Because stationary batteries are expensive, some owners have a "replace upon failure" policy. This policy saves money at great cost -- the labor cost of replacing individual jars is far greater than that of replacing an entire weak string.

    Yes, if you have a single jar that is cracked or is far weaker than the other jars in the string, it makes sense to replace that one jar. But normally, every jar in the string has undergone the same problems and you save money (not to mention potential downtime) by replacing the entire string. If you're unsure, have an expert look at the following and then give you recommendations:

    • Internal resistance measurement history.
    • Discharge history.
    • Load test history.
    • Plate color, deposits, and other items that reveal the health of individual jars.
    A safe and cost-effective battery string change requires good planning. You're going to be disconnecting a great deal of hardware. As part of your planning, note which hardware you should replace while the system is down anyhow. Don't forget the support infrastructure, such as fire protection systems and ventilation equipment.

    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.

    NEC at the Facility
    How can you navigate those seemingly confusing tables 310.16 through 210.20? This is much simpler than it looks at first glance. You have only two conductor materials to consider: aluminum and copper. Thus, the real differences are in the applied voltage, installation, and insulation.

    Find the 310.16-310.20 table(s) that:

    1. Match the voltage level of the application. The header text just above the table gives the voltage.
    2. Match the number of conductors and description of installation. This information follows the voltage in the header text.
    3. Include the conductor insulation type that matches that of the conductor you are using. This information is in the heading row of each table, and normally you will use the information in the 90°F column of that heading row.
    Once you find the correct 310.16 -- 310.20 table, you must select the correct column. Normally, this is the 90°F column (see 310.15 for details). Find the ampacity for the size conductor you are using, then apply the correction factors that appear in the bottom of the table.

    The Practical Implications of OSHA 1926.441
    If you've seen photos of stationary battery rooms after an explosion, as shown in the photo (left), you have an idea of just how dangerous stationary battery storage is. OSHA also recognizes this, requiring:
    1. Good ventilation for the room, so gases don't accumulate.
    2. A means of preventing the escape of gases into other areas.

    Replacement Carbon Brushes
    Repco supplies OEM and its own brand of replacement carbon brushes for all industrial motors and generators. Common applications for these integral and fractional horsepower brushes are process mills, power plants and general industrial. Large inventory and application help.

    Show & Events
    EC&M E-Tradeshow Webinars
    The EC&M E-Tradeshow will feature three FREE webinars on September 20.
    • "Ten Trends That Will Shape the Electrical Market," presented by Jim Lucy, chief editor of Electrical Wholesaling magazine. Learn the latest trends in the distribution market and how they can affect your business and the bottom line.
    • "Power Cable Basics," presented by John DeDad, senior director, editorial and EC&M development. Learn why an MV power cable is a complex and sophisticated product requiring careful testing and handling. Find out how the current-carrying conductor, laminated dielectric, MV insulation, semiconductive shield, metallic shield, and outer jacket work together to control electrical stress and provide mechanical protection. Also, learn about hi-potential and dissipation factor testing.
    • "Hioki 3196 Quickstart Training," a hands-on webinar by PowerCET, will show you how to use the VIEW screen (waveform, vector and DMM displays) to rapidly identify real-time power quality problems and the AUTO SETUP for quick monitor installation. You'll also learn how to create custom setups to capture more meaningful data, identify power quality problems using the 3196's simultaneous capture of power quality and energy data, and use Hioki PC-based software with a compact flash card reader to transfer stored data and perform additional analysis.
    Please e-mail your webinar attendance notice to John DeDad.

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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.