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January 11, 2007 A Prism Business Media Publication Vol. III No. 1

Starting Off the New Year

Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

Maximizing Repair Efforts

NEC at the Facility

Promoting Accident Prevention Pays Off

It's Time to Hit the Beach

Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

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MRO Insider addresses topics such as:

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  • Troubleshooting techniques
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    Starting Off the New Year
    The trend for some time has been "do more with less." If you escaped that with your 2007 budget, count yourself lucky. But don't assume that will remain the case all year. You need to plan now for cuts to your existing budget.

    It's a tradition to make New Year's resolutions. You undoubtedly know people who have made the same resolution several times. Why are they making a resolution they failed to keep before? The most common reason is not having a plan.

    Simply wanting to accomplish something isn't enough. You need to figure out what steps will get you there and what it takes to accomplish those steps. The maintenance function is no exception.

    Here's an assignment for making 2007 better than 2006. Review your top 10 failures (in revenue lost) of last year. Try to determine the root cause and contributing factors of failure for each one. What steps are you taking this year to solve those failure causes? Figure those out, and make them happen.

    To ensure those steps actually happen, take a tip from the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) and apply the SMART approach. For every step you come up with, make sure it's "Specific, Attainable, Measurable, Reasonable, and Time-Bound." That last one is especially important. If you don't put due dates on things, people tend not to do them (no due date = no do).

    Raindance with AutomationDirect

    live and pre-recorded seminars cover a variety of products. Webinar topics scheduled for January include C-more Touch Panels and Ethernet Communications. Pre-recorded topics currently available are: AC Drives, C-more Operator Interface, DataLynx remote data collection, DataNet OPC, DataWorx Software, DirectSOFT, Ethernet, Motion Control, and Selecting PLCs. View the subject list and live Webinar schedule at

    Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    Over the past few years, your production equipment has been increasingly networked. Now the CEO can see actual production with just a few mouse clicks. Even selected customers can track production and plan their production around delivery of the components your company manufactures for them -- that is, when things work right. Which doesn't seem to happen too often these days.

    Let's say you are in the Midwest, and this functionality is what is keeping your plant open. You are very concerned now because over the past few weeks, there have been several instances of blown circuit boards, lost data, network switch malfunction, and even a UPS shutdown on the network server. A couple of your network component vendors have sent out field techs, and all of the network equipment checks out just fine. What is going on?

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

    Maximizing Repair Efforts
    If you reduce repair time, you reduce downtime. But don't think of repair time reduction as "making people work faster." The reality is that people have their own natural pace, and exceeding it results in errors that would not otherwise occur. So simply speeding up is not a winning strategy.

    The good news is there are some winning strategies. For each of your most common or most expensive repairs, how many of the following can you employ?

    • Use the latest techniques. How you perform a repair can save far more time than how fast you perform it. Ask manufacturers about training classes.
    • Use the correct test equipment. Spending more on one DMM or insulation resistance tester than another may not seem like a way to save money. But if one specific feature cuts 15 minutes of critical downtime, the entire purchase is essentially free.
    • Practice kitting. Which five repairs incurred the most lost revenue last year? How much of that downtime involved walking back and forth for parts, test equipment, and tools? Think about how much time you can save if you have standard kits for those particular repairs or that particular equipment. A tech merely needs to open the kit and everything is right there. Justify the purchase based on the revenue saved per minute of downtime eliminated. Be sure to update your PM system to provide for maintaining these kits (for example, changing batteries in a dedicated DMM -- and using the old ones elsewhere).
    • Resolve housekeeping issues. If you have to move carts, personal heaters, waste bins, and other items out of the way so you can repair critical equipment, the time consumed by such activity extends the time needed for repair. Work with the operators to devise solutions that keep those things out of the way. Simply mandating "it can't be there" is usually futile.

    NEC at the Facility
    Do you have round boxes in your facility? If you are using them with EMT or any other raceway that requires locknuts (or bushings), you have an NEC violation. As per Sec. 314.2 of the 2005 NEC, "Round boxes shall not be used where conduits or connectors requiring the use locknuts or bushings are to be connected to the side of the box."

    Promoting Accident Prevention Pays Off
    Daily safety talks have long been a common occurrence on construction sites. In facilities, they tend to be conspicuously absent. Simply having a short safety meeting with each crew on a daily basis raises the awareness of safety. This alone can prevent injury, even if that safety talk isn't very good. Make the safety talk good, and injury prevention is even better. Three important contributors are:
    • Behavioral focus. Most industrial injuries happen because of unsafe acts. Focus on behaviors, and you reduce the number of injuries.
    • Specificity. The more specific, the better. Rather than say, "Practice good ladder safety," say, "Don't stand on the top rung of a step ladder."
    • Interactivity. People pay attention better when they are participating, rather than just listening to someone else.

    Show & Events
    It's Time to Hit the Beach
    If it's your job to make sure all systems are "go," you need to go to Electric West. This show and conference offers the right information and product mix to meet all of your information needs. Do you maintain and operate electrical systems in a facility? If so, you have to make plans to attend the Electric West conference program in Long Beach, Calif. Check out this event's 40+ seminars in the areas of power quality, safety, Code changes, and industrial applications, and make plans to meet 200+ leading suppliers. Or register now.

    Quiz Answers
    Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    Let's see. It's now January, and you've had cold, dry weather for a while. This means greater generation of static electricity along with higher soil resistivity.

    It's an almost sure bet that the communications network is on one "grounding system," and the equipment it connects to is on another. That is, the communications cabling is bonded to a ground rod that isn't bonded to the main grounding conductor per 800.100. Don't let the NEC's use of "grounding" where it means "bonding" confuse you.

    With the drier conditions, the problems that have always been there are finally causing equipment to fail. Walk down your communications system to ensure there's not a difference of potential between the cabling and the equipment to which that cabling connects. Once that step is completed, you can look for other possible causes. Most likely, you won't need to.

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