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April 25, 2007 A Penton Media Publication Vol. III No. 8


CONTENTS
The Wrong Stuff

More Specifics

Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

Shorten Repair Times Permanently

NEC at the Facility

Unsafe Confined Entry Assumption

Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz


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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
    The Wrong Stuff
    How do you know if you're not doing the right maintenance? Some ways to determine this include:
    • For each piece of equipment, compare current maintenance practices to the manufacturer's current recommendations. Resolve any differences.
    • Do a year-to-year comparison of the maintenance logs. If the same breakdowns occur on the same equipment, the maintenance probably is being done incorrectly or not often enough.
    • Examine breakdown causes. Are the root causes preventable? Look for things such as lubrication issues, insulation breakdown, corrosion, and loss of connection integrity. None of these has time to cause breakdowns if you're doing the right maintenance at the right time. If these are causes, you have identified some maintenance deficiencies.


    More Specifics
    To perform the right maintenance, you need certain resources, such as:

    • General training. Everyone needs training in areas such as safety, general practices, communication skills, plant systems, and troubleshooting.
    • Equipment-specific training. Don't rely solely on equipment manuals if you want an effective maintenance team. Good vendor training will help you meet your downtime prevention goals.
    • Test equipment and accessories. Money spent on test equipment is almost always well spent. You can delete the word "almost" from your situation by assessing your measurement needs, and then getting the equipment and training to meet those needs. The right accessories can leverage the investment in many different ways, so don't skimp here.
    • Outsourced expertise. For reasons of safety, efficiency, and getting the job done right, outsourcing certain functions is the only logical course. Saving money by doing it yourself isn't cost-effective if the place blows up.

    Unfortunately, none of this is free. Some tips on getting the funding include:

    • Strike when the iron is hot. Suppose Line 3 went down due to something that maintenance training would have prevented. While it's down, ask the Line 3 production manager the cost per hour. This "sweating the numbers moment" is the ideal time to ask that manager about putting the uptime-making training onto the production budget rather than the maintenance budget.
    • Tie the request to an event. This frames it as an uptime issue, not a maintenance issue. For example, suppose you want another handheld power analyzer. Rather than request the funds as though you're buying general maintenance test equipment, approach it from the perspective of preventing another revenue loss (name the amount) that resulted from (name the event).
    • Make it someone else's issue. If three production managers are asking the division vice president to send someone to a weeklong thermography class, it's no longer "maintenance just trying to spend money." If you've identified a resource need, explain to others how they benefit if you have that resource. If they want the benefit, they may feel compelled to make your issue their issue.

    Repair
    Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    The choice "repair or replace" can be misleading. Unfortunately, it often misleads people into "troubleshooting by parts substitution," which is never a good practice. It doesn't address what failed or why. In fact, it's not troubleshooting at all.

    Suppose you find that the motor drive output varies and then conclude this is the cause of the line speed variation. No amount of drive adjustment fixes this. Does this mean the drive is defective? It would seem so. Nevertheless, after you replace the drive and set up the new one, the problem persists.

    Do you now have two bad drives? Maybe, but chances are neither is bad. The entire system (including the drive) may have been out of whack for a reason that has nothing to do with a drive malfunction. How can you find that reason so you can make the variations go away?

    Shorten Repair Times Permanently
    Why do professional football players review their previous games on film? After all, they were there -- how does watching again help? It does so by allowing them to examine what they did right and what they did wrong, and perhaps help them do better next time.

    That same technique can be applied to repairs. This "review and improve" was standard practice in many maintenance departments (like nuclear generating stations) long before the advent of today's inexpensive video cameras. Back then, maintenance departments used the eyes and mind of a work analyst. This person, who typically had an industrial engineering background, would watch the repairs and then identify where and how things could be done more efficiently. However, that person rarely had the electrical background that would allow the best solutions to emerge.

    Football players are the best ones to recommend how to improve their game. Likewise, the people who do the repairs are the best ones to recommend how to improve their game. Consider implementing the video review technique, if you haven't already.


    Operation
    NEC at the Facility
    An installation that complied with the NEC when constructed may later violate it with potentially catastrophic consequences. The installation may not have changed, but something else did. An example of this is protecting conductors and busbars from physical damage in switchboards and panelboards [408.3(1)]. Work performed inside a switchboard or panelboard can easily result in an overlooked loss of mechanical protection. Ensure that it doesn't.

    Unsafe Confined Entry Assumption
    Never assume that a particular requirement on the permit "isn't really necessary." Discuss your opinion with the entry supervisor. If the permit can be re-issued without that requirement, fine. Otherwise, it's necessary.


    Quiz Answers
    Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    As with any control system, the problem is seldom the controller. It's almost always an input or a control element. Start solving this kind of problem by looking at the inputs. For example, is there a pressure sensor related to line speed? Then, simulate a "typical" pressure, and watch the signal at various points in the system.

    Also note that inductive coupling is a common cause of control problems. If a signal wire carrying a millivolt signal runs parallel to 480V wiring, you can get an intermittent "ghost" signal on top of the desired one, which can easily cause line speed variations.


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