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August 10, 2007 A Penton Media Publication Vol. III No. 15

Don't Play the Blame Game

Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

Repair Logs

NEC in the Facility

Safety Rules

Mitigating Harmonics in Commercial Environments

EC&M Code Change Conferences

EC&M University

Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz

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  • Troubleshooting techniques
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    Don't Play the Blame Game
    Do you suffer through an ongoing blame game between maintenance and other departments, or do you enjoy the privilege of working with people that don't play this game? Either way, the same strategy for ending blame game behavior prevents it from ever getting started.

    People who play the blame game often ask accusatory questions. Whose fault is it that Line 3 went down and delayed a critical shipment? Who is making us miss our numbers?

    Non-blamers ask an entirely different set of questions. What must we do to prevent another overtemperature on Line 3? What can we do to reduce scrap on Line 2? The emphasis is on "we" and on solving specific problems. Maintenance is an ally, not a target or scapegoat.

    Customers don't care who gets blamed for a problem in your company. They want quality goods that are delivered on time -- that's what they paid to get. So, what should you care about?

    You can stop the blame game by motivating others to support the maintenance effort. You don't have to wait for senior management to introduce a new program of the month or to conduct a cheerleading session.

    Start by being objective. For our purposes, this means:

    • Identify clear objectives (desired outcomes), based on what your internal customers need to get product out the door.
    • State your objectives clearly and often.
    • Focus your work on these objectives.
    • Be rational and fact-driven (objective), rather than emotional and defensive (subjective).
    When you are objective in these ways, others will support the maintenance effort. They see that you share objectives, and that they help themselves by helping you. Occasionally, you should remind them of this -- objectively, of course.

    This approach converts maintenance blamers into champions of maintenance proposals and spending requests. Your new problem will be one prioritizing the demands of your maintenance supporters -- a nice problem to have.

    The following tools will help get you started:

    • Repair logs. These should include failure analysis and summary. Stay factual (objective) and focused on the problem. Language like "operator error" is counterproductive, because you're "blaming" rather than "finding."
    • Graphical representation. Track downtime causes in a spreadsheet or in your CMMS. Record downtime by type, then graph the top five downtime causes. Sort by some important factor (e.g., revenue lost) so everyone can clearly see what needs attention.
    • Solid recommendations. Base recommendations on manufacturer's information, technical standards, and industry practices (all objective sources). Ask managers of affected departments to point out what you may have overlooked due to not having their perspective and experience.

    Save on Registration for InfraMation
    Register by September 30th for InfraMation, the world's largest infrared camera applications conference, and receive 1 free hotel night and a free guest pass. Hosted by FLIR, InfraMation will happen on October 15-19, 2007 in Las Vegas. InfraMation features sessions on condition monitoring and predictive and preventive maintenance, as well as clinics on electrical applications. Visit, or call 1-800-254-0632

    Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    You're the chief electrician at a pickle plant, where the Line 3 conveyor seems to fail as regular as clockwork. After examining the repair logs, you see this is no exaggeration. The failures -- a motor overload trip or a failed bearing in the gearbox -- consistently happen shortly after the start of the second shift.

    From this limited information, can you determine a likely cause? What should you do next?

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

    Repair Logs
    How many times have you done the same repair on the same equipment? Above, we talked about using repair logs to show others why equipment fails as part of getting people behind the maintenance effort. However, you should also use these logs to analyze equipment history for patterns, because doing so reduces total repair time.

    The following are two examples. The first is an example of failure frequency, while the second is an example of dominant failure mode.

    • Example 1. The main drive motor on Extruder Four failed due to voltage imbalance four times in the past six months.
    • Example 2. Of the last 10 failures on Conveyor 3 so far this year, seven were due to excessive loading.
    Always document the apparent cause of any failure before repairing it. This may not be the actual cause, but eventually a pattern will emerge. Where the equipment is critical or repairs are costly, conduct a post failure analysis to determine the actual cause so you can prevent recurrence.

    NEC in the Facility
    When terminating a grounded conductor in a panel, use only one conductor per terminal [408.41]. Yes, multiple conductors can fit onto one terminal. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean they should.

    Each terminal screw can generate sufficient clamping force for a single termination lug. Exceeding this limit produces an unreliable connection. Rather than build in failure, follow 408.41 to build in reliability.

    Some terminals are rated for more than one conductor, but use them only for parallel conductors.

    Safety Rules
    As kids, we are taught that it's better to listen than to talk. That's generally good advice, but it doesn't always apply to safety. For example:

    • Ask if in doubt. If something in a work procedure isn't clear to you, don't guess. Ask someone who is authoritative. Seek a correct answer, not an excuse for unsafe behavior.
    • Report problems promptly. Report unsafe conditions to the proper authority, without delay. This helps protect everyone. An unreported safety hazard is unlikely to be fixed and recurrences are unlikely to be prevented.

    Show & Events
    Mitigating Harmonics in Commercial Environments
    This free live conference will be presented by John DeDad, EC&M magazine, on August 16th at 10 a.m. Eastern and Pacific times, in the EC&M e-Tradeshow. To gain access to the event, go to, sign in or register as an attendee, and follow the signs to the presentation room. And be sure to take a look at the On-Demand Theater, where you can view past online conferences 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

    EC&M Code Change Conferences
    Where do you turn when you need accurate information on changes to the National Electrical Code? Acknowledged as the leaders in providing information on the NEC, EC&M magazine and EC&M Seminars have been the preferred sources of this information for more than 60 years. Seven Code change conferences have been scheduled in the fall of 2007. Host cities include: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Orlando, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Seattle.

    As an approved provider with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), through its Registered Continuing Education provider Program (RCEPP), professional engineers attending any of our 2008 Code change conferences will receive Professional Development Hours (PDHs), a requirement for re-licensing in many states. The conferences are also approved by every state that has a continuing education requirement for contractors and electricians.

    For additional information on the dates and locations of these events, click here.

    EC&M University
    Produced by the editors of EC&M magazine

    October 29-31, 2007 * Hilton Anatole* Dallas

    A new series of concentrated classes that provide time-efficient, quality education in a university-style operation featuring an elite group of instructors who represent the finest minds in the electrical industry as well as collegiate-level lecturers. EC&M University offers three days of concentrated, hands-on learning in one convenient location. Designed to meet the needs of Electrical Contractors, Electrical Engineers, Plant/Facility Managers and Consulting Engineers -- professionals who are either in business for themselves, employed by an organization, or acting as independent consultants. In-depth tracks include Grounding & Bonding, Power Distribution, Test & Measurement, Power Quality, Lighting and Control, plus a National Electrical Code (NEC®) Change seminar by renowned authority Mike Holt. Register by October 5 and save up to $225.
    Platinum Sponsor: GE
    Bronze Sponsor: AEMC Instruments

    Quiz Answer
    Answer to Electrical Troubleshooting Quiz
    Repair logs don't need to be extensive to be useful, as long as they are clear and factual. In this case, you have enough information to identify a likely cause.

    These failures only happen on the second shift. The fact that they happen at the start of the shift indicates that operator does something differently at the start of the shift.

    For instance, perhaps the operator is energetic at the start of the shift and wants to speed things along to make better numbers. So instead of sliding the crates of finished pickle jars onto the conveyor, he throws them on there. The momentary pressure jolt overloads the conveyor.

    Although this could be a power quality problem, it probably will only appear to be a power quality problem. Discretely observe the operator, and you'll know. You can use a power analyzer to document the pressure shocks -- they will show up as current spikes on the motor supply.

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