Do you remember a Wall Street Journal headline about how much an overloaded bus was costing a company? Or the Times article about advances in transformers? People Magazine’s focus on power distribution engineers? Didn’t think so.
We hear about the Internet all the time. Yet, we hear nothing about the underlying system that supports it. New Zealanders know what it’s like to go without power, but our attitude is: “It can’t happen to us.” Our society seems determined to relegate electrical infrastructure to “don’t see, don’t tell” status.
As webmaster for a half dozen sites, I have a keen appreciation for the Internet. As someone who’s spent many a holiday weekend (in previous employment) working on power distribution systems, I also have a keen appreciation for what it takes for the Internet (and other applications) even to exist. However, this appreciation is not universal. In fact, too many decision-makers ignore the realities of electrical infrastructure. A good example is what occurred at my previous position at a manufacturing facility: A gatekeeper told me I was stupid for requesting a power monitoring system because “there’s a meter at the pole.” Keeping a straight face wasn’t easy!
That tidbit pales beside the stories heard from readers. We’ve also heard some heart-stoppers from contributing authors Scott Falke and Ed Rafter. Our friends in NETA should declare an electrical Halloween day. The March 1998 issue has an unforgettable article by Jean-Pierre Wolffe, with photos that should make your skin crawl. Many of you have shared your frustrations with manufacturers, who’ve shared them with us.
When neglected systems fail, the cry goes out for an instant fix nobody wants to pay for. Yet, prevention and maintenance—real money-savers—are lucky to get lip service. This absurdity does not have to be. We can fix the infrastructure properly, and we can hurdle the barriers to proper design and maintenance—if we rethink our approach. So, how do you convince the decision-makers? First, you must become more Code-literate—so you can identify potential problems in the design, purchase, and build stages—instead of at inspection or acceptance time.
Second, you must become more numbers-oriented—so you can understand and communicate how proposed electrical work affects the bottom line. (If you are reading this issue at Electric West 99, be sure to attend my presentation on getting capital expenditures approved.)
Third, you must be more in tune with your non-technical counterparts—so you can articulate the facts and win their support for your cause. Remember, you’re going to have to convince someone to release the funds and approve the downtime.
Fourth, you’ll need the right test equipment, tools, and components.
Basically, you must educate the gatekeepers and capital request signers about your facility’s electrical infrastructure and what it takes to keep it safe and reliable. The requirements are far greater than these people think. We at EC&M are stepping up our efforts to help you with this.
Sure it’s a difficult process, with no apparent end. But it has to be done. If you think you have it bad, though, just imagine what that overloaded bus is enduring. It’s not easy being energized.