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Electrical Testing
A Love-Hate Relationship with Electrical Testing

A Love-Hate Relationship with Electrical Testing

Take pride in your electrical testing duties and be passionate about your work.

We all hate unscheduled downtime. It saps the life from our factories, refineries, and commercial establishments. Too much of this and those facilities close. People lose their jobs.

We’ve all heard the saying that love conquers all. This is definitely the case when it comes to electrical testing as a means of conquering unscheduled downtime. Do you love what you do? Are you passionate about your electrical testing?

Let us count the ways — three of them, anyhow:

  1. You have the right tools for the job, and you understand there are many jobs to perform. Your tools include an infra-red camera, an insulation tester, a power clamp meter, and a digital multimeter (DMM) with continuous monitoring.
  2. If you work with motors, your DMM also has a variable frequency drive (VFD) filtering feature.
  3. You’ve made a point of learning proper test methods and you’ve spent time learning the standards that apply to the testing you do (including, of course, NFPA 70E).
Love-Hate Relationship

And what about your facility? Here are some signs the management is passionate about testing:

  1. Every piece of equipment undergoes the manufacturer-recommended testing and maintenance at the recommended intervals.
  2. Testing data are compiled and trended, to enable intervention that prevents failure.
  3. The training program includes modules on test techniques and test result analysis, and everyone undergoes this training.

You can think on this for a bit and come up with many more items to add to these lists. You can also think and come up with signs that things need to be taken up a few notches.

Electrical testing can be performed haphazardly. All too often, it is. And unless everyone is totally onboard with it (that is, passionate about it) preventive/predictive testings stops being programmatic and thus stops being effective. Eventually, it stops being done at all.

Here’s what typically happens. Someone in management walks around and notices maintenance people aren’t scrambling around in a panic fixing equipment that’s down. This gets misinterpreted as “free resources available for project work” and suddenly maintenance techs are pulled away from electrical testing (it gets “deferred”) to work on these projects.

It’s funny how the laws of physics aren’t automatically suspended when preventive/predictive electrical testing is deferred. Who woulda thunk?

So now, that marginal cable that could have been replaced during a scheduled shutdown is marked for replacement at the next scheduled shutdown instead. But it doesn’t make it that long. And because the plant saved $500 by having in-house maintenance techs work on some other department’s project, a $1,200/hour production line goes down for 6 hours. Do the math.

The typical response to this typical situation is to blame something, anything really, other than the failure to keep the electrical testing in its rightful place of priority.

Typically, the maintenance people know how this will end but they don’t speak up. There’s a lack of passion about the electrical testing, else they would. Maybe they do speak up, but just don’t think about how to make a compelling case.

It’s not that we lose merit badge points by stretching the manufacturer’s recommended testing interval. Pleading your case that “We’re supposed to do this” or “That’s what industry standard IEEE-1234 recommends” doesn’t motivate managers who think in terms of profit and loss.

Pleading your case in terms of profit and loss does motivate them. Tell them how much profit they stand to lose if there’s a preventable failure you didn’t see coming due to a testing deferral.

Maybe they “let you” follow the recommended intervals but they think you can do the job with outdated or inadequate test equipment. Cost is a the usual reason for the test equipment gap. Do you need all the equipment all the time? The price tag for buying and storing a dozen pieces of test equipment that you use for only three days during the annual shutdown is very different from the price tag for renting it. If some tests aren’t done because of the cost of generators, lights, and lifting equipment, the same solution applies.

If you hate the unscheduled downtime, prevent it with your passion for electrical testing. That’s testing done to the applicable standards, at the recommended intervals, and with the right equipment. Spread the love by giving management compelling numbers based on preventable losses.

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