As electrical equipment begins to age, and the demand for production continues to require more strain on circuit breakers and distribution panels, it is crucial to develop and follow a rigid preventive maintenance program.
Most production line maintenance personnel understand the window of planned downtime is narrow at best, and upper management does not want to de-energize equipment for inspection, testing, and cleaning. However, from a general safety perspective, it can be dangerous to workers and equipment without a proper plan in place.
Here are three ways to extend the life of your electrical equipment.
- General housekeeping.
This first one should be obvious; only authorized personnel should be allowed in electrical distribution areas. Staff should always keep a clean, clear path around breakers, panels, transformers, and disconnects. There should be no combustible products like paper, trash, blueprints, etc. located in or around any electrical panels. Place a small file cabinet in the corner of larger distribution rooms to store prints and documentation. Finally, remove any flammable liquids or solvents like spray lubrication. Again, designated storage will ensure location and safety.
- Perform weekly walkthrough reviews.
Make a sign-off chart for weekly inspections to be performed by maintenance personnel. Make notes of any strange smells like burning, melting, or any unusual odors that are usually not detected in these areas. After identifying a foreign odor, try to locate its origin and safely address the problem. Since uninterrupted power is a primary goal, consider a thermal image camera to pinpoint any high-heat areas, which can lead to premature power loss. Always document any hot spots detected by thermal imaging, like corrosion or loose connections.
- Follow the manufacturer’s testing suggestions.
All manufacturers suggest periodic testing depending on factors like environment, production demands, etc. It has become an accepted industry practice to perform primary injection testing every 1-2 years, depending on plant specifics. A testing contractor does this testing and calibrates overload protection to the manufacturer’s specifications. In the event of a surge or electrical imbalance, your equipment will protect itself.
By using these three steps in combination with proper inspection, awareness, and planning, you can increase the life of your gear and the safety of your workers as well.