I received a few questions last week about what a well-stocked electrical inventory should look like. And the answer to that will really depend on your facility and the problems you typically encounter. You’ll need to take into consideration the age of your equipment, as well as the scope of your routine maintenance in order to get a better understanding of where you should be with your electrical inventory.
One of the toughest things to figure out is simply, “where do I start?”
And once you build up some steam and start getting quotes and submitting orders it turns into, “when do I stop?”
Inventory management can be a simple systematic approach to supply and demand, or it can become a complex interconnected system of programs using algorithms for predictable variables, capacity, trends, and tracking everything through a barcode system. Obviously, we want the simplest solution possible, but the technology available to us today can make quick work of larger inventories as our businesses or operations scale up.
But since most of us aren’t dealing with millions of items, let’s keep things simple and focus on making this easy.
If you don’t know where to start, consider these steps:
1. What is the make of your electrical system?
More than likely, your electrical system is one manufacturer type, such as Square D, Westinghouse, Siemens, or even a blend of these and others. If you don’t know the manufacturers and models of your equipment, this would be where you’d need to start. After you identify what you have, you will be able to start forming a list of the parts you will need on hand to service them. For instance, if you find that most of your equipment is GE, they will most likely have THQB or THQL type breakers being used in your 120/208V panel boards. In your 277/480V panel boards, they would most likely be the TEY type of breakers.
2. What are the most common type of breakers used in your electrical system?
Once you’ve identified the manufacturer and type of breakers, find the most commonly used ones in your building. Receptacles and lighting will use the same type of breaker, so that breaker is now multipurpose and therefore more important to have spares on hand. Now what about larger equipment like transformers and HVAC equipment? Having the common breaker sizes and types on hand to feeding these more critical pieces of equipment is very important in the event of breaker failure.
3. What are the common type of fuses being used?
You can have main fuses, equipment disconnects with fuses, and panels protected by fuses. Evaluate your system and make sure you identify and purchase the common types of fuses in your system to have as backups.
The whole concept of inventory management is to streamline what you have on your shelves. You shouldn’t have to question where something came from or what it is used for. When you can be certain that you have at least a small supply of the most common things you will need, then you can focus on the abnormal needs of your system. Not to say that you should ignore anything out of the ordinary while you are building your spare parts inventory, because anything can happen at any moment. You should still be aware of the needs of all your equipment, even the older mismatched manufacturer pieces, because while they may be built like tanks and rarely fail, you should at least know what is needed and where to find it.
If you take away anything from this, it is that proper inventory management can greatly minimize downtime and inconvenience to the client, tenant, and yourself. Having the right breakers and fuses on hand will allow you to respond quickly. And as many of you know, sometimes it’s the small things that contribute to keeping the power on and the paying customer happy.
If you still aren’t sure how to start this process, give us a call! We have helped many clients establish strong inventory programs so that they were ready in times when they needed it the most.