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Ask Service Providers 6 Questions to Maintain Onsite Power

The task of selecting a service provider for maintaining always-ready onsite power for mission critical systems should not be treated as an afterthought. In some facilities, the responsibility falls to the building management company or to a long-time service provider not specifically equipped to diagnose and treat today’s complex onsite power systems. For many installations at commercial buildings, going with the status quo is not necessarily the best decision. It might be time for a change. A dedicated electrical equipment service provider could do a better job at maintaining reliable backup power at a facility and diagnosing and repairing problems when they occur. 

Here are six questions to ask all service providers under consideration before signing a new contract.   

1) How many technicians do you have who are qualified to service my equipment?

Make sure the company is adequately staffed. The person who picks up your phone call should not also be the technician who services the call, leaving the next caller to reach voicemail – you don’t want to be that “next caller” when your facility has an emergency.

2) Are your technicians experienced in maintaining and repairing my brand of onsite power equipment?

You are really looking for a resounding “yes” here. Some manufacturers require technicians in their service divisions to undergo an initial mandatory training program as well as several hours of training every year to keep current on the latest technologies and applications, including control and monitoring. Addressing a problem on one manufacturer’s automatic transfer switch may require a different approach than repairing another manufacturer’s switch. Service techs should be familiar with protocol for your brand of equipment. Some manufacturers also require techs to carry certification by the Electrical Generating Systems Association (EGSA), which measures proficiency in the installation, maintenance, and repair of onsite power generation systems and is becoming an industry standard.   

3) How do you support your technicians when they are onsite?

Ideally, a tech responding to a call for emergency service should arrive in a company truck fully stocked with replacement parts, rather than having to order the part from the manufacturer. Logistics for delivery of parts to your facility could delay repairs. Make sure the prospective provider has the capability to support the technician’s needs with parts as well as expertise 24/7.

4) Can you train my staff?

You want a “yes” here, too. If the service provider can give selected staff members a clear understanding of the basic operation of the critical systems, then when a problem arises, before the service tech arrives that staff is less likely to make a mistake that could result in a much larger event.   

5) What type of service agreements do you offer?

Whether your system entails a single automatic transfer switch or multiple transfer switches and engine generators, a service provider should ideally offer a comprehensive preventative maintenance program and emergency repairs around the clock. The service agreement could also offer the opportunity for upgrades and modifications as they become available. In many cases, upgrades can be installed and tested while the full functionality of your emergency power system is maintained. 

6) How do you keep up with the latest technologies in onsite power systems for emergency power?

You will want your service provider to be as informed as possible in this area. Typically, the equipment manufacturer offers a formal system of service alerts or bulletins. Using the manufacturer’s service provider affords the advantage of being the first to know. Beyond that, one increasingly prevalent trend at facilities where uninterrupted power is of paramount importance is the installation of advanced power monitoring and control capabilities that use reporting from a variety of computing devices and can report to remote locations. Best practice features include power quality analytics that, going beyond traditional monitoring, can analyze events that happen over just milliseconds. Will the service provider under consideration have the capability to respond to this?  

Bhavesh S. Patel is director of marketing and customer support at ASCO Power Technologies, reach him at customercare@asco.com.

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