EC wanting Square D to come set up the switchgeer

masterinbama

Senior Member
So you pay to commission the pumps, chillers and other HVAC equipment but not the one link in the chain that actually needs the attention of factory trained personnel?

I would as I said before place the gear where it belonged and pipe and wire everything from the gear out. Anything requiring adjustment, testing, torquing etc would be the responsibility of the person that supplied the gear. If you wanted me to be responsible the cost plus P & O to have Square D authorized factory technicians to come to the site would be extra.
 
I don't know about there but here most installing electricians will not have the training of an EE to do the coordination studies or have the expertise to commission electrical gear, while a few high end shops might have EE's on staff that can preform these task it is not common for them to take on the responsibility and the liability of these types of jobs as when something goes wrong it can be very costly, around here it is common that the design engineer of the electrical system is the one who commissions the switch gear and does the coordination studies, if not then it is usually out sourced to other EE's for a price, even down to turning the dials on the breakers.

It's all about the liability chain.
There is a liability/responsibility chain. The EE of record on our projects does the coordination studies and specifies the necessary settings. I would be really surprised to find a contractor on a job of this size and type that does not have an in-house EE though I wouldn't expect him to be on site on a regular basis or even ever in most cases. But I would expect that he exists and probably answers questions for the electricians in the field doing the work if they have them. He may go back to the EE that designed the job if he want's clarification or to discuss a deviation from the original design or the contractor may do that directly. As for commissioning switchgear, I've just not ever seen the manufacturer have anything to do with it unless there's a problem with it, regardless of who provided it. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Just haven't seen it on our jobs. It is ALWAYS the contractor's responsibility to get permits and get inspections done and that is made clear in the project specs. We, or our hired EE, are always ready to assist with those things, especially permits which may require some information or drawings from us, but the local contractor's relationship with local authorities is part of the value he brings to the project. He knows that the AHJ in Backwater, LA won't allow this exception of that one even though the code allows it. He knows how far in advance they need to be notified of the need for an inspection or whether they will work with you to schedule one at the last minute to meet project conditions and how to get that from them.

On some jobs, we provide only the electrical requirements of each piece of equipment to the EC and they do the rest of the design based on that. I assume that they have an EE either on staff or on call if they need one. It may depend on the location and scope of the project. They can pick the conduit sizes, wire sizes, breaker ratings and type etc. This particular project was large enough that the owner wanted an independent EE to do the design or maybe the contractor just declined to do it. I wasn't there for that discussion. On this project the owner chose to purchase the main switchgear directly but actually made the purchase through us. We can get better pricing than most end user/owners because we do projects all over the country and around the world and purchase a lot of large equipment. We don't make much on "standard" items like switchgear. That's in quotes because switchgear isn't as standard as say, NEMA 3R safety disconnects. But we basically pass our purchasing power through to the owner and just make enough to cover our cost to process the order. That's not true for all equipment we supply, but it is generally true for some items. We have national agreements with some of our customers that specify the markup we can apply to equipment we supply. If there is a problem with the equipment, be it switchgear or a pump, we expect the manufacturer to either take care of it or pay to have it taken care of and we don't go back to manufacturers that give us poor service in that regard. The upside for the ones we do go back to is that we do go back to them, over and over. That doesn't mean we don't fix anything. I fix tons of things on site. Our focus is to get the system in operation as efficiently as possible because our customer is investing money in the project and can't get a return until they start shipping widgets. And they usually have a commitment to their customer to start shipping widgets by a certain date. The carrying cost of that investment is part of the decision to do the project and delays increase that cost. It's part of our job to minimize delays.

We don't put the manufacturers we buy from through a torturous submittal/approval process. We tell them what we need, functionally, and may also specifiy certain features or options that we want and then expect them to meet those requirements if they accept the order. But unlike publicly bid commercial construction projects, we don't expect manufacturer A to meet a spec that can only really be met by manufacturer B. We understand that A and B both make and sell a certain class of product but there are differences and we don't ask A to build B's product. We buy function, performance, reliability and service after the sale. And price, of course, always matters.

The meets the spec/doesn't meet the spec dance is a game that permeates the commercial construction business. I've been on the manufacturers side of it and know the process well. Manufacture's and their reps spend a lot of effort and resources on getting engineers to specify equipment in a way that favors their particular brand. Then contractors submit an alternative product that doesn't really meet the spec because they use this type of bearing instead of that type or something and on and on it goes. We skip all that. We want a pump that does this flow at this head. We want a chiller that does this tonnage at these conditions. That doesn't mean any manufacturer is eligible. We've tried and dropped many equipment manufacturers over the years based on product performance and reliability and support.

Electrical gear is, in general, a lot less subject to that kind of shenanigans. There are add on features for some products, especially today as more and more plant equipment gets tied into plant-wide networks for monitoring and management purposes, but so far the use of that type of feature isn't common in the plant's were we typically work. It's coming. A lot of the other equipment is connected to plant networks but, so far, not electrical gear. It's not at all uncommon for a client to tell us that they only want Trane chillers or Bell & Gossett pumps or Gardner Denver compressors. I don't think any client has ever said they only want GE circuit breakers or only Siemens disconnects. Allen Bradley is a notable exception when it comes to equipment controls and especially PLC's. Many manufacturers allow only Allen Bradley for those but that's another story. We're only involved in the electrical design and installation because virtually every piece of equipment going into the project is electric. Sometimes it's just a single power connection with clearly specified MCA and OCP requirements and sometimes it's a complex array of equipment with lots of interconnecting controls and power connections. We are not electrical engineers but we know what information is required about the equipment in order for an engineer to design the supporting electrical installation.

I really don't know exactly why the decision was made on this project to supply the swtichgear. We DON'T do that more often than we do do it. But I am sure that it was driven by the owner and the owner is paying for all of it so it's his choice to make. Maybe the contractor got a horrible price on the gear or couldn't get an acceptable delivery commitment and we were asked to shop it. We will do that if the owner wants us to. If the contractor doesn't wan to do the job under those circumstances, he always has the option to bow out or decline to bid in the first place.
 

hardworkingstiff

Senior Member
Location
Wilmington, NC
So you pay to commission the pumps, chillers and other HVAC equipment but not the one link in the chain that actually needs the attention of factory trained personnel?

I would as I said before place the gear where it belonged and pipe and wire everything from the gear out. Anything requiring adjustment, testing, torquing etc would be the responsibility of the person that supplied the gear. If you wanted me to be responsible the cost plus P & O to have Square D authorized factory technicians to come to the site would be extra.
I would feel the same way, but if I understand this correctly, the specs made the EC responsible. Whether or not they were clear may be up for debate, but I've not read them so I really don't know.
 

hardworkingstiff

Senior Member
Location
Wilmington, NC
Let's see, the owner saved money by buying the gear, the consulting firm sold the gear and just made enough money to cover their costs (an option that was taken away from the EC), and everyone wants the EC to make an adjustment on gear the EC did not supply which in effect will put the EC's head on the chopping block 1st if something goes wrong.

Gee, I really don't understand why the EC doesn't want to make any adjustments. I guess I'm just ignorant.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
I am trying to get my head around the back and forth. Is the EC just being asked to go out, access the trip dials on the face of the breakers and set the arrows to a position that is being specifically designated by the specifying Engineer? No testing, no verifying, no coordination testing etc.? I have to say that, if the information was not made available to me at the time of installation, I might fight for a change order to go back out there and remove covers, but why wouldn't you just do the adjusting? We do similar actions all day every day.

OTOH, there is something about the whole approach of the OP, that makes me want to ask what the name of his Engineering firm is, so that I can remember to avoid bidding his projects. I suspect a much larger story here.
 

brian john

Senior Member
Location
Leesburg, VA
I am trying to get my head around the back and forth. Is the EC just being asked to go out, access the trip dials on the face of the breakers and set the arrows to a position that is being specifically designated by the specifying Engineer? No testing, no verifying, no coordination testing etc.? I have to say that, if the information was not made available to me at the time of installation, I might fight for a change order to go back out there and remove covers, but why wouldn't you just do the adjusting? We do similar actions all day every day.

OTOH, there is something about the whole approach of the OP, that makes me want to ask what the name of his Engineering firm is, so that I can remember to avoid bidding his projects. I suspect a much larger story here.
Seems someone dropped the ball somewhere. In this area a pumping station is not brought on line that has
not be thoroughly tested.

What I would do to avoid hassles if there is no testing involved is get the coordination study and set the CB's. Simple, easy and job done.

Coordination study reviewed, circuit breaker set per the coordination study,
Motors, feeders, switchboard, ATS and generators all tested per job
specifications and most likely NETA as this is the commonly referenced
specification.
 

Smart $

Esteemed Member
Location
Ohio
About half a day to a day of travel. The EC is local to the project. We are in another state. Don't know where Square D would come from but they would likely charge some standard travel cost and per diem fee for time on site. At least that is how other major component manufacturers generally do it.
Let's see here... You say commissioning is EC's resposibility. EC is not contesting, only stating uncertainty in commissioning. The EC is requesting factory tech to do or assist in commissioning. Request for factory tech typically comes from purchasing entity (your organization). Monetary compensation is likely to be imposed by manufacturer to comply with request. Have you even asked the EC if they are willing to cover that cost?

Seems to me you are wasting a lot of time and effort to vent rather than taking remedial action.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Let's see here... You say commissioning is EC's resposibility. EC is not contesting, only stating uncertainty in commissioning. The EC is requesting factory tech to do or assist in commissioning. Request for factory tech typically comes from purchasing entity (your organization). Monetary compensation is likely to be imposed by manufacturer to comply with request. Have you even asked the EC if they are willing to cover that cost?

Seems to me you are wasting a lot of time and effort to vent rather than taking remedial action.
I just reread the original post. He doesn't say commisioning is the EC's responsibility. In fact he states that all he has to do is set the breakers, as far as he knows. That is why I am confused by a lot of the posting.
 

masterinbama

Senior Member
I just reread the original post. He doesn't say commisioning is the EC's responsibility. In fact he states that all he has to do is set the breakers, as far as he knows. That is why I am confused by a lot of the posting.

That's what makes me think there's more to it than that. If it's a matter of turning the settings on a dozen breakers why doesn't he and the engineer handle it? After all he did say it wouldn't take that much time.
 
So you pay to commission the pumps, chillers and other HVAC equipment but not the one link in the chain that actually needs the attention of factory trained personnel?

I would as I said before place the gear where it belonged and pipe and wire everything from the gear out. Anything requiring adjustment, testing, torquing etc would be the responsibility of the person that supplied the gear. If you wanted me to be responsible the cost plus P & O to have Square D authorized factory technicians to come to the site would be extra.
We would certainly listen to that. I'll let ya'll know what Square D says. I know they have commissioning service available but don't know what percentage of their equipment gets their service. That's really what I'm asking. How common is it to get factory commissioning on switchgear of this size (maybe 2000 amp main)? I don't think I've ever seen it and that includes jobs where the EC supplies the gear. But I've only been on site to see the switchgear energized for the first time a handful of times. That's usually been done before I show up since I generally need power for what I do. But I've been there for it on occasion and don't think I've ever seen factory techs do it. If this gear showed up in pieces and had to be assembled on site (I really don't know whether that's the case or not but it is my impression that that is common), they I expect the EC that installed it to take responsibility for that assembly whether he supplied the gear or not. He doesn't have to agree to it but he does have to take exception to it if he doesn't want to do it.

We pay outside providers to commission equipment primarily to meet warranty requirements, although some items, like a modern large chiller, require pretty specialized knowledge of that particular product and we pay to get that knowledge on site. That type of equipment is rarely shipped ready to turn on because it can't be. Somebody has to prep it and the prep is specific to the brand and model. There may be some independent providers out there that have the knowledge but it isn't common. The same is true for most air compressors we use. The basic machine is simple. The specific requirements for a particular brand and model are sort of proprietary. Air handlers? Nahh. It's a coil, a fan, filters. Not much to it. The custom pump assemblies we provide are custom and I do the commissioning on them almost every time. There are occasional very simple ones that the owner or installing contractor handle, but not many. And I usually have to be there for coordination of the various systems anyway.

We generally expect the electrical contractor to know how to commission any major brand of electrical switchgear. If they don't, I have to question whether they were honest in claiming to be qualified to do the job. If your business is installing electrical switchgear, I expect you to have factory trained people in your employ to commission that gear. Maybe that expectation is skewed by the experience I have had and is not universally justified. I have certainly seen a wide variety of apparent expertise by the electrical contractors on the projects I've been on. I've done project startups in some pretty rough locations. I just got back from a trip to China and just prior to that, a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. Trust me. You would be pretty stunned by some of the electrical work I saw on those jobs. But even here in the US, I've seen a wide range.
 

masterinbama

Senior Member
We would certainly listen to that. I'll let ya'll know what Square D says. I know they have commissioning service available but don't know what percentage of their equipment gets their service. That's really what I'm asking. How common is it to get factory commissioning on switchgear of this size (maybe 2000 amp main)? I don't think I've ever seen it and that includes jobs where the EC supplies the gear. But I've only been on site to see the switchgear energized for the first time a handful of times. That's usually been done before I show up since I generally need power for what I do. But I've been there for it on occasion and don't think I've ever seen factory techs do it. If this gear showed up in pieces and had to be assembled on site (I really don't know whether that's the case or not but it is my impression that that is common), they I expect the EC that installed it to take responsibility for that assembly whether he supplied the gear or not. He doesn't have to agree to it but he does have to take exception to it if he doesn't want to do it.

We pay outside providers to commission equipment primarily to meet warranty requirements, although some items, like a modern large chiller, require pretty specialized knowledge of that particular product and we pay to get that knowledge on site. That type of equipment is rarely shipped ready to turn on because it can't be. Somebody has to prep it and the prep is specific to the brand and model. There may be some independent providers out there that have the knowledge but it isn't common. The same is true for most air compressors we use. The basic machine is simple. The specific requirements for a particular brand and model are sort of proprietary. Air handlers? Nahh. It's a coil, a fan, filters. Not much to it. The custom pump assemblies we provide are custom and I do the commissioning on them almost every time. There are occasional very simple ones that the owner or installing contractor handle, but not many. And I usually have to be there for coordination of the various systems anyway.

We generally expect the electrical contractor to know how to commission any major brand of electrical switchgear. If they don't, I have to question whether they were honest in claiming to be qualified to do the job. If your business is installing electrical switchgear, I expect you to have factory trained people in your employ to commission that gear. Maybe that expectation is skewed by the experience I have had and is not universally justified. I have certainly seen a wide variety of apparent expertise by the electrical contractors on the projects I've been on. I've done project startups in some pretty rough locations. I just got back from a trip to China and just prior to that, a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. Trust me. You would be pretty stunned by some of the electrical work I saw on those jobs. But even here in the US, I've seen a wide range.


2000 amp switchgear requires a high level of knowledge to commission also.

If a chiller fails you don't get chilled water. If a 2000 amp switchgear fails you risk property damage and death.
 
2000 amp switchgear requires a high level of knowledge to commission also.

If a chiller fails you don't get chilled water. If a 2000 amp switchgear fails you risk property damage and death.
I keep asking the same question. Is factory commissioning of switchgear common? Uncommon? Somewhere in between?

I don't disagree with your characterization of the difference between electrical work and mechanical work. I tell people all the time that bad piping puts water on the floor. Bad wiring puts ashes on the floor and smoke in the air.

I'm asking why I shouldn't expect the EC that takes the contract on a job with lots of 480 volt equipment and complex industrial controls to have the knowledge to do it? Is it unusual for him to have that knowledge? Is it uncommon for switch gear to be placed in service without factory commissioning? The answer to the last question is, in my experience, "no". But my experience is limited to a particular niche of a particular category of industrial installations. We do 95% of our work in one industry and have nothing to do with the electrical work outside of that 95%. In the other jobs, we let the owner know the requirements of the equipment we're supplying and they take it from there. That's just the way it has worked out. We'd do more for them if they wanted more, but it's a different market.

The MC doesn't have the knowledge to commission the chiller or an air compressor because the machine is so proprietary and training to do it is not offered to outside contractors. And bad commissioning of a 400 HP 600 psi air compressor can have pretty serious consequences including property damage and death.
Is training for commissioning switch gear available to contractors? Or can many contractors do it just by following the published IO&M? Although there are certainly differences between brands, all switch gear does the same thing and has the same basic adjustments. There may be functions available from one brand or the other that are unique but isn't that limited mostly to optional functions? Short circuit and ground fault protection is basic and part of every installation. Given the correct settings for those functions, do most electrical contractors know how make them and test them?
 

Strathead

Senior Member
We would certainly listen to that. I'll let ya'll know what Square D says. I know they have commissioning service available but don't know what percentage of their equipment gets their service. That's really what I'm asking. How common is it to get factory commissioning on switchgear of this size (maybe 2000 amp main)? I don't think I've ever seen it and that includes jobs where the EC supplies the gear. But I've only been on site to see the switchgear energized for the first time a handful of times. That's usually been done before I show up since I generally need power for what I do. But I've been there for it on occasion and don't think I've ever seen factory techs do it. If this gear showed up in pieces and had to be assembled on site (I really don't know whether that's the case or not but it is my impression that that is common), they I expect the EC that installed it to take responsibility for that assembly whether he supplied the gear or not. He doesn't have to agree to it but he does have to take exception to it if he doesn't want to do it.

We pay outside providers to commission equipment primarily to meet warranty requirements, although some items, like a modern large chiller, require pretty specialized knowledge of that particular product and we pay to get that knowledge on site. That type of equipment is rarely shipped ready to turn on because it can't be. Somebody has to prep it and the prep is specific to the brand and model. There may be some independent providers out there that have the knowledge but it isn't common. The same is true for most air compressors we use. The basic machine is simple. The specific requirements for a particular brand and model are sort of proprietary. Air handlers? Nahh. It's a coil, a fan, filters. Not much to it. The custom pump assemblies we provide are custom and I do the commissioning on them almost every time. There are occasional very simple ones that the owner or installing contractor handle, but not many. And I usually have to be there for coordination of the various systems anyway.

We generally expect the electrical contractor to know how to commission any major brand of electrical switchgear. If they don't, I have to question whether they were honest in claiming to be qualified to do the job. If your business is installing electrical switchgear, I expect you to have factory trained people in your employ to commission that gear. Maybe that expectation is skewed by the experience I have had and is not universally justified. I have certainly seen a wide variety of apparent expertise by the electrical contractors on the projects I've been on. I've done project startups in some pretty rough locations. I just got back from a trip to China and just prior to that, a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. Trust me. You would be pretty stunned by some of the electrical work I saw on those jobs. But even here in the US, I've seen a wide range.
I have seen a couple of allusions to what I am about to say, but not as direct. As I see happening over and over nowadays, it looks like your firm is just trying to find another way to squeeze every dime out of the Contractor's pockets. Square D will come out for about $2,000 per day. I see Engineers charging exorbitant prices for consulting, which I know they don't get in design. Find out how much the manufacturers get when they respond to a technical call. It isn't unusual to see someone like Siemens or Allen Bradley to charge in excess of $120 per hour when they only want to pay us "actual cost plus 15% Profit and overhead" Tell your company they can accomplish their work without taking us to the cleaner, by merely dictating where you can buy the gear from, instead of buying the gear itself. My way is what you do when you are trying to accomplish the goals you stated for your customer. Your way is exclusively to remove the ability to profit from the Electrical Contractor.

Not to say that we (Electrical Contractors) aren't the real idiots here! We should collectively refuse to bid this type of project, or not be stupid enough to take it on without putting the mark up in anyway. Our Bad!


I guess what I am saying is I am kind of all for the Electrical Contractor making it as hard as possible for you, within the legal confines of the Contract, because you get what you pay for, and your company is trying not to pay for what it is getting. I am lucky, I work for a boss who stays away from this type contract.
 
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masterinbama

Senior Member
I have been in the trade for 30 plus years, mostly large commercial and industrial. It has been my experience that start up of larger switchgear is done by factory trained people more often than not.

I have done water treatment plants from 1 MGD to as large as 80MGD and I only remember 1 out of the many that factory people were not on hand for final commissioning and start up of the gear.
 
I keep asking the same question. Is factory commissioning of switchgear common? Uncommon? Somewhere in between?

I don't disagree with your characterization of the difference between electrical work and mechanical work. I tell people all the time that bad piping puts water on the floor. Bad wiring puts ashes on the floor and smoke in the air.

I'm asking why I shouldn't expect the EC that takes the contract on a job with lots of 480 volt equipment and complex industrial controls to have the knowledge to do it? Is it unusual for him to have that knowledge? Is it uncommon for switch gear to be placed in service without factory commissioning? The answer to the last question is, in my experience, "no". But my experience is limited to a particular niche of a particular category of industrial installations. We do 95% of our work in one industry and have nothing to do with the electrical work outside of that 95%. In the other jobs, we let the owner know the requirements of the equipment we're supplying and they take it from there. That's just the way it has worked out. We'd do more for them if they wanted more, but it's a different market.

The MC doesn't have the knowledge to commission the chiller or an air compressor because the machine is so proprietary and training to do it is not offered to outside contractors. And bad commissioning of a 400 HP 600 psi air compressor can have pretty serious consequences including property damage and death.
Is training for commissioning switch gear available to contractors? Or can many contractors do it just by following the published IO&M? Although there are certainly differences between brands, all switch gear does the same thing and has the same basic adjustments. There may be functions available from one brand or the other that are unique but isn't that limited mostly to optional functions? Short circuit and ground fault protection is basic and part of every installation. Given the correct settings for those functions, do most electrical contractors know how make them and test them?
Most large industrial electrical Contractors either have a group that only deals with commissioning switchgear or have a subcontracting arrangement with a specialized firm. The skills required for commissioning are different from your average pipebender/wirepuller so is the corresponding compensation.
 

brian john

Senior Member
Location
Leesburg, VA
I keep asking the same question. Is factory commissioning of switchgear common? Uncommon? Somewhere in between?

I don't disagree with your characterization of the difference between electrical work and mechanical work. I tell people all the time that bad piping puts water on the floor. Bad wiring puts ashes on the floor and smoke in the air.

?
It depends on the gear and the options with the gear.

Plain Jane no bells or whistles NO, A bit more complicated, Main Tie Main, or breaker controls or monitoring, with this it has become the norm. Speaking strictly for my area in this area.

Most manufactures offer it and want you to buy it as part of installation.

As a testing firm we charge 110.00-135.00 an hour straight time, the manufactures are getting 235.00-265.00 an hour straight time.
 
I guess the low bidder got the job?

Does the EC have any experience in this type of work? Did anyone check?
I believe the EC was the owner's choice. They have done a lot of other work in the plant. I don't know if he had the low bid or not. Didn't review the bids myself. I think he was a shoe in unless he was way out and even then would have been given an opportunity to adjust his bid. This isn't a government project. It's a private company spending their own money. They can hire whoever they want using whatever criteria they like. We prepare bid documents, help evaluate the responses and advise the owner based on our extensive previous experience on this type of project. Because we do projects all over the place, we frequently don't have much to go on in terms of evaluating the experience and capability of a contractor since we have not worked with them before. In some locations where we have done many projects, we do know one or more local contractors and do have some favorites.
 
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