Industrial Electrical Maintenance Explained

By R.W. Hurst, Editor

Industrial electrical maintenance plays a critical role in ensuring industrial facilities' safety, efficiency, and reliability. By understanding the key components of a maintenance program, such as preventive maintenance, troubleshooting, equipment maintenance, and the role of automation equipment, companies can create a robust maintenance plan that supports their systems' overall performance and longevity. Furthermore, investing in the skills and knowledge of maintenance technicians and adapting to technological advancements are essential to achieving long-term success for industrial electrical maintenance.


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At the core of an industrial electrical maintenance program are various key components that contribute to a facility's overall success and efficiency. These include preventive maintenance, troubleshooting, and equipment maintenance. Preventative maintenance involves regular inspections and servicing of systems to identify and address potential issues before they escalate into significant problems. Electrical troubleshooting involves identifying and fixing power-related issues that may arise during regular operations. Finally, equipment maintenance focuses on the upkeep of components and machinery to ensure optimal performance and reduce downtime.


Industrial facilities rely on various equipment, such as transformers, motors, generators, and power circuit breakers. Each of these components plays a vital role in the facility's operations. For example, transformers help regulate voltage levels to ensure a stable power supply, while motors and generators convert energy into mechanical motion and vice versa. In addition, power circuit breakers protect circuits from overloads and short circuits. Therefore, regular inspection and maintenance of these components are essential for the smooth operation of an industrial facility.

Another critical aspect is using automation equipment, such as variable frequency drives (VFDs) and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). VFDs control the speed of electric motors to optimize energy consumption and reduce wear on mechanical components. At the same time, PLCs serve as the "brain" of automated systems, controlling and monitoring various processes. Therefore, properly maintaining these devices is crucial to ensure the efficient functioning of automated processes in an industrial setting.

The frequency of equipment inspection and maintenance in industrial settings depends on various factors, such as the type of equipment, operating conditions, and manufacturer recommendations. Generally, more frequent inspections are required for high-voltage or high-power equipment, while lower-voltage devices may need less frequent checks. Regular maintenance schedules can help detect potential problems early on and prevent costly breakdowns and downtime.

Common problems in industrial facilities include loose connections, overheating, and wear and tear. By addressing these issues through preventive maintenance, facilities can improve efficiency and safety. Regular electrical maintenance can also help prevent fires, equipment damage, and accidents caused by power system failures.

An industrial electrical maintenance technician should understand principles, industrial equipment, and safety regulations. In addition, they should be skilled in troubleshooting issues and able to work with various tools and equipment. Many technicians also undergo specialized training programs to enhance their knowledge and skills in specific areas, such as PLC programming or VFD maintenance.

Electrical testing and troubleshooting play a crucial role when it comes to industrial electrical maintenance. They help identify issues, assess the condition of equipment, and determine the necessary corrective actions. This process involves using specialized tools and instruments to measure parameters such as voltage, current, and resistance and analyzing the results to detect potential issues or confirm that the equipment is functioning correctly.

Maintenance planning is an essential aspect of optimizing the performance and lifespan of equipment in an industrial environment. It involves developing and implementing a structured maintenance plan outlining equipment upkeep tasks, frequencies, and responsibilities. By adhering to a well-defined maintenance plan, facilities can minimize unexpected equipment failures, reduce downtime, and extend the life of their components.

To maintain a smooth-running operation, it is crucial to invest in regular training programs for maintenance technicians. This allows them to stay up-to-date with technological advancements and safety standards. Moreover, continuous learning can help them enhance their skills and better serve the needs of the industrial facility.

It's essential to remember that industrial electrical maintenance is an ongoing process that requires constant attention and effort. In addition, new equipment and practices must be adopted as technology evolves to stay competitive. Therefore, it's vital for companies to periodically review and update their maintenance strategies and plans to accommodate advancements in technology and industry best practices.


North American Industrial Electrical Maintenance Standards

In North America, standards are developed and enforced to ensure the safe and efficient operation of systems and equipment. These standards provide guidelines for inspection, testing, and maintenance procedures and outline best practices and safety requirements for various industrial components. By adhering to these standards, facilities can minimize hazards, reduce downtime, and enhance the overall performance of their electrical systems.

Two key organizations involved in developing standards in North America are the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The NFPA publishes the NFPA 70E, a standard for safety in the workplace, while the NFPA also publishes the NFPA 70B - Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. IEEE also provides numerous standards related to equipment maintenance.

NFPA 70E - Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace

The NFPA 70E is a widely recognized standard that addresses safety requirements for employees working on or around equipment. This standard covers safe work practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), hazard assessment, and safety program development. In addition, it provides guidelines for minimizing risks associated with hazards like arc flash and electric shock. Adherence to the NFPA 70E is crucial for ensuring the safety of maintenance technicians and other personnel working with industrial systems.


NFPA 70B - Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance

NFPA 70B is a critical standard that complements the NFPA 70E by providing comprehensive guidelines for maintaining equipment in industrial, commercial, and institutional settings. This standard aims to minimize the risk of hazards, equipment failures, and unexpected downtime by outlining best practices for properly maintaining systems and components.


The NFPA 70B covers various aspects of equipment maintenance, including:

  • Maintenance Organization and Planning: This section emphasizes the importance of having a structured maintenance program and outlines guidelines for developing and implementing a maintenance plan that addresses a facility's specific needs and requirements.
  • Inspection and Testing: NFPA 70B provides guidance on the inspection and testing of different types of equipment, such as transformers, circuit breakers, motors, and generators. It outlines recommended test methods, frequencies, and safety precautions during these activities.
  • Preventive and Predictive Maintenance: The standard highlights the significance of preventive and predictive maintenance in prolonging equipment life and reducing the likelihood of failures. It offers recommendations for implementing these maintenance strategies effectively.
  • Equipment-specific Maintenance: NFPA 70B includes detailed guidelines for maintaining various types of equipment, such as switchgear, batteries, grounding systems, and cables. It addresses the specific maintenance requirements, procedures, and safety precautions associated with each type of equipment.
  • Maintenance Documentation and Recordkeeping: The standard emphasizes the importance of maintaining accurate records of equipment maintenance activities, test results, and other relevant information. These records can help identify trends, assess equipment performance, and support decision-making on maintenance activities and equipment replacement.
  • Training and Personnel Safety: NFPA 70B underscores the need for proper training of maintenance personnel in safety procedures, equipment operation, and maintenance techniques. It also highlights the importance of adhering to safety requirements, such as lockout/tagout procedures and using personal protective equipment (PPE).

By adhering to the guidelines outlined in the NFPA 70B, organizations can establish a robust electrical maintenance program that minimizes the risk of hazards and promotes equipment reliability and efficiency. In addition, incorporating these best practices into a facility's maintenance strategy can reduce downtime, prolong equipment life, and improve overall operational performance.