High-profile operators demand new data centers go online on time, ready for 24/7 uptime. Since power is a data center’s lifeblood, electrical-distribution equipment is at the heart of a new-construction schedule. Here are seven questions to ask electrical testers before trusting them with your time line.
“How can you help me ensure delivery dates are met?”
Electrical testing is crucial to ensuring the performance and reliability of a new data center. You’re looking for an independent testing team that owns that responsibility with specific strategies for protecting your schedule. Active data management is one important answer. Ask testers about their strategies for building efficiency in data logging and how they manage syncing correctly with your or your client’s software. They should be able to speak to the following:
- Electronic data capture and on-site data coordination
- Adapting data collection to proprietary systems
“How can you help me stay on schedule and in scope?”
You’re looking not only for the ability to plan but also for the capacity to scale and adapt in order to execute those plans. Stability and financial strength signal a tester is ready to protect the scope of your project with scope of its own. You shouldn’t ignore the cost of scalability. Cost estimates that rely on ideal assumptions can indicate a lack of commitment and a lack of ability to meet needs as they arise. Technical abilities and proven engineering solutions are crucial, but many of your hurdles won’t just require an expert answer. They’ll require a team able to pivot, expand and adapt to implement it.
“How can you help me deliver a facility ready to go online and stay online 24/7 from day one?”
The big picture answer is that service providers can only help you by providing good service, but a service partner will take on the responsibility of making sure you meet yours. The details you want to hear are about the capacity to do just that:
- Deep bench of skilled in-house specialists available to meet needs
- Flexible labor pool
- Managerial capacity to advise and adapt
- Proven project planning, management and on-site supervision
Look for testers who step up to the responsibility of partnership. Will your tester’s point of contact attend crucial meetings to help you avoid communication delays? If issues do arise, can they put together a plan that keeps you on schedule? Most importantly, will they commit to deadlines and demonstrate to you the resources needed to meet those deadlines when pressure increases?
“Do you ensure all subcontractors also meet your accreditation and training standards?”
This one is easy. If the answer isn’t either “yes” or “we handle everything without subcontracting,” move on.
“Can you provide electrical-safety training to my team or my client’s operators if needed?”
At first glance this matter may seem like a value-added service, but compliance and insurance issues put electrical training on the must-have list. An electrical-testing company with its own safety-training program saves you from having to vet another vendor and bringing it up to speed. The testing team can share knowledge with trainers to better target training to the facility.
The availability of safety training can also be a litmus test. A testing company that devotes resources to safety and provides that training for others has put safety at the center of its culture. It’s a good sign the company doesn’t just know the safety rules—it prioritizes getting and keeping everyone on board.
Make sure to ask for training courses specific to your needs, whether for skilled technicians or nonelectrical workers. If you’re unsure what safety training you might need, your testing partner should be a trusted resource on best practices and requirements.
“Can you advise me with regard to ongoing maintenance for mission-critical equipment?”
No matter how well a facility design has been future proofed, or how impressive your delivered facility is, operational decisions can and will affect uptime. Attention to future maintenance now can help mitigate the risk of faults tracing back to your work. A testing partner that has developed an intimate knowledge of a facility’s systems is well placed to consult on necessary maintenance, but only if it has that capability. Dig deeper into a prospective partner’s expertise in this area by asking how it would handle the following:
- Detect and avoid power-quality issues
- Propose maintenance that prolongs asset life
- Avoid requiring downtime for maintenance
- Satisfy the maintenance status of equipment that NFPA 70E now requires when assessing risk
“What safety standards do you have?”
Your client probably handed you safety standards already. You may have your own safety standards that exceed the client’s. Going into a meeting with an electrical-testing company, you may be thinking you don’t need a third set of safety standards complicating things.
It’s still a crucial question, for at least three reasons. One, you want an electrical-testing company with a clear safety culture. That means everyone, from technicians to management to bean counters, are keeping safety at the forefront. Whomever you sit down with should be eager to answer this question.
Two, you want to be sure the testing company never sacrifices safety to keep a schedule. A company with sure standards has experience staying on pace and staying safe.
And three, you want a team so practiced with safety that it can easily meet or exceed whatever your client—or you—want. Doing so not only takes disciplined and practiced technicians, it also takes the kind of operational leadership you need to meet your delivery date on time, ready for 24/7 uptime.
About the Author
Tony Baratta is a director of mission-critical services at ABM Industries. He has been with ABM more than 18 years. His areas of specialty include generating solutions for custom maintenance programs in critical power applications, which encompass arc-flash analysis, electrical-engineering analysis, reliability testing/startup, power quality and grounding assessments. Tony has a master’s degree in business administration. For more information, contact him at tony.baratta(at)abm.com or visit www.abm.com/DCTesting.