RJ Martin Electric Blog

Specialized Electrical Contractors are a Must in Industrial Settings

Imagine you’re a manager for an engineering firm, and your firm has been hired by a multistate chemical company that needs industrial equipment relocated from a facility in Houston, Texas to another facility in Shreveport, Louisiana. This is a big project with a lot of moving parts, hundreds of details—and an equal number of opportunities for things to go wrong. And when one thing goes awry, chances are, that will impact other facets of the project. With potentially millions of dollars at stake, the results could be very costly.

When you’re tasked with ensuring a successful outcome for this project – or any industrial project, for that matter – wouldn’t it be nice knowing that the electrical contracting firm you hire has the experience, know-how and reputation to deliver superior work on time and on budget? It’s one less thing to worry about, and one big step toward ensuring project success.

For electrical contracting projects in industrial settings, there is no room for error. From power plants and chemical plants to rubber and plastics facilities and production environments of all sizes and scopes, industrial electrical projects are highly complex, physically demanding jobs for everyone involved. Therefore, the electrical contracting firm you hire for any project should be nothing less than an ideal fit. If it’s not, major problems can result, from schedule and budget overruns to facility downtime, equipment failures, equipment damage, accidents—and in extreme cases, even death.

If you’re the owner or operator or an industrial plant owner, an engineering firm professional or a design contractor for an industry enterprise, it’s likely you’re aware of many electrical contracting firms throughout the country. You’ve probably worked with one or more over time, and perhaps you’ve built relationships with them through that work. At RJ Martin Electric, a core specialty of ours is industrial work; through the years, we’ve seen it all, and our electrical contracting experience on industrial projects of all sizes and scopes gives us deep insight into the characteristics that define truly exceptional electrical contracting firms in the industrial arena.

So what makes an electrical contracting firm ideally suited to working in ultra-demanding industrial environments? Several primary factors often prove to be the difference:

Experience, experience, experience. Lots of electrical contracting firms say they possess industrial experience. But their portfolio of past projects – and details about them like work scope and completion dates – should be the first thing you consider when evaluating your options. If Firm X performed a single pollution control electrical upgrade 10 years ago, are you confident that they can handle a pollution control electrical upgrade today?

As we said earlier, industrial projects are complex, and the means and methods of electrical contracting in industrial settings are completely different than other installations. Electrical contractors may run conduit in industrial settings, commercial settings and retail settings, for example. But the types of conduit for industrial are different; the tooling used to install it is different; and installation methodologies are different. Conduit is just one example; means and methods are unique across the spectrum of industrial installations, so it really takes a specialty contractor to do the work correctly.

Execution—with or without complete drawings. Even large-scale projects aren’t always 100 percent engineered. As an example, RJ Martin Electric’s electricians performed a line for one customer where all we had were old drawings. We needed to track everything that was disconnected first in order to reconnect it properly—and then we had to merge that with updated controls. Without new engineering drawings, that can be an enormous challenge. Thankfully, our electricians had the experience and capabilities to get the project up and running. For another project, the electrical equipment sat idle for seven years in a facility and needed to be reconfigured. This was a fast-track project, so we worked closely with the engineer to reinstall that equipment literally minutes after it was engineered.

These are examples of adaptability, creativity and ingenuity needed by a successful electrical contractor in an industrial setting. Additionally, qualified industrial electricians can often identify cost-saving techniques or alternative approaches. When implemented, these can save significant dollars in the short- and long-term.

Proven ability to work in demanding – even extreme – environments. Your electrical contractor may be working in environments with 40-foot ceilings. They themselves may be working 40 feet in the air—or higher. Many installations typically call for rigid conduit as opposed to electrical metallic tubing (EMT). It takes special skill and considerable physical strength to manipulate those large cables. At RJ Martin Electric, we do a lot of explosion-proof installations in power plants, which also necessitates a unique skill set in the electrical contracting arena. Additionally, some industrial settings require the use of masks and other protective gear.

Electrical work is tough enough without adding these and other variables into the mix. The electrical contractor you select for your next industrial project should possess experience in a variety of demanding environments, along with proven success completing projects on time and on budget.

Adherence to aggressive and strict time constraints. If you’re shutting a facility down for, say, six days to perform upgrades, on that sixth day, it better run. Every day that project is delayed represents a significant financial loss for the end user. In industrial settings, there’s no time for on-the-job education for any trade, electrical included.

Suitcases at the ready. Many electrical contractors don’t travel, so for projects like plant relocations, it’s a huge bonus to find an electrical contracting firm that not only disconnects your electronics, but then puts it all back together in the new location. We’ve found that this continuity provides customers great peace of mind. And again, it’s one less thing to fret over. 

Experience in other market sectors (e.g., commercial, industrial, educational, retail) that exposes professional electricians to alternative approaches and techniques. Yes, we identified industrial experience as the number-one capability to look for in a qualified industrial electric contractor. But you’ll be surprised how much value a contractor might add to your project if they have experience in other environments such as commercial, health care, retail or education. There are times when multiple approaches can be used for one electrical task. If the electrical contractor you choose employs one approach for, say, hospital work, that approach may be suitable for your industrial project—and it could potentially save you time and money.

Ideally, your electrical contractor should therefore have a breadth and depth of experience in multiple industries—and the creativity, insight and frankly, the courage to recommend alternative approaches when appropriate.

A 100 percent commitment to safety and training. Safety is critical for any project; but in industrial settings, it’s even more so. It’s essential that your electrical contractor maintain an established and comprehensive safety program that ensures workers are properly trained in all elements of safe work practices. This helps to mitigate jobsite accidents and keep project schedules and budgets on track.

RJ Martin Electric places the highest priority on providing employees with a safe and clean work environment. This commitment is underscored through our training and enforcement of company policy, state regulations and OSHA rules. A full-time RJ Martin safety supervisor coordinates training, conducts job site inspections, and internally enforces company, state, and federal regulations.

It’s also worth noting that industrial projects often necessitate other types of training and certifications—for example, some projects require electrical workers to have a Transportation Workers Identity Card. Projects in settings like cement factories require electrical contractors to have AMSHA training. Before hiring an electrical contractor, ask for details about their safety program, their certifications and trainings that workers have received.

An organization-wide commitment to quality. RJ Martin Electric is dedicated to quality on every project, regardless of size or contract value. Every employee is responsible for a quality installation. Quality comes from experience and the company’s deep commitment to formal training, which all employees are required to participate in on a frequent basis. As a result, RJ Martin Electric boasts electricians who have completed the state- and federally-certified apprenticeship program. Our electricians also participate in biannual NEC code updates and review to stay up to date on evolving code requirements. In addition, our project managers have attended the Electrical Project Management Institute, an intensive management education program, at Purdue University.

Some additional capabilities that differentiate exceptional electrical contractors in the industrial arena:

  • The ability to identify potential design issues and oversights, then mitigate the damage with minimal or no effect on scheduling or budgets. Catching mistakes early on can mitigate the associated cost and help ensure trouble-free electrical operations over time.
  • An ability to set a scope of work and a workable budget solely on conceptual drawings only.
  • Conduit bending experience. For industrial applications, rigid conduit is often used, which leaves little room for error.  
  • The ability to read a control diagram and understand it, including recognizing what the engineer’s intent was (for example, understanding the intent of a particular control circuit – i.e., how it’s supposed to operate). No one is perfect – even engineers – so when errors do occur, your electrical contractor should have the capability to catch mistakes.
  • Experience with complicated heat trace installations.
  • Experience with fire installations and Category 5 installations.
  • Knowledge of lock-out and tag-out procedures. Your electrical contracting firm should know what’s required to keep its workers safe so they aren’t harmed by shortcuts that may have been taken by others.
  • A genuine sense of care. At RJ Martin Electric, we take business personally—we truly care about our customers, and we care about getting the job done in a first-class, quality fashion, on time and on budget. That’s a subjective statement; but we think the care we bring to our work shines through and is visible in all our actions and interactions with industrial customers. This is an intangible quality that we think deserves prominence in your decision-making process as you consider which electrical contractor is best suited to your next industrial project.

One final point

When you sit down with an electrical contractor to discuss your project, he / she should have you convinced by the end of the conversation that they know the requirements of your job inside and out; they know their trade down pat; and they understand any unique challenges your project poses. Ideally, they should already be conceptualizing a game plan—and that should be apparent in the conversation. You deserve a high level of comfort at this early stage that your electrical contractor “gets it.” These are some of the tell-tale signs that you’re both operating on the same wavelength.

For engineers, contracting firms and end users alike, there’s too much at stake to leave the electrical contracting requirements of an industrial facility to chance. Keep the capabilities mentioned earlier at the forefront of your decision-making process, and you’ll be assured of retaining quality electrical contracting talent that will serve you well.

Contact RJ Martin Electric to learn more.

We hope this blog gives you a strong sense of the key capabilities that distinguish outstanding electrical contracting firms in the industrial arena. If you’re looking for an exceptional electrical contracting firm for your next industrial project, or if you want information about RJ Martin Electric’s experience in industrial, health care, commercial, educational and retail markets, please call Robert J. Martin at 216-662-7100 or email rmartinjr@rjmartinelectric.com.

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