process automation

As you may have noticed, my blog posts are often triggered by questions and real life situations.  That is the case with today’s post.

Some manufacturer’s web sites are VERY difficult to navigate.  Due to this fact, I will sometimes ask for sales or technical assistance instead of wasting too much time searching a vendor web site for the information I need.  I’m not saying that all vendor web sites are bad, some of them have exactly what I need every time and I can easily find it.  It’s those other ones I’m talking about…

Today I called a hazardous area equipment supplier and asked for help in specifying their products.  I think they still have paper catalogs (which their local rep no longer distributes), but they prefer that we use their online catalog. I didn’t feel like engaging in that fight today.  After our initial discussion, I sent an email with project specifics and the FM Approval documentation of the product that their equipment would need to interface with so they would be able to help me.  They followed up with a recommendation of which part numbers I should purchase.  I know enough about their part number structure that without looking anything up I was able to tell that the equipment they specified would violate the FM Approval of the equipment they were to interface with.  When I pointed that out, the response from tech support was, “Sorry, I’ll have our technology manager look into this.”  If I had not known enough to know that what they specified was unsafe, I may have had it installed thinking everything was OK.

How much of the equipment that is bought and installed is done so on the recommendation of vendors that don’t know all of the ramifications of what they are doing?  Just because the vendor says that something will work does not make it so.  We need to know enough to verify that what they are recommending will work AND that it is safe.  In hazardous areas, this is critically important.

If hazardous area equipment is not your specialty, please be willing to ask questions, and then discern if the other party knows what they are talking about.  Develop a network of those you can trust and bounce questions off them.  Please use the comments section here to ask questions.  If there is a mistake in specifying equipment and it ultimately causes an incident, it is typically not the person involved with the design that pays for it.  We can safely operate equipment in hazardous areas; let’s just make sure we know what we are doing!

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