The fab five

Even though 2013 is already well underway, I thought we would take one more “over the shoulder” glance back at Franklin in the Field in 2012. There were 51 new posts, and the blog received 6,300 visits from 84 countries. But what’s really interesting is go back and take a look at the five posts that got the most attention (clicks) in 2012.

Coming in at #5 was Every team has an MVP, where I highlighted Franklin Electric’s Charlie Utley on receiving our Most Valuable Player Award at Franklin Electric’s annual sales and training conference.

At #4, We’re not selling pumps was probably my personal favorite. It highlighted how our industry provides so much more than just pumps.

Number 3 was contributed by Franklin’s Tammy Davis. In The real reason she makes a great case for attending that next trade show.

Number 2, Credit where credit is due was posted way back in January and congratulated Keith Hall on his 43 years with Franklin Electric. By the way, Keith is still providing outstanding training at our monthly Franklin Tech sessions in Wilburton, Oklahoma.

Finally, coming in at #1 was 12 AWG, 12 gauge, and #12, a post about wire gauging nomenclature. No, I can’t explain why this one came in at #1 either, but it had 440 views. Apparently there’s a lot more interest in wire sizing that I realized.

There you have it. The five most clicked Franklin in the Field posts from 2012 out of our library of 86. I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.

All I want for Christmas

Lots of publications have their annual issues of holiday gift ideas or recommended products each year. Here is ours, albeit perhaps not quite as exciting as some of those – It’s our list of recommended professional meters for water systems troubleshooting.

There are five on the list. There are lots of other good meters out there, but here’s what Franklin Electric’s team of Field Service Engineers use on a day-to-day basis:

  1. First on the list is the Fluke 177 Digital Multimeter from John Fluke Mfg (www.fluke.com). As the name implies, this meter can be used to measure voltage, capacitance, resistance, and frequency. Measuring frequency is especially handy when you’re using a generator or variable frequency drive. List price is around $250.
  2. Also from John Fluke Mfg is the Fluke 375 Digital Clamp-On Ammeter. This meter measures current and is crucial for determining how hard the motor is working. List price on this meter is $325.
  3. In a previous post, I stated that a megger could turn time into money (Turning Time into Money). The one Franklin uses is manufactured by Universal Enterprises (www.ueitest.com). Their digital version is called the UEI DMEG3 Digital Megohmeter. It lists for $250 and is worth every dollar. It also can do double duty and measure resistance.
  4. The Simpson 372 Analog Ohmmeter has been a mainstay of our industry and others for literally decades. The 372-3 is the latest version and available at www.simpsonelectric.com. List price is $175.
  5. Is that capacitor still good? If you have a MFD-10 Digital Capacitor Checker from SUPCO (www.supco.com), you can find out in a snap. This little meter is ideal for control box troubleshooting and is only around $75.

MetersThere you have it. A list of the five meters for your toolbox that will allow you to handle just about any water systems troubleshooting scenario you run into. So, while this list may not seem as exciting as others you see this time of year, quickly and effectively diagnosing what’s going on with your customer’s water systems can be satisfying in its own way, not to mention profitable.

If you have any questions about these meters or how to use them, Franklin Electric’s Key Dealer Hotline can help. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800/348-2420.

Thanks to Rick Campbell, Franklin Electric, for his contributions to this post.

Once again, the right tool for the job

I witnessed an interesting debate this week within a small group of Franklin Electric’s Field Service Engineers. The topic was enclosure knockouts. Franklin Electric now offers some VFD accessories (reactors/filters) that are available in NEMA 4 enclosures that have no knockouts. That is, the conduit holes must be made by the installing contractor. Of course, a special hole saw or scoring tool is required to do this.

On one side of the table, the position was that the vast majority of water systems contractors don’t have these tools, and therefore we are not giving the customer what he wants. It’s up to us, the manufacturer, to supply enclosure knockouts across all water systems products.

CaptureHowever, on the other side of the table, a couple of others took the position that these products are going into higher end, sophisticated installations. As a result, many of these enclosures will be installed by the electrical contractor and this is their preferred method. They make conduit holes in enclosures as standard procedure and always have the tool kit to do it. This way, they can always cut only the exact hole sizes they need for the cable and Romex seals. And it leads to a better-sealed NEMA 4 installation since you don’t have to worry about water entry via the unused knockouts. Their position was that if a contractor is installing these enclosures, they simply need to invest in the right tool to do the job.

I was seeing both sides of the issue until I posed the question of, “So, how much is the tool and how long does it take?” The answer came back as, “Oh, probably less than $50 for a single and maybe $300 for an entire kit of several sizes; in terms of the actual process, just a few minutes”.  For me at least, that settled it, although it probably didn’t settle it with the entire group. Once again, as a professional contractor, you need to have the right tools to do the job. It’s especially true if that tool is a minimal investment that can lead to a higher quality installation.

Inspiring confidence, part 2

A year ago, I wrote Inspiring Confidence about the numerous benefits of completing a Franklin Electric 2207 – Submersible Motor Installation Record. Although a completed 2207 has technical benefits, the real value is the confidence it inspires when you hand it to your customer after the installation is complete.

If the 2207 covers submersibles, what about aboveground pumps? Franklin Electric offers a similar installation form for those as well. In this case, it’s not called a 2207, but–you guessed it–a 2208 Form – Surface Pump Installation Data.

Much like the 2207 form for submersibles, the 2208 form for surface pumps is very complete and can be used as part of the documentation process for returning a pump for analysis or warranty consideration. It asks for a lot of information, but also includes a checklist to help make sure you’ve covered everything. And although it’s three pages long, you probably won’t need to fill out the entire form for most installations.

An interactive PDF version of Franklin Electric’s 2208 can be found on Franklin Electric’s website in the Americas Water Systems section under Special Documents on the Industrial & Irrigation Surface Pumps page, but here’s a direct link: Form 2208.

Realistically, if you’ve got a 1/2 horsepower jet pump installation, completing an entire 2208 is probably excessive. But just like the 2207, that’s not the point. The point is how impressed your customer is going to be when the job is complete and you hand him that completed 2208. Once again, by investing a few minutes, you’ll leave a positive, lasting impression on your customer; he’ll know that YOU know what you’re doing. When that system needs service down the road, he will pull out that 2208 and call you, not someone else.

WE DON’T COMPROMISE! Well actually, you do

There’s a truck advertisement out there with the tag line of “WE DON’T COMPROMISE!” That sounds good, but actually they do. Are there other vehicles that have a better ride or a lower cost or better fuel economy or the option of putting the top down? Of course there are; they’re generally called cars. That truck manufacturer has compromised those other benefits for the major benefit of hauling stuff.

All products are compromises, and with any product, the trick is finding the perfect balance between matching the need with everything else, including the ability to actually manufacture the product at a competitive cost.

Which brings us to a commonly asked question about Franklin Electric’s variable-speed, constant pressure SubDrive product, “Can I repair the components inside?”

The answer is “no” and the reason has everything to do with balancing size, manufacturability, cost, features, and reliability. As with any electronic-based product today, to get there requires state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. This is exactly what we have at Franklin Electric’s facility in Grant County, Indiana where SubDrive is manufactured. This manufacturing technology is same or very similar as to what is used in your cell phone or computer and it results in a small, very reliable package at a competitive cost. But much like your cell phone, the end product, as good as it is, is not repairable.

Could SubDrive (or your cellphone) be made totally repairable, right down to the component level? It could, but your customers wouldn’t be able to afford it, it would be terribly unreliable because of all the connections, and it would physically be so big as to take up the entire bed of your truck. That truck of yours may be a compromise, but perfect for the job.

It’s always something

This week’s post comes from Rick Campbell, Manager, Inside Technical Support, at Franklin Electric.

The best thing about working a technical service hotline is that every day and every phone call is a different challenge; no two are ever alike and it’s never dull. However, after more than 20 years of dealing with technical issues over the phone, some calls and situations are just more memorable than others. Here’s one from several years ago that has stuck with me:

A contractor called for help troubleshooting a two horsepower, single-phase submersible installation. The system ran great – most of the time. But every few days, without any rhyme or reason, the overload in the control box would trip. Sometimes the system would run for a week or more without issue, and then the overload would trip several times in a week. Each time the contractor came out to check the voltage, it was well within limits. Over the phone, I helped him check out the entire system and it was good. We also tried to identify a pattern to no avail.

Knowing that the issue was most likely voltage-related, we eventually decided a voltage monitor was the only alternative. And sure enough, after several days of recording, it showed that the bottom would randomly fall out of the voltage. The power company was contacted, but they maintained that based on their data and the load on the system, everything was good.

The “aha” moment came when the contractor discovered that the next door neighbor was restoring a car in his garage in his spare time. In the restoration, the homeowner was using an industrial-size arc welder that when used, caused the voltage to drop at all of the surrounding houses. Of course, he was using it randomly and the pump was running randomly. Hence, the pattern of overload trips was even more random.

I don’t know how things were resolved between the neighbors, but it was another case where there was a reason behind the problem, and it was up to us to find out what it was.

Solving problems

For the past three weeks, I’ve been writing about variable speed drives (VFDs) and the benefits they offer beyond constant pressure. While delivering constant water pressure is still the most recognized benefit of these systems, their potential far exceeds that one application. This week’s examples are more regional in nature, but hopefully they will help you start thinking about other ways VFDs can solve problems.

In many parts of the western US, wells are frequently pumped faster than they can recharge, making some type of dry run protection necessary. As a result, these installations have Pumptec or a similar type of dry run (underload) protection. However, VFDs already have this protection built into them. In addition, not only do they have protection by design against underload, most also have overload (bound pump) protection built in, as well as undervoltage and overvoltage protection. In cases where you know that an installation may face challenging conditions, for a small incremental cost—remember, besides a Pumptec, you also need control box in a conventional system—you can use a VFD such as SubDrive for even better protection of the pump and motor.

Another niche application for variable speed systems is operating installations where fire codes are in effect. Particularly in dry areas of the country, local fire codes dictate the minimum size pump required for fire protection. In the majority of cases, the GPM the pump is required to deliver in case of fire far exceeds the output required for regular daily residential usage. Continue reading