Electrical Equipment Rules for Automotive Manufacturing Equipment Suppliers
As we have seen over the past few years, a disruption in the automotive supply chain can have serious ripple effects throughout the industry. With current supply chain issues as well as the ongoing risk of a global recession, the industry must be on its toes to help ensure customer satisfaction as well as retain profits in these uncertain times. Automotive manufacturers need efficiency to help increase production, starting with their manufacturing equipment. With no room for delays, it is imperative that automotive equipment manufacturers are aware of and knowledgeable about the national requirements for their electrical equipment, to minimize facility downtime and meet safety standards.
The National Electrical Code
Normal automotive sales usually stand around the 16-million-per-year range; however, during a recession, that tends to decrease to 12 million, or even 10 million and below. If this potential recession is like the last, we could see new vehicle sales fall around 40%.
Kim Roan, automotive expert for NSF-ISR, states, “For manufacturers, recessions tend to increase competition, resulting in their needing to create a competitive advantage. To maintain competitiveness, manufacturers need to keep labor time and costs down for all parties. One key component to help them do this is ensuring that their equipment is up to code and effectively maintained, to keep the manufacturing downtime to a minimum.”
Manufacturing and testing equipment used and sold in the United States must comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC), which requires certification by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). NSF is an OSHA-approved NRTL that certifies manufacturers’ products to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requirements in addition to those of the NEC. Mass-market products and equipment typically go through certification by a NRTL, but custom equipment may not undergo certification. In these instances of noncertified equipment, a field evaluation conducted by qualified electrical engineers provides a third-party inspection that can be issued to the final approving authority.
Meeting the NEC requirements can include product certification, product testing, and an assessment of the production site or a field evaluation to determine if a product, service or system meets the demands of the standard. Certified products require follow-up inspections at the production site to help ensure that their ongoing manufacture remains in compliance after the products are listed. Ongoing inspections are a requirement and reduce a manufacturer’s risk.
Certain projects may require manufacturers to create a specialty product or prototype that the business wants to put into the field, rather than a mass-produced product. This type of automotive manufacturing equipment can be custom designed and built without acquiring electrical certification. However, electrical field evaluations can verify safety and compliance with regulatory requirements, bridging the gap for customers.
David Nance, electrical expert at NSF, states, “This type of evaluation is great to help companies reach OSHA requirements in their work environment. This is not only favorable to keep operations running but comes at a time when an increasing amount of end consumers are evaluating all points of the manufacturing process for goods and services. It is imperative to make sure equipment like this is safe to keep these customers and retain market share at a moment when workplace health and safety is becoming more critical as it equates to sales, and rightfully so.
Benefits of Certification and Field Evaluations
There are many factors automotive manufacturers must juggle to keep operations running smoothly and ensure stakeholder satisfaction. With components like profit maximization, employee utilization and employee safety, this can sometimes become stressful for plant operators to manage. The good news is that there are numerous benefits for manufacturers in earning certification or having a field evaluation done that helps cover some of these bases. By having electrical equipment certified or evaluated to meet the required codes in the United States, plants can minimize lost sales that come from facility downtime spent adjusting noncompliant equipment. This can also become beneficial if there are site openings and owners need to provide ROI (return on investment) quickly to help with the startup costs of a new facility.
When electrical equipment does not meet NEC requirements, this brings challenges, including increased costs that arise from mitigation or modification of equipment. We all know that it takes more time and money to redo a process or obtain equipment that will comply with national regulations. Lastly but most importantly, noncertified or unevaluated products can present safety hazards not only to staff, but to any stakeholder who may need to be in the building at a given time. Employees are at the heart of any successful business, so it is vital to make sure their workplace is safe and operates with their well-being in mind.