Actual Conversation that took place at 9am Friday morning:
Matt: What about the following Electrical items:
8.1c-3, 4.32b-1, 8.0a-9
Iain: Where is that in the plans?
Matt: I can’t find them, do they even exist?
Iain: Here they are. A 5 horse power pump 3 phase 220 volt and 2 outlets
Matt: Those outlets and pump aren’t in my plans
Iain: They are in my plans, but they are in the wrong spot
Matt: Where is the number for the engineer, I need to call him.
Get used to hearing these kinds of things when it comes to putting electrical infrastructure into your building. The work requires continuous attention to detail, and meetings between your electrician, electrical engineer, general contractor and the end-users (us)! There are lots of false starts and errors, so prepare mentally for this. Getting as much correct as you can early in the process will mean fewer change orders, which ends up saving you a lot of cash.
One of the biggest challenges we have had around the electrical work is the process. It is an inexact science and one that is full of frustration and teeth grinding. The process kind of goes like this:
- Pick your equipment and finalize this before anything else can start.
- Determine the power needs of that equipment.
- This is a chicken or egg thing. On much equipment, you can choose what kind of power it will take, which means you need to know what kind of power you have available. For much of your equipment you can have it made to the power you want to provide.
- Convey this information to the architect and electrical engineer who produce drawings for your electrician.
- Determining the exact location of the equipment on the floor plan. You need to have this buttoned down, so that all the information can go back up the line to everyone that needs it
- Make sure that all this stuff meshes with the latest version of your layout. Sometimes you electrician is working with non-current plans, which means that different tables and arrangements will result in different locations for power needs
- Making sure that the workers who are going to do the work know what is going on.
- Check back with everyone to make sure that all is ok.
Clearly, this is an inexact process. It is one that seems easy at first, but when you really look at it during the process, it is really hard. Trying to coordinate all of this is so difficult. We have had meetings where people literally leave steaming mad because they have been given the wrong information, or their workers haven’t followed the changes … there is a lot of coordinate. Moreover, if you get anything wrong in that process you literally need to spend an hour push up and down the line to everyone else, explaining what happened and what the new plan is.
It is also important to get equipment using 600V where possible. In short, using a higher voltage makes electric motors more efficient, as there is less current needed. We are lucky in the sense that we have the power available to do this, after we are spending a bunch of money to upgrade the service from the street.
There is always going to be the stuff that people have overlooked. For instance our electrical engineer missed a couple pumps in our layout, so it was never discussed again until we found this out. When this happens, everyone scrambles to find these on the plans, and when you don’t you start to question what has happened and what you can do.
To help make this process easier, you should always try and work with professionals and engineers who are supreme communicators. You will need to be in constant contact to ensure that everyone is on the same page and everyone within their teams are also on the same page. It also helps that the electricians who are doing the work are committed to the job. If they can’t have someone at the brewery all day 4 days a week, you should look elsewhere.
Don’t forget to plan for power outages, and share the plan for renovations with everyone and every sub-trade. People need to know when power is going to be cut, when deliveries are being made and when floors are being coated. If you don’t coordinate this information, others will waste time and become increasingly frustrated with your job, potentially leading to bad outcomes down the road.
It becomes so apparent through this process that things like the electrical upgrade, floor issues, seismic needs, and sprinkler additions/installation are huge costs and enormous burdens to have to deal with. It is one of the reasons I have always told people who are interested in starting a brewery to make sure you find a space that has some of these things done. You may not be lucky enough to find one with everything completed, but the more of these major items completed, the quicker and cheaper your retrofit will be.