As the name suggests, emergency power distribution equipment often needs to be quoted, manufactured and built within a very short period of time. The shortened time frame creates many challenges which include creating designs and drawings for fast customer approval as well as designing the products with readily available materials, tooling and labor. There is always risk when designing a custom product that needs to be built to detailed specifications for a project that often results from a natural disaster. To mitigate this risk, the engineers must be thorough and systematic in deigning the products.
The Design Process
The process begins with an inquiry from one of Power Assemblies many distributors throughout the country. The distributor sales person will usually have a description of what they want, using the terminology of the end user, which may not be universal. Sometimes, if we are lucky, the description will be followed by a picture of a similar product that they purchased before or that is on site. The Power Assemblies engineer will use their experience and knowledge of the situation and the national electric code (NEC) to fill in any gaps in the description and come up with an initial proposal. This is usually accomplished within a few hours. There is typically several e-mails and phone calls that go back and forth before the customer settles on the design.
The next step is to create a drawing via AutoCAD or SolidWorks and a bill of material which consists of all the components that make up the final product. The engineer will give a budget price to the distributor, and an estimated lead time. Since descriptions and pictures don’t usually tell the whole story, the drawings will likely need to be revised a few times before final approval.
Throughout the production process, the engineer will inspect the product to be sure it is being built as designed and assist the production team by answering any questions. Communication with the customer is key at this point, since custom designed products often require some minor changes due to material shortages or concerns about meeting code such as clearances and torque values. When the product is finalized and ready for shipment, detailed pictures are taken and sent to the customer to be sure there are no last-minute changes.
The design, and customer approval process can all happen very quickly, usually within a few hours. This requires the engineer to be calm under pressure, experienced and sympathetic to the customer needs. Thankfully, these are all qualities possessed by our Power Assemblies engineers!