Thursday, October 28, 2010


I have always liked Electrical Engineering for various reasons and may be to a large extent to the complexity it involves and the wide variety of areas that come under its ambit and also because of the huge possibility and a never ending scope for increasing refinement in this area. Practically nothing works today without the aid of electrical power and also add to it the possibility of next generation cars and buses fuelled by electrical power through solar energy or what so ever. Electrical Engineering I have found is a complex science and to a large extent drawn directly from many principles of basic sciences. Modern day electronics and computers can be seen as some kindly of off-shoots of main stream Electrical Engineering.

Maintaining electrical networks can be a difficult and dangerous activity the least said and a preventive approach and also a pro-active approach must be adopted as against an approach of fire-fighting. Trouble shooting electrical networks is time consuming with minimum possibilities for short-cuts and temporary solutions and any mishap leading to irreversible consequences like fire and other damages. Maintaining electrical networks needs management and analysis to prevent crisis.

The glare; blur and confusion around Electrical maintenance need to be cleared in some form so that the entire activity can be seen from a simplistic view-point. Added to the confusion is that very often than not Electrical Maintenance involves trouble-shooting networks that were principally and initially fixed by some one with little or no traceability to the original designs and manuscripts. It needs years of experience and grooming to really put things in place and be a good trouble shooter of electrical problems in large and medium scale organizations.

In its simple form Electrical networks can be classified as three principal entities. The source; control system and the contrivance. In the best of electrical networks these three dimensions must be visible traceable and conspicuous both to regular maintainer and to one who is there out of spite and any other contrivance present be properly classified along lines. I think the clutter in the problems of maintenance is the inability to see a network from simplistic angles.

The source is the source of power. It could be a transformer in an AC system or a DC battery in a DC system. At the exit of any source is some kind of control system that protects the source which could be a fuse which is an un-bounded control system or a relay which is a bounded control system. Both of them act as switches on demand and add to it the manual switches that operate along the system. The final entity is the contrivance is the final device that uses the electrical power. I have found that learning electrical engineering at some level alone is inadequate to be good as a practitioner and some kind of an approach must be indoctrinated to the practitioner of maintenance. Maintenance problems can arise at all of these stages. I think a transformer can be seen as an control system because it acts as a barrier between two voltage levels ; Transformer is also a source and under what classification a transformer would fit depends on the location of the same vis-à-vis electrical networks. A transformer in the field would be some kind of a control system and a major transformer supplying power to an industrial set-up seen as a source.

Control systems as defined above though might differ from the fundamental principles as outlined in “control theories” today come in various forms and has a large involvement of electronics and power electronics. See the dynamic nature of Electrical Engineering. Today we have Power Electronics which is nothing but electronic devices that work under higher voltage levels. Next generation electronic systems used along side electrical systems would involve many kinds of IC’s and embedded systems. This approach could make maintenance both a simpler and complicated activity.

Managing Electrical Maintenance properly is a very significant activity and could reduce the occurrence of maintenance problems along electrical networks. Most maintenance problems occur from frivolous reasons so to say but a wrong judgment of the situation can lead to regret. A frivolous reason could be wrong setting of a relay to some weather related nuisance- tripping. Because of one small cause an entire manufacturing system is down leading to loss of an economic kind every second. Some of these problems cannot be explained by any as to why it occurred but one has to take solace in accepting them and preparing for their recurrence but this time with sure-shot solutions or taking preventive steps by predicting their recurrence. The heroes of electrical maintenance every where are fire-fighters as against the preventers. Such an approach can be dangerous the least said. Managing Maintenance could be creating a record of all problems of the past and the entire scope and spectrum of solutions tat came to the rescue of such situations and the ability to prevent and implement efficiently the key corner stone of Maintenance. The best maintained systems are the ones that have zero break down over a reasonable period of time and any break down that occurs were predicted -other wise maintenance is mindless, confusing and exasperating.

I find as a rule a majority of maintenance problems arise in the Control Entity as enumerated earlier. This is an important and possibly a generic rule of Maintenance. When there are problems the control entities associated with the system must be investigated first before any other entity is suspected. I have myself seen an absence of such an approach leading to huge economic losses to organizations in the form of unnecessarily replaced spare parts out of suspicion only to understand later that the problem arose out of some simple fault some where in the control sector. Maintenance training must be periodically accorded to staff from time to time where largely control devices like relays and breakers are dissected and all the constituents and their role understood by practitioners of maintenance from the ordinary maintenance technician to the chief engineer so that early on the right kind of components are suspected well in advance.

Out of conjecture I would put 60% of maintenance problems arise from the control entity; 30% from the contrivance and a 10% from the source. Such an approach would prevent panic in the event of a maintenance exigency.

Before I conclude to the aid of Maintenance practitioners around the world may I lay a ten point program so that Maintenance staff around the world could use to make maintenance and more so electrical maintenance is made a smooth and hassle free activity;

==Always understand the key skills of your people with regards to operational and working skills.
==Always maintain a log-book of past maintenance issues and especially with regards to preventive procedures need to be taken from time to time.
==Always keep relevant drawings handy. Scan the drawings and save them on the internet or the computer for reference and easy trouble shooting.
==Whenever preventive maintenance work is embarked upon ensure that all the key people needed are present and do not embark upon a preventive maintenance work without proper briefing and understanding of all the necessary tasks to be undertaken. Never let any staff go until the entire task is completed and the system charged and working for at least an hour.
==Always be careful when leave is sanctioned to staff involved in Maintenance especially the more skilled one’s. Ensure that the more skilled ones are paid well and better.
==Best maintenance people are more than anything good managers and get their people to perform from friendly persuasion.
==Always suspect control entities in the event of a break down. It could be a relay or even a simple switch.
==Exercise vigilance to ensure that there are no saboteurs who willfully damage the system or components.
==Never panic in the event of Maintenance problems. This is a sign of lack of experience or competence.
==Note that Maintenance especially of the electrical kind can be dangerous at times. If you know it – then do it. If you know it but cannot execute – then get it done. If you don’t know it with going in circles and cant get it done ----GET OUT OF ELECTRICAL MAINTENANCE FOR GOOD.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I have always held the activity of "education" close to my heart. In the modern world education is the panacea for all problems that social settings of the world face. Yet there is education and there is mal-education and it is probably difficult to differentiate between them. However education of some kind benefits society both at a personal level and at a collective level.

The problem of education and its limitations commence from the heterogeneity of the human input and its vagaries. Had human populace been identical in intellectual and moral configuration it would have been much easier to configure education for the collective; but this is not the case. The forces of education coerce people to conform into some pattern to the permanent exclusion of many other possibilities which is a negative aspect of education of modern times. Well; can we tide over such a malady- we should is the answer . But how? The focus must be invariably in the proper administration of education drawn from a wider perspective than just from some immediate objectives as seen by many. These problems are rampant around the world from the best B Schools around the world to the government primary school functioning from under a tree. This lack of synchronization is a perennial and persistent issue and would be of concern across centuries ahead.

To me Bill Gates is a classic case study of the ills and blessings of modern day education. It is very easy to say in the passing that he dropped out of Harvard. This indeed must have been a painful experience for him as well as his family. Harvard had to concede and call him back to confer a degree on him years after he became a distinguished person in his own right. What Harvard did with him whilst he was a student is un-clear but there is something amiss somewhere when a person of his intellectual caliber has to drop out of the system mid-way . May be more than a personal decision circumstances forced Bill out of the education system - it appears. Is our system of education around the world largely cut for the dullard and has it got no avenues for the intelligent. Has it no scope to accommodate stalwarts and possible pioneers? There must be many such people trapped in our education systems around the world with no help or succor forthcoming and the least no one understanding their predicament.

What are the ultimate aims of education? We better address this issue and question to some level of profundity. When the aims of education are singular—there arises the problem and the demands of conformance on the recipient as against many other possible factors that should run alongside and must be seen distinctly but are simply not. Let us try to crystallize some possible aims of education no matter what the level, must be adhered to and seen in the course of educational transactions;

• The main motto of education must be development of the individual
• Education must lead to psychological transformation
• ‘Education must help people to build a long term vision
• Education must build faith
• Educational procedures are a means to an end and not an end in itself
• Good teaching is the most important ingredient of education
• All education must have more than one purpose
• Education must instill a culture of collective work
• Education must lead to collective and self actualization
• No one must feel stifled or marginalized by any process of education
• Examinations are important but should not be the only decisive factor
• Character of a student is more important than any other parameter and must form part of evaluation procedures.

I have seen vision and mission statements developed and instilled by industrial organizations around the world – and very significantly so a post 20th century phenomenon. They are supposed to guide organizations and be the watch word that guides actions. Though they may not be followed but the very fact that they exist suffices in itself to provide some long term direction for organizations. All educational institutions must primarily develop lofty aims for
itself and display them conspicuously other wise all educational activities of that system are merely farcical and do not serve the purposes they simply are meant to both in the sort and long terms. I had visited SMU Singapore Management University some time back and was impressed by one of the statements displayed at the outset. It said “Education Re-defines Destiny”. Definitely something purposeful must be happening at this place.

I have always disliked the modern way of teaching which involves the use of lap-tops and presentations. Though it serves some purpose and aids the teaching process it inhibits right teaching and education. The fundamentals of education simply do not rest on such practices. The fundamentals of education are always fundamental and the fundamentals of the fundamentals of education are eternal and would not change for centuries and when educational systems constantly veer from these fundamentals educational systems have to be reviewed , examined and corrected. I feel that the greatest malady of education as it stands today is its focus on what a person cant do as against the focus on what a person can do. What a tragedy ? In spite of the best intentions the matter trickles down to such a situation; this is fundamentally that so many people who are self-educated do better sometimes in life than the university educated primarily because self education does not create such binds but self education has its larger limitations and ramifications. When I was studying law at NLSIU I used to like the traditional chalk and talk approach to teaching adopted by Mr. M P P Pillai who used to teach “Company Law”.

Educational systems must take a broader view of the individual and must not be a policing act. At various levels of education the apt approach must be undertaken. I am largely overwhelmed by the increasing and ever increasing costs of education ; There might be economic reasons for being so but there must be some ceiling and limiting factors so that such situations around the world do not go aghast; and some kind of an alternative educational options created that may not be over-bearing on the student.

Eeducational institutions worldwide have one balancing act to do - namely balance the requirements of education and the institution. If this focus for any reasons is lop sided or incorrectly drawn it results in mal-education the side-effects of which will be for-bearing on the individual at some future point of time. Educational systems must be an elastic system that can wax and wane within reasonable limits according to individual and collective demands and must not be a rigid plastic container where few force-fit themsekves into some kind of comfort and others feel stifled, miffed and resigned. It must have the composite ability to accomodate pretty well a wide set and spectrum of individual talent and psycologies.

In the ultimate analysis education revolves around three T's namely Transmission; Transaction and Transformation in that order and the most important end-result of education is "Transformation". Transformation can be for the good or for the worse and let the process of education around the world take a turn towards good for the good of education; the receipent the system and the institutions that are constantly involved in the educational process