Douglas H. Sandberg


Shipping, staging, and properly installing equipment is vitally important. Imagine the contractor that must pour a concrete pad in and around the bottom of an automatic transfer switch (ATS) because the contractor forgot to provide the 4-in. raised pad prior to installation. The generator controls sat exposed to the elements on a rooftop for an extended period of time prior to enclosure and that same ATS was not inspected until it was time to install it. These situations actually occurred, causing considerable delay in project schedules. Of course, the situations had to be rectified before commissioning. All three situations could have been avoided.



The most common shipping method is called freight on board (FOB). FOB is a term used in shipping to refer to the place where the buyer becomes responsible for both the shipment and the shipping charges. Example: If a buyer lives in Des Moines and buys a product FOB New York, the buyer must pay the shipping charges from New York to Des Moines and is responsible for seeing that it is properly insured during that shipment.

When ownership transfers from seller to buyer at buyer’s dock, the arrangement is called a destination contract. These arrangements include a contract of sale in which a seller bears the risk of loss all the way, until the shipment of goods reaches at its named place of arrival (or port of destination).

Another shipping option is called ship in place, which means the manufacturer can transfer ownership and invoice the customer while the equipment remains in the custody of the manufacturer.

Upon arriving at a site, the buyer or the buyer’s designated representative must properly inspect the shipment upon arrival. Electrical equipment damaged in shipment, staging, or installation may fail, damage other equipment, or cause personal injury.

The new owner must also protect the equipment while it is staged for future installation. Mishandling equipment can damage it or allow dirt, dust, and moisture to enter the equipment, which can cause the equipment to fail in time. Responsibility for protecting the equipment rests with the general contractor, the owner, or a designated representative. The same person must carefully inspect the manufacturer’s original packaging to ensure that it is intact. If the packaging is damaged, the owner must have the original equipment manufacturer or its representative thoroughly inspect the equipment.


If the packaging is damaged, the owner must keep the equipment protected while it awaits installation. A good staging area provides protection from the hubbub of construction traffic (fork lifts, trucks etc.), the elements (rain, snow and extremes in temperature), and unauthorized persons. Staging also simplifies security by preventing unauthorized or unnecessary handling of the equipment or operating of the controls, which can damage sensitive electronics even though the equipment is not energized. Security surveillance and periodic inspection can help prevent damage while the equipment is in storage. The manufacturer’s authorized representative should be consulted in the event of any unusual situations prior to installation.

Proper installation will improve the life of the equipment. The installing contractors and their employees must be thoroughly familiar with the physical arrangement, electrical interconnections, and the system function.

The installation team typically consists of the owner’s representative, consulting engineer, general contractor, electrical contractor, mechanical contractor, original equipment manufacturer representatives, and the commissioning agent. These people must communicate clearly and consistently. Typically, the general contractor and the owner’s representative will establish a protocol of site meetings, daily reporting, coordination of interdependent schedules etc. that must lead to the free exchange of information and real-time adjustment of activities. Manufacturers typically include installation assistance as part of their service responsibility.

Electrical contractors must review all drawings, wire run lists, schematics, and physical diagrams. These reviews provide the electrical contractor, the general contractor, and the owner or the owner’s designated representative with opportunities to meet with all the involved original equipment manufacturers representatives. These meetings can imbue the team with a through understanding of the installation, the total system function, and the proposed schedule.

Once in place, contractors must mechanically connect and secure individual equipment splits or sections. Using the hardware provided is essential. The manufacturer’s representative should be part of the process. Once in place and secured mechanically, electrical interconnections must be made in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations. Before the equipment is energized, the contractors and the manufacturers should make a final inspection. After that, the organization must limit access to the area, and those personnel authorized to be in the area must have a through understanding of back out and emergency procedures.

Protecting equipment from the manufacturer’s plant to the loading dock and following installation instructions can extend the useful operating life of the equipment. In addition, good shipping and storage practices can simplify warranty and insurance claims should new equipment fail to perform as promised.