Categories: Decontamination, Preventive Reconditioning, Warranty, Fire & Soot, Corrosion, Water Damage Restoration, Repair & Recertiﬁcation
After a disaster or incident, business owners need to restore operations as quickly as possible. Fires, water and other contamination events, result in the need to clean and repair the affected areas including the equipment.
In many cases, cleaning is the primary focus, and when it comes to the building, that may be enough to resume production. However, this approach will not restore functionality or confidence when considering technical equipment. What professional restoration firms like AREPA do is facilitate comprehensive recovery that ensures equipment is restored to its pre-loss condition.
Cleaning – Why Isn't it Enough?
Depending on backgrounds and past experiences, people may define the word “cleaning” quite differently. Cleaning will generally encompass the removal of dust, dirt or debris. Cleaning is performed on dirty furniture, walls, countertops and windows, without taking anything apart, and it is primarily at surface level. Hired cleaners follow proper protocols for the materials involved.
Cleaning is not enough when considering complex mechanical or intricate electronic equipment. For example, one challenge with electronic systems is that contaminants settle inside the equipment and on sensitive circuitry. Imagine a control panel for medical, manufacturing or electrical distribution equipment. Superficially cleaning the outside or even the inside of the control enclosure itself does not address contaminants that are lodged between the internal electronic components. Contaminants that emanate from a fire, water or a dry powder fire extinguisher can cause electrical short circuiting or corrosion, depending on the composition of the debris. Environmental dirt could be considered benign while contaminants rich in salts are conductive and corrosive.
Disassembly is required to properly decontaminate electronic assemblies. If not reinstalled correctly, functional testing will yield failures that are not loss related. Extended testing and repairs will prolong equipment downtime. When considering lost production, any repair delays will increase business interruption.
Is Repair an Economical Option?
Repair, in this context, is replacement of parts in order to return equipment to a usable state. While repairs may be necessary after an incident, manufacturers and third-party service providers generally propose to repair equipment via replacement of complete parts/modules. What does this mean? Car manufacturers generally do not repair flat tires. They manufacture new cars; they are not a service center. Since tire repair is not an option, from the manufacturer’s perspective, replacement of the car may seem like the next logical step. While we recognize that tire repair is a routine service available through a large network of dealerships or tire service centers, the manufacturer was simply conveying the option they could support as they do not offer such a service.
The same is true for all other equipment manufacturers. If equipment decontamination is not a service they offer, replacement of sensitive electronic components would seem like the only viable option. Generally speaking, replacement of all the contaminated components could cost more than simply replacing the machine. So why is equipment decontamination not as obvious of an option as repair of a flat tire? The manufacturer is not always familiar with how their own equipment was cleaned to begin with. This should not come as a surprise. A sizeable share of the circuit board manufacturing market is housed in other countries. Clean assemblies are shipped to a local plant where they are installed into an enclosure. The final enclosure could be an X-ray machine, an injection molding unit or a wind turbine, as examples. The manufacturer did not have an active role when solder residue and other impurities were originally removed from circuitry, such that the assembly met the industry accepted cleanliness standard. The knowledge gap is the reason equipment decontamination is not as obvious as a tire repair.
Repair is an economical option, if only the functionally damaged parts are replaced and all remaining modules are decontaminated.
What is Restoration?
Restoration is a collaborative effort between those that can professionally decontaminate the equipment and those that perform the testing, repair and recalibration. Cleaning of external and internal non-technical surfaces is important. A professional recovery firm will inspect the equipment, determine if observed contaminants are loss related, disassemble the modules, decontaminate circuitry, harvest samples and send them to a lab to ensure that contaminants were properly removed, reassemble the modules and prepare the equipment for functional testing.
This level of invasive decontamination can restore equipment to its pre-loss condition and ensure that deteriorating surfaces stop the oxidation process which would otherwise result in localized rust. Guessing that equipment needs to be addressed, or was successfully decontaminated, is not part of the equation. Analytical samples and tests are performed in order to instill certainty that decontamination was necessary, and restored equipment meets the manufacturers cleanliness standard. Empirical data showing the success of the process will provide the peace of mind needed for the manufacturer to maintain all warranties and service contracts. Restoration minimizes business interruption, allowing equipment owners to keep servicing their clients.
Restored equipment is placed back in production and will meet or exceed its life expectancy. Restored equipment will still require routine maintenance and preventive care, no different than what would have been performed before the loss. However, since the equipment was decontaminated to meet its original cleanliness specification, circuitry will operate cooler, as operational debris and loss related contaminants are no longer preventing heat dissipation.
When is Restoration Needed?
Any incident that involves contamination on business critical electronic and electrical assemblies should have a professional technical restoration firm involved. In almost all cases, smoke does not migrate and settle throughout the facility uniformly. Some areas may not be affected at all, even though they appear dirty from normal production byproduct or environmental debris. As an example, if a grease fire occurs at a hospital kitchen, it is not obvious that the entire hospital needs to be cleaned. However, many pieces of equipment throughout the hospital are still dirty internally from years of operation, as cooling fans introduce dust that settles on electronic components. In a hospital setting that never shuts down, normal operational dust may never be removed. Gray colored environmental dust and gray colored soot are not the same. Every professional recovery firm should be able to scientifically prove the difference so unaffected areas can continue to house patients.
At a chemical plant in Ohio, product caught fire inside a heated high-pressure manufacturing machine. This caused soot to settle on surrounding equipment in addition to water exposure from the fire suppression sprinkler heads. While some of the exposed equipment did indeed need to be replaced, AREPA experts were able to professionally decontaminate most of the electronic control panels, replacing only a few parts, and helping the factory get back up and running in a much shorter timespan than would have been required to replace complete panels.
Another real-life example involves a computer server room that was contaminated after a major leak from a kitchen above. Soft drink syrup made its way to the floor blow contaminating the servers, racks, and wire ways. After thorough decontamination, the server room was restored to full use. AREPA was able to save the equipment owners substantial time and money by decontaminating and restoring the equipment so it would not prematurely failure.
AREPA offers professional technical restoration services for commercial business critical equipment. Industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, data centers, food processing, printing and wind energy mitigate downtime by engaging AREPA to quantify scientifically what needs to be addressed and having AREPA remove corrosive contaminants as well as facilitate the testing, repair and recalibration. This process enables equipment to be returned to service at a fraction of the cost and time of replacement. Our goal is to always get our clients back in production as quickly as possible and ensure that confidence in their equipment has been fully restored.
If you experienced a fire, flood or other event that has affected your sensitive electronic equipment, contact AREPA to properly understand your mitigation options. Our experts are available to inspect the damage and provide a thorough technical assessment of the work that needs to be done, or proof that work is not required. Let us provide you with a service that restores confidence and will help you end downtime quickly and affordably.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By: Scott Carroll
Scott has more than 18 years of experience in the restoration industry, with an extensive background in property damage, insurance repair, healthcare property remediation, and currently serves as AREPA’s Global Sales Director. Throughout his time in the restoration industry, Scott has not only been responsible for sales growth, but also mobilization of large-scale catastrophe responses across the United States.