Terry Ferrell, Maintenance Supervisor of the Dot Foods Cambridge City Distribution Center, had a power problem affecting almost all aspects of the plant and its nearly 200 employees. Dot Foods is one of the largest food re-distributors in the United States, and power issues in Cambridge City could potentially affect food distribution throughout much of the Midwest. “We’d had a lot of lightning strikes, and our power fluctuations were of great concern, particularly if those issues were to ever affect our refrigeration and freezer units. We have some units that must be kept at near-zero, and those need to be working at top efficiency at all times.” On top of this, fire alarm systems and security systems kept losing power.
Ferrell contacted Account Manager Mike Walker of Hoosier Energy. “He said they’d send an electrician right over to check out the plant, and that they’d cover the cost,” said Ferrell. “I was pleased to get this sort of response after a single conversation.”
Walker contacted Boyd Huff, CEO of the Whitewater Valley REMC. Boyd recalled, “Mike [Walker] and I have worked very closely through the years, and he came to me as soon as he was aware of the problem. Dot Foods is important to us and I knew we wanted to get on this right away. Mike suggested we send electrician Bob Butterfield.” Boyd also recalled Butterfield had given a demonstration at the REMC facilities the previous spring. “He’s local, which is how we like to assign these whenever possible, and he clearly had the experience. Whitewater Valley REMC hadn’t used him before, but Mike knew Bob’s work and outstanding reputation, and we agreed he was a good fit. We felt good about the decision to pass this along to him.”
Engineer Bob Butterfield of Butterfield Power Quality, called Ferrell at Dot Foods and arrived the next morning. Butterfield operates out of Shelbyville, Indiana, and has over 40 years experience tracking power issues for utility companies, with a specialty of diagnosing power issues at corporate facilities. “Power and electrical problems can affect all aspects of a manufacturer’s business, from data servers to phone systems to production, and security. Electrical grounding issues are rarely contained to one segment of operations,” explained Butterfield. “The good news is that most problems of this sort are relatively easy to diagnose and track down.”
Butterfield used power quality reading instruments, measured various resistances, and then checked the grounding of the wires to confirm it met national electric code standards. He also performed temperature checks to find potential “hot spots,” infamous for causing problems with electrical equipment. Ferrell recalled, “He measured several grounding spots and found two that were in dire need of correcting.”
In this case, several of Dot’s machines had been improperly grounded when they were connected to the system. “We see this sort of thing a lot. The installation wasn’t up to code. There’s a wide variety of reasons why this might happen that in no way reflects negligence on the plant’s part. Fortunately, the maintenance supervisor recognized he had a significant problem and took action to correct it.”
Ferrell reiterated, “I was impressed that Whitewater Valley REMC offered to cover the cost of sending an engineer out to our site, that it happened quickly and with great efficiency. It tells me that they consider Dot Foods a priority customer and that this is a valuable partnership to them.” Boyd stressed, “Whitewater Valley REMC considers it a priority to maintain the best relationship possible with both our residential customers and our key accounts. This was a win-win for everyone involved.”
The Dot Foods issue was the first time Whitewater Valley REMC had assigned contractor Bob Butterfield to a case, but it would not be the last. Less than a month later, during the phone interview for this write-up, Butterfield answered, “I’m currently talking to you from the facilities of customer number two."