March 29, 2002

American Superconductor undergoes restructuring, cuts 100 jobs

In a move designed to “create a more streamlined and flatter organization,” American Superconductor Corp., Westborough, Mass., recently restructured its business, laying off almost 100 employees, or 25% of its workforce. The cash cost to the company of the restructuring is approximately $2 million.

The costs associated with the restructuring will be taken entirely within the company’s fourth quarter ending March 31, 2002. According to an ASC press release, the company expects the impact on a loss per share basis to be about $0.44 to $0.54 for both the quarter and the year ending March 31.

The move includes combining the company’s Power Quality and Reliability business unit, based in Middleton, Wis., with its Power Electronics business unit, based in New Berlin, Wis. The new business unit, AMSC Power Electronic Systems, will be led by Chuck Stankiewicz, former general manager of the Power Quality and Reliability unit.

Greg Yurek, CEO of ASC explained the need for the changes. “The reduction in force was necessary to bring our cost structure more in line with our goals for achieving profitability,” he said. “We are also driving more of the day-to-day decision making into the business units where the P&L responsibility lies. As a result, we have made significant changes in the way we are organized.”



March 29, 2002

Waukesha Engine and Kohler to bring together engines and gen-sets

Waukesha Engine, Waukesha, Wis., recently entered into an agreement to provide a selection of its engine models to Kohler Co., Kohler, Wis., to drive its gaseous-fueled generator packages.

Under the agreement, Waukesha H24, L36, and P48 engines will be packaged with Kohler generators.

According to Waukesha Engine President William E. O’Connor, “This program will provide yet another channel to place additional Waukesha engines in the field, along with the opportunity for increased parts and labor to support these new products.”



March 27, 2002

BICSI's in the Army now

The U.S. government’s chief buying agent, the General Services Administration (GSA), recently awarded BICSI a 5-yr, fixed-price contract to be a registered provider for the government. The contract offers military and government employees reduced rates on conference fees and registered installer or technician exam fees and the ability to purchase training courses and technical manuals.

Government purchases account for nearly 50% of BICSI’s annual training revenue. The Tampa, Fla.-based telecommunications association also conducts on-site training for U.S. military bases at least once a month, according to Richard Dunfee, BICSI training manager and RCDD/OSP specialist.



March 27, 2002

Pirelli readies crush-resistant telecom cables

Pirelli Telecom Cables and Systems, Milan, Italy, is set to begin full-scale production of its Air Bag cable, a dielectric fiber optic cable with improved resistance to crush and impact. Pilot implementation of the cable in Europe is expected within the next few months.

According to a Pirelli press release, the cable uses an optical fiber core, filling compounds with high mechanical resistance, dielectric rodent protection, and flame-retardant inner and outer layers that act as a shock absorber and allow the cable to recover its shape after crushing or impact.

The cable is compatible with existing cabling networks and traditional accessories.

For more information, visit www.pirelli.com.



March 25, 2002

Philips Lighting recognized by Energy Star

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) have named Philips Lighting Company, Somerset, N.J., an Energy Star Partner of the Year for its commitment to making and promoting energy-efficient products. The company will be recognized March 26, at a 10th Anniversary awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The Energy Star Award is given to a variety of organizations to recognize their efforts to manufacture or sell products that provide significant cost savings to consumers and help protect the environment. One of company’s main educational efforts in 2001, Philips Lighting Formula—An Energy Blueprint for the Nation is the program that attracted the EPA and DOE’s attention. It illustrated how replacing lighting products with energy-efficient options saved as much as 45% of lighting-related electricity costs on one block in Berkeley, Calif.

Energy Star was introduced by the EPA in 1992 as a voluntary market-based partnership to reduce air pollution through increased energy efficiency.



March 25, 2002

American Reprographers and BuildPoint announce partnership

The American Reprographics Company (ARC), Glendale, Calif., and BuildPoint Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif., recently announced a marketing partnership that will provide customers with online tools for both construction project bidding and plan management. The companies plan to offer customers direct, two-way access between their Web sites, which will combine bidding, qualifying, and tracking bidders with access to plan updates and changes.

Users of BuildPoint’s bid management tools will now be able to designate ARC’s PlanWell online plan room to organize, store, and track plans. When plans are posted to the plan room, potential bidders receive email notification of the bid opportunity from BuildPoint and a link to a Web address where they can review and order plans from any ARC reprographer location.



March 22, 2002

Hubbell acquires U.S. Industries

Hubbell Inc., Christainsburg, Va., recently signed a definitive agreement to acquire LCA Group Inc., the domestic lighting division of U.S. Industries, Inc. (USI), Iselin, N.J., for $250 million in cash. The parent company of Hubbell Lighting expects to complete the transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, some time in the second quarter.

USI’s lighting group had 2001 sales of more than $575 million. Some of its brand names include Columbia Lighting, Dual-Lite, and Spaulding Lighting.

The acquisition comes on the heels of Hubbell’s purchase of MyTech Corp., Austin, Texas, last October and Hawke International, Houston, earlier this month.



March 22, 2002

Tradepower upgrades accounting software

Making it possible for contractors to integrate phone, fax, and electronic purchases directly into job cost and accounting programs, TradePower, Blue Bell, Pa., has expanded its accounting systems integration program, which allows accounting software systems to link with its PowerStation e-business platform.

The integration capabilities add to the platform’s instant processing of phone, fax, and electronic orders. The software is compatible with purchasing software from Apex and accounting software from CGC, FAI, Infosource, Quickbooks, and Timberline. The company also has plans to integrate PowerStation with accounting packages from Maxwell, Penta, Trueline, and Versyss.

For more information, visit www.tradepower.com.



March 20, 2002

Siemens to supply power distribution equipment for ethanol plant

Siemens Energy & Automation, Alpharetta, Ga., recently signed a deal with general contractor Lurgi PSI, Memphis, Tenn., to supply a range of power distribution equipment for a new ethanol plant to be built for Adkins Energy LLC, near the town of Lena, Ill.

The company will supply about $300,000 in electrical apparatus to the 40 million gallons corn-to-ethanol plant, consisting of low- and medium-voltage motor control centers, panelboards, switchboards, capacitors, and transformers.



March 20, 2002

Bud Industries updates online catalog


Making it easier to browse its online catalog of electronic enclosures, Bud Industries, Willoughby, Ohio, recently added new search tools to its Web site. A “Browse Online Catalog link at www.budind.com have improved navigation through the catalog and made viewing products easier.

The updated online catalog includes design features, illustrations, finishes, accessories, and specifications for more than 2,500 standard products. Visitors to the site can download drawings in Adobe .pdf or AutoCAD .dxf files.

A hard copy version of the catalog is also available for order via the Web site.



March 18, 2002

Philips Lighting launches site for online order tracking

Philips Lighting Company, Somerset, N.J., recently launched Tradelink, an Internet-based portal that offers customers real-time, personalized, self-service access to order and account management. The site was piloted to 28 industrial customer branches in October 2001, and complete customer rollout is now underway.

Customers will be able to determine status and tracking for current and past orders as soon as they’ve been placed. Access to order status information, including credit status, applicable block information, and confirmed ordered product quantities and delivery dates are available in real time, 24 hours a day. Links to freight carriers are also available for online shipment tracking.

The site also includes a product catalog with advanced search features, high-resolution photos and product marketing photos.

For more information, visit www.lighting.philips.com.



March 18, 2002

Graybar releases IT digest

The Information Technology Solutions Digest 2002 is now available from Graybar. The 40-page publication highlights a variety of products to be used in IT installations. Featured products include UPSs and surge protection devices, media converters, and network jacks.

To request a free copy, call 800-825-5517 or visit www.graybar.com.



March 15, 2002

Study uncovers varied opinions of deregulation

RKS Research & Consulting recently weighed in on the deregulation debate by releasing the findings of a survey of more than 800 medium-to-large U.S. businesses that confirms what many have believed for almost a year: Deregulation isn’t working. The news comes only three weeks after utility consultant Cap Gemini Ernst & Young published a report that outlined several problems facing deregulation.

Over 50% of businesses surveyed in the RKS study want states with choice to revert to noncompetitive energy markets, and nearly two-thirds of those want deregulation postponed indefinitely. However, more than one-third of those surveyed believe deregulation should be adopted throughout the rest of the country.

However, the results are not completely conclusive. Business customers rate the performance of their current suppliers in the deregulated market significantly higher than that of their state regulatory commission. State regulators scored a 5.5 on a 0-10 performance scale, while independent energy suppliers received scores between 7 and 8.

The study attributes the mixed results to regional and operational variations. Businesses in the South, for example, are the most satisfied with their energy suppliers, while the West has supplanted the Northeast as the most negative part of the country with regards to deregulation. And businesses served by electric cooperatives register higher scores than customers of municipal or investor-owned utilities.



March 13, 2002

Massachusetts approves 2002 NEC with amendments

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently adopted the 2002 National Electrical Code, but not without putting its own mark on the standards document. After making revisions to 210.12, among others, the commonwealth’s Board of Fire Prevention Regulations (BFPR) approved the Code with the new name 527 CMR 12:00, 2002 Massachusetts Electrical Code.

Responsible for promulgating fire safety codes, the 14-member BFPR appointed an advisory committee to review the latest version of the Code and make changes based on three criteria:

  • There are compelling local conditions that prompt a specific difference from the general provisions of the NEC.

  • There is a local consensus that a provision of the NEC is technically incorrect to the extent that it raises a compelling safety issue.

  • There is an evident error or other problem in the NEC that makes the provision unsuitable for mandatory, consistent enforcement under Massachusetts practice.

In particular, the committee decided the language in 210.12 was vague and required clarification. The section states that all branch circuits supplying 125V, single-phase, 15A and 20A outlets installed dwelling unit bedrooms must be protected by arc-fault circuit interrupters. The committee added a fine print note that notes some branch circuit outlet-type receptacles are listed as providing arc-fault circuit interruption protection when used as the first device in the branch circuit.

The BFPR committee received help in amending the NEC from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).



March 11, 2002

Fluke promotion offers gifts, rebates

Fluke customers who purchase $90 or more worth of Fluke handheld products or the company’s Micro Tools low-voltage wiring test products from an authorized distributor in the United States through May 31, 2002, will receive a gift or cash rebate.

Through the “Cool Gifts” promotion, customers are eligible for different gifts and rebates based on the amount of money they spend. A Xenon mini work light or a $7 rebate accompanies a $90 purchase. Those who spend $200 or more will receive a Swiss Army Foreman knife or an $18 cash rebate. Customers spending $500 or more may choose between a fleece-lined nylon jacket and a $35 rebate. And at the $1,500 level, customers will receive a Casio handheld color TV or a $70 rebate.

Official rules and rebate forms are available at participating distributors or at www.fluke.com/coolgifts.



March 11, 2002

Tradepower invites estimation software users to the desert for User Conference

Contractors who use Tradepower’s Estimation and Powerpro systems will have a forum to participate in discussions and hands-on demonstrations, as the Blue Bell, Pa.-based software manufacturer will host its 11th annual User Conference April 22-26 in Tempe, Ariz. The company will also release the new version of its Estimation software.

Programs designed specifically for electrical contractors will take place on April 22-23, and all users of the company’s Powerpro software will have the opportunity to participate April 24 in a conference to discuss their procurement process and software.

For more information about the conference, call (800) 275-6475.



March 11, 2002

IEC, Carsforwork partnership extends leasing options to member contractors

Previously an option only for large corporations, vehicle leasing and management programs from Carsforwork are now available to members of the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC). The Northbrook, Ill.-based company recently partnered with IEC to extend a 20% discount on products and services to small to mid-sized member contractors.

Carsforwork offers an open-end lease program—considered an operating lease by the IRS—that allows businesses to write off monthly payments as business expenses. The lease program can be terminated any time after the first 12 months without wear-and-tear fees or excess mileage fees.

“Most fortune 1000 company vehicle leases are open-end leases,” says Gary Rappeport, founder and CEO of Carsforwork. “IEC members represent an important segment of the small business fleet market that can benefit from these tools and in turn become more competitive.”

For more information, visit www.carsforwork.com.



March 8, 2002

GE Lighting Institute to host lighting safety course

The GE Lighting Institute will host a two-day course on lighting safety April 17-18, 2002, in Cleveland. “Lighting for Safety and Security” will explore proper use of light as part of a full security system and the requirements for creating well-lit environments for occupants.

For $350, attendees will learn about specification of appropriate light levels, selection and placement of light sources and equipment, interaction of lighting and close-circuit surveillance equipment, and the latest research in safety and security lighting.

To register or for more information, call (800) 255-1200, or visit www.gelighting.com/na/institute/conferences.html.



March 8, 2002

T&B discontinues several product lines

Thomas & Betts, Memphis, Tenn., recently announced it will no longer produce the following products:

  • Anchor metering equipment

  • Air conditioning disconnects

  • Safety switches

  • Multi-metering

  • Meter packs

  • Meter/breaker combinations

  • Load centers

The company announced that it will continue to manufacture and sell other residential circuit breakers, including the Classified, T&B Residential, and molded case circuit breaker lines.

Thomas & Betts will accept orders for the discontinued products until existing inventory is depleted, but not beyond March 31, 2002.



March 6, 2002

Alpha Technologies acquires Altair Energy

In an effort to strengthen its participation in the distributed generation (DG) industry, particularly in the realm of photovoltaics, Alpha Technologies, Bellingham, Wash., recently acquired DG provider Altair Energy, Golden, Colo. Alpha Technologies had just celebrated its 25th anniversary as a power system installer to the broadband communications industry.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Altair will continue to operate from its headquarters in Colorado with the same management team, staff, products, and services as before the acquisition. The company will serve as the beginning of Alpha’s new cogeneration division.

“Distributed generation has been an increasingly important element of our business model in recent years,” said Warren Johnson, Alpha Technologies president. “This acquisition shows our on-going commitment to this strategy.”



March 6, 2002

ASA partners with Firstcorp to extend credit line to members

In an effort to provide contractors with more credit options, the American Subcontractors Association (ASA), Alexandria, Va., and Firstcorp, Portland, Ore., have joined to develop and market a special equipment financing program for ASA members. The program will allow members to apply for credit online, calculate payments, and obtain credit lines for immediate or future purchases of equipment from vendors or suppliers of their choice.

“By working together, we’ll ensure that members who seek equipment financing will have a dedicated resource for financing virtually any type of equipment, whether it be computers, bid estimating or accounting software, or any other type of equipment,” said Russ Munson, Firstcorp managing director.

The online credit application service will be available on the subcontractor association’s Web site at www.asaonline.com.



March 4, 2002

CSI approves changes to MasterFormat

After more than a year of speculation concerning the possibility of a new Division 17 for telecommunications installations, the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) approved revisions to its MasterFormat specifications standard that include the elimination of Divisions 16 (electrical) and the creation of two new divisions (communications, and life safety and facility protection) that address the issues covered by the proposed Division 17. The revised standard will be published and take effect in late 2003.

The announcement brings to an end the debate over specifications for telecommunications wiring that had divided many in the electrical industry for nearly a year and a half. The new communications division addresses several topics in the proposed Division 17, but it does not use the exact structure or language submitted. The life safety and facility protection division will address some additional topics related to low-voltage systems, as well as some subject matter already covered in other locations in the current MasterFormat.

Although Division 16, which covered electrical specifications, was eliminated, its content will be included in a proposed group of new divisions containing expanded content. Existing Divisions 15 and 16 and new Divisions 17 through 20 will remain blank and act as placeholders for new divisions dedicated to topics that may arise in the future.

MasterFormat was last revised in 1995.



March 4, 2002

NFPA readies NFPA 5000 for a May vote

The National Fire Protection Association recently announced that the comment period for NFPA 5000 Building Code has closed and the draft will be voted on at the World Safety Conference and Exposition, to be held May 19-23, 2002, in Minneapolis. The NFPA’s Technical Correlating Committee recently completed actions on public comments made regarding the latest draft of the Building Code, and the committee’s report on comments will be available for public review in March.

If approved and subsequently issued by the Standards Council, the Building Code will be first ever developed through a consensus process accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

To view the draft form of NFPA 5000, visit www.nfpa.org/pdf/5000DRFT.pdf.



March 1, 2002

U.S. Labor Department probes California apprenticeship concerns

Emily Stover DeRocco, Department of Labor assistant secretary for employment and training, recently demanded an immediate response to allegations that a 1999 California law has been used to bar open-shop contractors from starting apprenticeship programs. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif., praised the department’s action.

In a Feb. 15 letter to Steven Smith, director of the California Department of Industrial Relations, DeRocco indicated that California has failed to respond to the Labor Department’s concerns about California Labor Code section 3075(b), which states that a need must be demonstrated before an apprenticeship program can be established. Critics allege the California Apprenticeship Council (CAC) has used this requirement to block open shops from offering apprenticeship programs in areas where union shop apprentice programs already exist.

“Because of the high priority the NAA [National Apprenticeship Act] places on making apprenticeship opportunities widely available,” DeRocco wrote, “it is essential that we receive a satisfactory response to these concerns, or we will be obligated to initiate de-recognition proceedings against the CAC.”

In a press release Miller issued shortly afterward, he wrote that Gov. Gray Davis and the CAC are trying to prevent nonunion shops from starting programs.

“The California Apprenticeship Council seems to believe that only union-run apprenticeship programs are needed. That’s odd, because less than 18% of construction workers belong to unions in California,” he wrote.

Groups that have expressed concern about California’s actions include the Independent Electrical Contractors, Alexandria, Va., the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association, Falls Church, Va., and the Associated Builders and Contractors, Rosslyn, Va.



March 1, 2002

CERA, Accenture set to release findings of energy market study

In an effort to identify the basic elements that must be in place for competitive energy markets to function, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), Cambridge, Mass., and consultant agency Accenture are set to release the findings of a joint study, “Energy Restructuring at a Crossroads,” that will be presented in Washington on March 5 by Larry Makovich, CERA senior director of North American electric power; Francis X. Shields, Accenture partner; and Keither Mueller, Accenture global managing partner.

Including input from more than 40 energy companies, industry associations and regulators, the study will define what energy companies and regulatory bodies need to do to create workable, competitive power markets.

“The United States power industry is at a restructuring crossroads of three paths,” says Shields. “It can continue along the path of experimental deregulation, backtrack to comprehensive regulation, or move forward to power markets that work.”

The presentation will be made at the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel, Washington, D.C.