When the new plant engineer came onboard a couple of years ago, she changed electrical testing firms. You're in a meeting where she's not present and the plant manager is complaining.

"The old firm was in and out on the same day, and this one takes two full days. What especially disturbs me is their report. It shows all these cables needing replacement. The old firm never did that. I think these new guys don't know what they're doing, because it takes them twice as long, and their results aren’t as good."

What might be going on? What should the plant engineer do?

By bringing this up without the plant engineer present, your plant manager undermines his own team. But the plant engineer also erred by not keeping the plant manager informed as to why these differences exist. Because the plant manager is her boss, she should do a mea culpa and promise to improve communication. That will help her prevent political problems with this boss.

As for the test differences, is this "apples to oranges?" Did the two firms have different testing programs or the same? Most likely, the new testing firm is performing more rigorous testing and thus finding previously hidden problems. Possibly, much of the failure rate delta is coincidental. That is, since hiring the new firm a transient event or other power anomaly did widespread cable damage and this is showing up in the test results.

The plant engineer should prepare an analysis plan for determining the cause(s) of these failures and discuss that with the plant manager — after, of course, discussing with the testing firm.