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Equipment Maintenance on a Tight Schedule

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by cdub260, Aug 12, 2008.

  1. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    I recently came across a reply to a post in the What Went Wrong? section that absolutely infuriated me. A tech was commenting that he hadn't cleaned the glass from a shattered lamp out of an instrument because he didn't have the time. Instead the light was retired. I thought about responding, but decided that the Lighting section was a more appropriate forum for this post.

    No one has the time for equipment maintenance. It's something for which you have to make the time. I know perfectly well that there are very few venues that can afford to shut down for a month or two just to clean their lights. Well guess what boys and girls, you don't have to.

    I have somewhere in the vicinity of 200 lights, and perhaps 30 pieces of effects equipment in my inventory. Every light, and those pieces of effects equipment that will be needed that season get a complete tear down and cleaning every year. Collectively that is a considerable investment of time and effort. However, I don't do it all at once. I spread my maintenance out over the course of a year. When I have a day where I have nothing else to do, or if I need to kill an hour or two, I will work on the tedious and boring job of equipment maintenance.

    How am I able to keep track of what has and has not been maintained? Well, this is where meticulous record keeping comes into play. Every piece of equipment in my inventory is tagged with a unique inventory number. By using the inventory number and equipment type to identify each light, I am able to keep a maintenance log, a record of what was done to the light and when. I use a simple Excel spreadsheet as my maintenance log, but a yellow legal pad would work just as well. It would just take longer to enter the information as you can't copy and paste. My major divisions are between lights and effects equipment, but within these categories, my logs include the following information: Equipment Type, Inventory Number, Date of Service, Model Number, Serial Number, Date of Manufacture, Description of Service, and Notes. Granted, not all of this information is applicable t every piece of equipment. For instance, most of my lights have neither a model number nor a serial number. That column just gets N/A for it's entry.

    Most of you are probably thinking that having to look up a light in your log to see if you've already maintained it can become a tedious and cumbersome task. Well, you're right! That's why I use various maintenance labels which I initial and date, so now all I have to to is check the yoke of the light where I put my labels to see when it was last serviced. The labels I use are Maintenance, Inspected, Tested, Repaired and Rejected. I know of three different suppliers I can use to get these labels, Grainger, McMaster-Carr, and Seton. I don't advise using Seton. They'll send you three catalogues a month for the rest of your life. It gets really irritating after a while, although it is kind of amusing that they've spent more on postage for their catalogues than I've spent with them in the last 5 years. I'm sure there are other suppliers out there that I'm not aware of.

    This may all seem like a long drawn out process and an awful lot of paper work to clean a few lousy lights, but it adds maybe a minute to the maintenance of each piece of equipment, and allows you to spread your maintenance out over the entire length of your operating season. Additionally, it provides you with a paper trail on your equipment maintenance, so that should there be an incident involving one of your lights, when the powers that be ask "Why wasn't this light properly maintained?", you can look it up in your log and say "I did this, this, and this on this date." After all, we could all use a little CYA insurance.

    I guess the main point I'm making here is that there is no excuse for neglecting proper equipment maintenance. "I don't have the time." doesn't hold water with me, and you can bet that when something happens and OSHA comes knocking, it will hold even less water with them.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2008
    pat811 and (deleted member) like this.
  2. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Humm.. Back when I had a ton of stuff (before PCs) I used a somewhat simpler system. About once every three months or so, we would do a maintenance day. The fixtures we did would get a spot of paint on the yoke. (Red= spring, blue= summer, yellow = fall, etc.) In addition, we would sharpie the bulb dates on the bases of the lamps. At a glance, you would know which fixtures were done when.
     
  3. Charc

    Charc Well-Known Member

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    I know of a theater (not mine, though it does too) that needs to seriously take a look at maintaing its lights. Sure, everything has all the parts, but in terms of cleaning the lenses and reflectors... It is quite a tedious process though, and unless it's an annual thing, it really does require a fair bit of paperwork.

    Just checking to make sure I'm not crazy:

    Use Iso on everything, never us Ammonia?
     
  4. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    At one theatre I work at, we shut down for a week every 6 months to do inventory, equipment maintenance, facility work, an entire sweep of the building to replace dead bulbs, lamps, and ballasts, touch-up paint on the walls, repaint the stage floor, etc, etc.

    That's easy to do when you have 5-8 people working 10a-7p each day, but at a nearby school, I did not get so lucky. I've been in charge of single-handedly moving all of the equipment out of the old auditorium, preparing it for the new arts center, and taking care of the years of neglect the equipment has seen. Between moving an maintenance, I've been busy at work on average 8a-3p, 4-5 days a week, since early June. The worst part is motivating yourself as the more monotonous tasks are the only ones left, and I've found that if I crank some music, and establish a goal each day, that works really well to keep me moving. Hardly a tight schedule, but it passes the time while I'm in the building anyways meeting with electricians, dealers, interior designers, and administrators to keep the renovation of one of our spaces moving along.

    If you clean your reflectors, bake your cables, and vacuum your dimmer racks regularily, it will make your life much easier.
     
  5. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    I do use Iso to clean my lenses and reflectors. I also use lint free rags. It makes my life a bit easier.
     
  6. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    As a matter of fact my crew consists of 3 people: Me, Myself, and I.

    Usually, if I need a hand with something I can grab someone from our shop staff, but as their knowledge of lighting and electrical is somewhat lacking, I end up doing most of the work myself.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2008
  7. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Working at a school, with a volunteer staff, I've been trying to get in the habit of not letting equipment sit when it does need repair, but rather addressing it right away. I lose the occasional lunch, but it keeps a backlog from building up.

    Bake your cables? I'm not familiar with that one.
     
  8. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    See http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/sound/8286-relaxing-cables.html]here

    Helps keep the cables neat and untangled. Doesn't do much for cables that have been terribly abused already though.
     
  9. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Here here on your ideas much less Seton in catalogs - constantly irritating with them and others. For the paper and postage perhaps they wouldn’t need to change prices on at most only a few items more frequently - much less cost as many trees/gas etc.

    You have a similar concept in program to what I track moving light lamps with in a return of like at least $20K if not $60K a year in lamp returns for. All by way of tracking the stuff and people that change lamps just filling out five lines of info about this lamp change. In addition to this, even yesterday in seeing two lamps in a row that seemed like inner globe micro crack failure yet associated with the same fixture within the same one-off production I was instead able to associate the failed lamps with a bad lighting fixture in some way. Given this I was able to call that fixture for service call and it even having passed inspection will be re-pulled and further analized.

    Well done, well on the way to a PATT test as I understand it and all ways of managing your equipment. Most should take note of what you have and are able to do - it’s their job also to properly manage the gear they are charged with.
    .
    Really good solution for a static install installation. For us, each fixture is inspected before each show and bench focused. Anything that needs work following the inspection gets rejected and another fixture replaces it. Following that, where there is time any fixtures rejected get all care they need. Very different situation on amount of gear and or care given to them - this also granted many fixtures can be out months or even over a year with only lamp changes done to them thus every time it gets prepped for a show all care and cleaning is done no matter if only last time on a few hours or out say at this point for one show almost a year now.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2008
  10. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Thanks, just hadn't heard that term. Saving cables falls under preventative maintenance, of beating it into your crew the proper way to coil and handle cables.
     
  11. LightStud

    LightStud Active Member

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    If its broken or dirty, throw it away and buy new ones. That's the American way. But seriously, how much is the labor costing? At some point you reach a point of dimminishing returns, where it's not cost effective to repair old equipment.
     
  12. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Then it becomes a matter of convincing the people that hold the checkbooks that there's a problem. We've been unable to convince our accountant that it's not cost effective to keep messing with our broken collection of ~120 Strand SL's, so we're keeping track of how much it costs to keep fixing them, and then we'll present that figure to him, next to a figure that shows how much it would cost to replace our inventory with S4's
     
  13. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    True enough, however I have found that properly maintaining the equipment from day one can extend its useful life quite a bit.

    When I first started as M.E. at the Pageant of the Masters, most of the equipment I inherited from my predecessor was in very poor repair, having rarely, if ever, been maintained. Most of that equipment was less than 10 years old. Of the 100 or so lights that were in use when I started there 9 years ago, I've had to throw out about 40 of them because they were in such bad shape that it was more cost effective to by new lights than to try to resurrect what was left of my original inventory. All but 4 of the remaining 60 or so lights have become the lighting inventory of our smaller 236 seat theatre, replacing the truly ancient lights that had been in use there for 30 years. So while no longer acceptable for use in the 2600 seat ampetheatre, these broken down old lights are still used. I just wish I hadn't had to strip so many for parts.

    If this equipment had been properly maintained from the get go, the company I work for would not have had to invest tens of thousands of dollars replacing old, worn out lighting instruments over the last 9 years. That money could have been used to make other improvements to our facilities and systems.

    One thing is for certain though. Whoever takes this job when I finally decide I'm done will not inherit the same type of mess that I did.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2008
  14. Serendipity

    Serendipity Active Member Premium Member

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    My school's inventory is far less expansive, so we can maintenance lights without too much hassle. The first couple weeks of school, the Advanced Lighting class starts moves from space, to space, to storage, and cleans and maintenances all of our inventory. Each light is given a color-coded sticker, with the date of inspection. If it passes, then it gets the color for the year, and gets to go sit on the shelf with it's fellow fixtures. If it fails, and is not within the capabilities we have for repair, it gets tagged with an explanation of the issue, and is put on aptly titled the "NFG-- Shelf Should Be Empty!" shelf.
    A lot of people whine about the boring classes (hey, it's only for half the time, the other half you're not being slave labor!), but I'm honestly glad we take good enough care of our fixtures, because we're not going to be getting new ones any time soon. Plus, it's a great time to get to know new people in the class. Nothing like bonding over S4 par lenses? :confused:
    We do test our cable as well, but not anywhere near as organized.



    Also, I've seen theatrical lights used in permanent installation locations, and was wondering how they get taken care of... if at all? I know there's even Architectural versions of S4s, but whose job is it to stop spiders from seeking refuge in there?
     
  15. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    They generally don't ever get taken care of. I know a place that has had SourceFours in the mall ceiling since 1993. They get dusted once a year as a fire precaution, and maybe the color is changed and the exterior of the front lens is wiped with a dirty damp rag. So 24/7/265 for almost 15 years, (but never above 90% level).

    Members of the Building's Facilities Dept., maintenance, and sometimes custodians/janitors. The ones who install the longest-life lamp possible, use ChannelLocks to tighten C-clamps, and wouldn't know a bench focus if it bit them in the ... . "You mean that white cellophane on the front is supposed to be blue?"

    Spiders don't enjoy places with temperatures reaching up to 800°F. Outdoors, moths are an issue, and can create a fire hazard, but it's outside the building.
     
  16. quarterfront

    quarterfront Member

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    Devil's advocate here...:evil:;)

    Your accountant is probably right. Maintainance manhours are cheaper than instrument replacement. Consider this: replace all of your front lenses and reflectors at, say, $50/lens,$40/reflector, pull the shutters and hammer them flat (replace the really bad one, probably 1 in 10 overall, which would average out to about a buck a unit overal), put it all back together, bench it.... 15 minute job for 2 people at a generous $20/hr, you're up to $111 total. A new unit is on it's way to $300. Just saved $189 and your instruments are pretty much as good as new.

    When you do your figures, if you're honest, you'll probably find out that replacing with S4's is actually the financial looser. Keep in mind that it won't be long before the new instruments will be needing maintainance.

    Granted, I'm not familiar with Strand SL's, I live in C'tran land. Still, I have 78 C'trans @21 yrs. old that are my workhorses and still are going strong. Used to be 80. We run 8 shows a week, 42 weeks a year, plus about 6 weeks a year of tech time and in 21 years we've only had to part out two units.

    What you do instead is get in the mode of buying a new unit every show or two. Just build into the budget to buy a S4 every so often so that instead of asking for an outlay of thousands of dollars all at once to replace your whole inventory you budget about $300 every couple months. This method appeals to accountants because it's responsible, prudent and effective. You keep your equipment, get every last dollar of value out of it, keep it running forever, but also have better, newer units to use where you really need them. As you go along you can retire the real dogs, but you'll find that your old inventory isn't as bad as you thought and also you'll end up with a bigger inventory (as opposed to one that's prettier, brighter and not as heavy but still is only the same number of fixtures). Most appealing for your accountant, you avoid a situation where he has to go to the theatre's sugar daddies hat in hand begging for $45,000.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2008
  17. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    When it comes to inspecting and testing cable, I'm not quite as meticulous with my record keeping, as my cables do not have inventory tags. However, they do get Inspected and Tested stickers on the connecters when they pass. If I reject a cable, its because it has a problem that cannot be repaired such as cracked and brittle insulation.

    As for theatrical lights in permanent installations, I have 4 of those, two of which are only accessible with a boom lift. Given that lift rentals are expensive, I can't justify renting a boom lift just so I can service two Source 4 Jr.'s. Fortunately, at least once per year, the Pageant rents a boom lift for other projects around our facility. At that time I pull the lights down for regular maintenance, but with one step added. I replace the lamp, whether it needs it or not. As a preventative measure, I clean the new lamp with Isopropyl Alcohol, just in case it came out of the factory with finger prints on it. The absolute last thing I want, is to have a fixture that I can't get to blow a lamp because I was too lazy clean the lamp.

    As for the spiders, they're more than welcome to make a home in my lights. Its the birds that are the real problem.
     
  18. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Something I may have forgotten to mention is that the Pageant of the Masters takes place in the Irvine Bowl, a 2600 seat amphitheatre, 1/4 of a mile from the Pacific Ocean. Exposure to the elements and highly corrosive salt air make it even more critical that I keep up with my equipment maintenance.
     
  19. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    I agree and disagree. The SL's fall apart just when someone looks at them. Many of ours have broken/cracked reflectors, missing focus knobs, missing rotation knobs, missing springs and other small pieces associated with those stupid knobs, broken rotation rings, the list goes on.

    The cost of materials and labor for repairs just wouldn't be worth it, and the building has only been open 6 years. S4's are far more rugged, will survive the needs of a roadhouse, and if you purchase them all at once, it's a large price tag, but because it's in bulk, you get a much better deal per-fixture. Then if we were to sell off the SL's, or work out a trade-in deal with a dealer, the price tag comes down even more. The SL is just poorly built, and with too many small, plastic pieces that can go missing. We like our Strand Fresnelites, just not the SL's.
     
  20. Serendipity

    Serendipity Active Member Premium Member

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    Sounds completely reasonable. Yay preventative magic!
    I was wondering more for places where they don't have people running organized maintenance especially and don't tend to have knowledge of theatrical lights. For example, there's ERSs in local shopping malls. I'd assume they'd send someone up to re-lamp once in a while, but I doubt they properly maintain the fixture (unless it's too gross to do the intended job, in which case they just dust it off? :confused: )...


    Obviously, you have a vast family of them making homes house left focused for the turn table.
     

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