'Trust, but verify': A motto we can live with

Safety is becoming more and more important as counterfeit goods continue permeating the market

05/20/2013


The very worst part of the world we live in today is that we have become suspicious of one another. One perspective on the events of Boston in April is that two young men walking down the street carrying backpacks used to be no big deal. We don’t have that feeling today. We can feel safe, but we probably won’t for a while.

The fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, is cause for more unease. Anyone who saw the harrowing video of the plant fire suddenly knocking over a family with the sheer force of the blast wave from a mile away cannot forget it. The workplace it specific hazards; this kind of event falls well outside those expectations.

Circuit breakers are commodities. They are produced in the hundreds of thousands each year, and the great plants produce them all to the highest quality, to the most stringent tolerances. They do this because to do otherwise would jeopardize their business and their customers, and no amount of profit margin is worth that risk.

Yet there are less reputable manufacturers who factor those risks into the cost of doing business. Worse, there are those who will make cheap knockoffs of the real thing and sell them to unsuspecting customers. The result can be dangerous, even deadly, but the distributors of these counterfeit products want only the profit. The safety of the workers, they must reason, is someone else’s problem.

So, as our cover story this month points out, we must be suspicious. We must be cautious. We must do for ourselves and our workers what those who would sell these phony items will not do for us. The danger of counterfeit circuit breakers is real—and so is the danger posed by people who would try to profit from the dangers.

Take the case of Nick Toldy of Austin, Texas. According to the court documents, Toldy took American circuit breakers with him to China, and worked on having knock-off versions of the circuit breakers manufactured in China with the trademarks of several well-known circuit breaker manufacturers. He also added the official trademark of Underwriters Laboratories and began selling the bogus circuit breakers not only as a legitimate product, but a product that bore the UL label.

The Homeland Security Investigations division of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency raided Toldy’s Pioneer Breaker and Control Supply warehouse in Austin in April 2011 and seized 19,000 counterfeit breakers. A subsequent raid in Laredo, Texas, yielded another 77,000 phony breakers.

By December 2011, Toldy had pled guilty to mail fraud and selling the phony breakers. In November 2012, he was sentenced by a federal judge to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay almost $60,000 in restitution.

At the time of Toldy’s guilty plea, Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement investigation out of the Jacksonville, Fla., office, had some harsh words about Toldy. “This individual, motivated only by greed, has allowed these potentially dangerous counterfeit circuit breakers to be bought and used in homes and businesses around the country,” she said in a press release. “These items, which have not been properly manufactured or tested, could lead to costly repairs, property damage, and even serious injury or death.”

The case of Nick Toldy ought to be a cautionary tale for the counterfeiters, except that his sentence of 366 days in jail, given federal sentencing guidelines, means that if he was sentenced last November, he ought to be getting out right about…now.

The real cautionary tale is for the rest of us. Our story this month points out several things to look for with counterfeit breakers, and an experienced electrical manager probably can spot a phony. The most important thing to remember, as it is with the products YOU manufacture, is that the product price is but one factor to consider when you buy any commodity for your plant.

Know your supplier—and if your supplier doesn’t know you, look for another supplier. Examine your shipment when it comes through the door, and again before it goes in the machine.

“Trust, but verify,” is a quote attributed to Ronald Reagan during the end of the Cold War and the negotiations with Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev for an arms treaty. Ironically, it’s an old Russian adage, and as the story goes, when Reagan first spoke it to Gorbachev, he spoke it in Russian.

Reagan knew that if he was going to use the phrase, he was going to give proper credit to its place of origin. “Trust, but verify” is a great way to reconcile our current world, inside and outside our plant. 



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me