in-house-vs-subcontract

Should I Do Power Studies In-House or Subcontract Them Out?

For some companies, deciding whether to perform power monitoring studies with their own in-house professionals or subcontracting out the work may be a real toss-up. There is no “right answer” but there is a right answer for you. That answer may change over time. This article is a guide to making (and revising) that decision (to be clear, this only applies to organizations with professionals on staff trained in working with power and capable of learning and safely installing a power analyzer).

The Case for In-House Power Testing

Money-Saving (Potentially)

  1. If you have the staff that have the ability and time to perform the testing, it’s hard to not achieve cost-savings when doing the testing yourself. They are already on the payroll, you trust their abilities, they are likely to already be familiar with the equipment and operating environment, and have clearances to get access.
  2. If you are concerned that there may not be enough power studies to justify buying and maintaining a system, you can rent at a favorable rate. For example, if systems are rented at a rate of 1/8 the cost of buying, but you expect to do testing only a couple times a year, you can minimize your costs by renting a system when needed. The bonus of renting is that the rental is guaranteed to be working and calibrated, which are keys to your success and confidence.
  3. If your personnel are fine for doing the testing but not available or strong at setting the analyzer up and creating a summary report, you may be able to pay a knowledgeable consultant to set the analyzer up for your specific test and/or to generate a summary or comparison report. Summit Technology offers this option for its PowerSight rentals.
  4. Typically, a contracted source will need clearance and escort during the setup and teardown of the test. If you have personnel to serve as escort, why not save money and use them to do the setup and teardown?
  5. If you expect enough studies to justify buying a power analysis system, then you can consider turning it into a revenue source by doing testing for other companies or divisions.
  6. Note: if you decide to buy, consider the long-term cost of ownership. Explore if you can renew the warranty repeatedly and what the cost of calibration is. The PowerSight warranty is renewable and includes a free yearly calibration. Read here about how PowerSight analyzers keep ownership costs low over time.

Obviously, it depends on the recent demand for power testing for each individual organization, but research has shown that this kind of work is only growing. A 2020 survey of electrical contractors found that electrical testing/maintenance and power quality work has been steadily increasing since 2014.

Speed & Ease

There is no doubt that getting a power study done with the same staff that will do the rest of the job would be easier and faster.

Delays arise from:

  • Researching,
  • Contracting,
  • Scheduling,
  • Coordinating with another company

These activities take time, effort, and unneeded distraction. Even if you have a subcontractor that you routinely go to, there may be delays and complications when they need access to the test site in order to get access to the equipment, which takes your personnel away from other things. If there are sudden changes needed to the scheduling, your personnel are probably better equipped to adjust to the new circumstances than your subcontractor is.

Quality Control

If you or your personnel are perfectly capable of completing a power study on your own, it might seem counter-intuitive to hire an outside company to provide the same level of service. By doing everything in-house, you can control the conditions, pace, and overall success of the test. Hiring an electrical testing company means your project can only be as successful as they are, which may not be worth the risk for some decision-makers. If your company is doing a job for a client and the subcontractor cannot deliver your company’s level of excellence in that area of the job, it can reflect poorly on your company in the eyes of the client.

The Case for Subcontracting

Money-Saving (the flip side)

If power studies are something your organization is hardly ever called on to perform, it may be more economical to hire a testing company. Buying or renting test equipment and training your staff are a strategic investment of funds and time, and it just isn’t worth it if you do not do power monitoring projects often enough.

If you are having the testing done for a client of yours, it may be easier to pass through the bill of the testing organization to your client than it is for you to tack on additional charges for doing the testing yourself.

A potential indirect cost is the ability of your personnel vs the testing subcontractor to correctly identify problems and solutions for your facility. If the testing is needed, correct results and correct interpretation probably outweigh the cost of the testing itself.

Experienced, Proven Professionals

Professional electrical testing service companies do not exist as a luxury; they provide services that are generally superior to what will be done in-house. Generally, it is hard to go wrong hiring a NETA accredited company (NAC) for any power monitoring job. Many NACs use PowerSight analyzers as a reliable tool for their success (and their clients’). Subcontracting to an NAC reduces risk and provides peace of mind in knowing that they have been there, done that, and will know how to perform almost any test successfully, minimizing error and maximizing safety.

Time-Saving

On top of having confidence in the work being done well, there is benefit to subcontracting as much of the job as you can to an outside firm. The subcontractor will likely do the job more efficiently due to expertise and familiarity and it takes the details off your mind. Not everyone has the luxury of being able spend valuable time researching equipment, buying or renting it, acquainting their staff with the new tools, and managing their testing process. If that is your situation, letting a testing company take care of the study could be exactly what is needed.

A Fair Third Party

Getting quality and objective results from a fair and competent third-party testing and measurement company gets results that may be accepted better by management or you own clients. The recipients can trust that you’re not prescribing a solution or raising a problem that does not have a legitimate basis. In some situations/locales, this may even be a requirement.

Conclusion

The need for power testing is not going away—the choice remains whether your organization will perform the tests in-house or hire an experienced company to do so. There is generally more money to be saved (and made) in adding power monitoring to your arsenal, as opposed to a more consistent level of service in subbing the test out. If you do not have the personnel to do the testing in-house, or if your job requires testing be done by a third party, the choice becomes which testing company you hire, not if you should hire one. However, if you are like many electrical professionals today that are seeing an increased demand for power monitoring, you might consider adding it to your wheelhouse and potentially saving or making some serious money off of it. To see if a power analyzer will fit your budget (now and over time), give our PowerSight sales team a call (925-944-1212) or email and we will work with you to craft a solution for your unique situation. We both sell and rent our systems, and we can provide the additional services of equipment setup and report generation.