Know Your Warranty: Take Care of Your Poles Sooner Rather than Later
We want to talk about an “elephant in the room” in the utility industry - manufacturer warranties. A steel pole manufacturer’s, or installation contractor’s warranty is typically 1-2 years on an asset with an economical life expectancy of 50 years or more. So, if you find asset defects, or non-conformances to applicable codes, standards, or specifications after your short warranty period is up, you could potentially be on the hook for millions of dollars in damages or necessary corrective action to rectify the issues. It’s safe to say, nobody wants that.
End of Warranty Inspections Have Your Back
We see this happen all too often with our clients. The good news is you can potentially redirect responsibility for these warrantable issues back where they contractually belong. But it is always better to address any issues before the warranty expires. Exo would recommend making an end of warranty inspection an integral and strategic part of your overall project and asset management program. This means knowing when your warranty is up and having a professional inspector examine the assets before the warranty deadline. While often times component, or pole failure may not occur within the warranty period, this doesn’t mean everything is alright. Signs of defects or non-conformances can surface early if you know what to look for.
By making an end of warranty of inspection a priority, you can:
- Identify manufacturing and/or installation defects: Because an end of warranty inspection occurs so early on in the life of a pole, it is easier to identify defects or non-conformances that are due to poor manufacturing or installation issues, rather than in-service related issues. These can be welding defects, coating issues, or galvanizing deficiencies, improper assembly, etc. that if left un-remediated can lead to bigger, long-term problems.
- Save significant repair costs: When defects, or non-conformances are caught while an asset is still under warranty, the manufacturer, or installer will still be responsible for the costs as a warranty matter. Exo has helped utility clients avoid footing the bill for several millions of dollars of costly field remediation by simply identifying the issues during the warranty period.
We’ve seen the other scenario play out as well. Another utility company didn’t identify the early signs of manufacturing or installation issues, and five years into the assets’ life, beyond the warranty period, it is costing the company several million dollars in repairs and downtime fixing the problems while they try to recover the expense post warranty. While there is a cost to an inspection, clearly it is a fraction of what you would incur for a significant field repair effort, or if a pole failure happens. .
- Properly close out your supplier contract: Conducting an end of warranty inspection should be the final step for a utility company to complete a contract with an asset supplier, or installer. This additional level of thoroughness shows your suppliers and contractors that you expect high quality products and services and gives you greater control over the assets you’re paying for.
Early Inspector Involvement Goes a Long Way (The Hawthorne Effect)
If you want to be extra sure of detecting potential defects before your asset warranty is up, you can involve experienced, professional inspectors, from the very beginning of your project. Tap into their expertise during the following stages (in addition to the end of the warranty period) for maximum oversight and peace of mind:
- Procurement: Professional inspectors can work with you even before you’ve chosen an asset supplier. They have insight into the competence and capabilities, and strengths and weaknesses, of suppliers and can advise you in the selection process.
- Fabrication: When you have professional inspectors in the manufacturing plant during fabrication, they can watch out for potential issues with the materials, or oversights in the manufacturing process that are being missed that could surface later on. This will help ensure the materials used in construction are durable and dependable.
- Installation: Typically, poles are installed by a different company than the manufacturer, which has the potential to cause communication or expectation gaps. Professional inspectors can identify missteps in assembly of the structures, or damage to the assemblies or the protective coatings. Correcting these during a warranty period provides longer-term success with the assets.
Work with the Exo Experts
Whether you need Exo to perform an end of warranty assessment, or you’d like to utilize Exo’s experienced, professional inspectors on your project from the get-go during fabrication and/or installation, we can work with you. We know the ins and outs of utility poles and towers and have inspection experience at all stages of the process. Through our Ex-Tend(TM) asset management program, we help utility companies like you maximize the lifespan of their assets.