It might be birds or tree limbs or gremlins. Whatever it is that's causing the widespread power outages in El Paso, Texas, it has molders and El Paso Electric Co. officials extremely frustrated. Most molders experienced the blackouts that have occurred three times since the first one on Sept. 19. The blackouts last from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the plant's location in the city.
For molders who need a consistent, uninterrupted power supply to maintain production, the outages have resulted in several hours of downtime, lost production and major damage to electrical systems.
Lyle Vaughn, plant manager at Southern Tech Plastics Inc., said a power surge blew all the fuses in the plant when electricity came back on after an Oct. 21 outage. It took an electrician six hours to repair the plant's electrical system and replace all the fuses. The company lost a whole shift's worth of work.
Southern Tech operates 40 presses and Vaughn said the outages have been costly for the custom molder.
Vaughn, like most other plant managers, expressed frustration over the whole thing.
``I hope they find out what's causing it. This is very costly and we don't need it again,'' he said.
Bhan Paam, plant manager for Summit Plastic Molding Inc., just outside the El Paso city limits in Horizon, Texas, also experienced the blackouts. Summit operates 10 presses, including one with 1,000 tons of clamping force.
Blown fuses also were a problem at that plant. Paam said getting everything working after the outage took several hours.
Besides downtime, material losses have been a concern for DJ Inc., a 64-press custom molder. Zina Magnuson, materials control supervisor, said the firm generated a lot of scrap during the outages.
Although the company does have generators, they do not produce enough power to run the entire production floor.
Material is lost not only on bad parts, but the presses must be purged after each outage. Magnuson said maintenance workers scramble to shut down all the presses during an outage so that a power surge will not damage equipment.
``When we see the lights starting to flicker, we take proactive measures to get things shut down,'' she said.
El Paso Electric Co. officials still have not found the problem that created the short that resulted in the first outage. The problem originated in a major transmission line between Springerville, Ariz., and Deming, N.M., said Henry Quintana Jr., supervisor of corporate communications for El Paso Electric.