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Updated: Jul 15, 2020


Shadrach Stephens


My first electrical project was to reconfigure a substation so that we could free up some manufacturing space on the plant floor and also add some additional electrical capacity.

I carefully took my cable length measurements, actually 2-3 times and even built in a 10% safety factor.

I proudly shared the design with my mentoring electrician and the first thing he said to me was “make sure that you have a 15 to 20% factor for the unknowns”. Back then, I was a hard headed, young buck engineer. I thought to myself, “why would I waste so much money on this extra factoring”?

But, my conscience wouldn’t let me be great! I decided to go with 15% extra.

Fast forward to the week of the shutdown...

We were pulling the last cable in the cable tray, getting ready to terminate the wire at the transformer when the electrician said, “Shad, are you a praying man? Looks like we gonna be short by several feet”.


I anxiously watched as the cable was lowered down from the ceiling and guess what? We only had 6 to 7 feet to spare.

That extra 5% made the difference and if I hadn’t listened to him, we would have had to splice the cables, which is NOT RECOMMENDED for wire that size. My measurements were accurate but I didn’t account for:

  1. The several feet of cable that was cut from the ends because of potential shipping damages.

  2. The radius bends in the junction boxes.

  3. The sweeps done inside of the electrical distribution panels.

All of those things were normal to the veteran electricians but definitely not to me, being that this was my first project. I hadn’t learned that in college but my mentor knew exactly what was needed.


We buttoned up everything, did our electrical tests and quality control checks and the project ended up being a success. After the plant shutdown, all of the production lines started back up on time and avoided millions of dollars of production losses. I learned a valuable lesson that week, collaborate and follow the advice of your subject matter experts. They may save your job!


Avoided millions of dollars of lost revenue and additional cost of material.

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