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Focus - Programmable switching

image Kenneth W. Hengst, Branch Manager, 4C2 Electrical Associates, Houston, TX

HOUSTON - A native of Houston, Hengst began his electrical trade career in 1974. He became a Journeyman in 1977 and then progressed to be a Houston Master Electrician (HMEL 205) in 1990. His career has covered industrial, aviation and commercial installations throughout the greater Houston area, combining hands on and management roles. He is a principle member for the IEC on Code Making Panel 8 and a member of UL STP 5 and 6 along with a number of other committees working to enhance the electrical contracting and installation industry.

How would you describe the state of the construction industry in general terms?
    I would say it is steady, but not spectacular. Health Care is active and new light industrial is slower than the recent past. In my older neighborhood, restaurant and small commercial ventures are very active.

Have you experienced an increase or a slowdown in business?
    We have seen an increase in revenue and backlog, led by capital improvements to existing facilities by our customers.
What factors are driving this increase/slowdown?
    In my opinion, the increase is due to a better business environment. Higher sales are leading to the confidence to repair or replace aging equipment.

What are the “hot button” issues in your industry?
    There are three “hot button” issues in the electrical industry. The first is maintaining and training a competent workforce. The second “hot button” issue is safety compliance. And third, payment terms which are trending longer.
What is the most significant challenge your industry faces? (i.e. labor shortage, other)
    Improving the productivity of our limited workforce is the biggest challenge in our industry.

Do you see an increase in the number of outside contractors coming to the area?

    No, I have not. The local workforce is very competent and while other parts of the country that have been lagging, the Houston area is enjoying resurgences of their own.

What are the costs increases relating to your industry?

    Steel conduit and all of the associated fittings have gone up as much as 40 percent this year and many of the commodities we purchase have been affected as well.

What is on the horizon for your industry? (Changes in technology; equipment; other)

    Increasing worker safety in existing facilities by advances in ARC-Flash technology.

Have their been any significant code changes in the past year? Or regulations?

    While we are in the first full year of compliance with the 2017 National Electrical Code, expanded use of arc-fault devices and the addition of several new articles in the 2020 edition of the Code will require all contractors to stay current with continuing education.

With the emphasis on green building, what is the most environmentally friendly change relating to your industry?

    Programmable switching and the expanded use of LED lighting system controls have to be at the forefront of environmental changes. In addition, advances in the solar power generation are a close second.

What are keys to being successful?
    The keys to success for me are Integrity, a competent workforce and the willingness to practice servant leadership.

4C2 Electrical Associates is a Dallas based company who specializes in installation and maintenance services for industrial. -cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net