Moving smoothly to the 17th Edition
Up-to-date software for the 17th Edition of hte Wiring Regulations can save you a lot of time in looking up details that have not yet become familiar yet — liberating time for more productive activities.
Details of the 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations are due to be published in a couple of months. So now is the time to start thinking about how your software will cope with the new requirements, says Philip Grace.It may only seem like yesterday but it is actually 16 years since the Wiring Regulations received a major overhaul, in the shape of the 16th Edition. A lot of things have changed in that time so the introduction of the 17th Edition (BS 7671:2008) next year is very timely. The new regulations will be published on 1 January and will come into full effect on 1 July. One of the big changes in that time has been the increase in computer usage by contractors. In 1991, when the 16th Edition was launched, computers were far from being a must-have item in a contractor’s office. Where computers were being used, it was mainly for general office applications like word processing and spreadsheets. Dependent
Nowadays, we are all much more dependent on information technology — not just for general administration but also for a whole range of everyday activities. Just think how disastrous it seems when the e-mail goes down for a few hours. Similarly, many of the industry-specific tasks that are part and parcel of electrical work, such as circuit designs and test-and-inspection certificates, have migrated from manual methods to software-based systems. In fact, it is hard to imagine going back to time-consuming manual methods for the majority of these activities. I believe this dependency has fundamentally changed the relationship between software developers and software users, because software is now just as important a tool for electrical companies as a multi-meter or a screwdriver. Consequently, software developers have a responsibility to ensure that the tools they offer are more than just fit for purpose; they should also add value to their designated purpose. A case in point is the pivotal role that design or test and inspection software will play when it comes to getting to grips with the 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations. There will be basic software that is just fit for purpose, insofar as it will incorporate all the updated information. And there will be software that goes further by integrating the changes in such a way that they become a seamless part of the ways the user and the software interact. For example, it is pretty certain the 17th Edition will broaden the range of earth disconnection times for different types of connection. Basic software that is fit for purpose and offers the minimum functionality will just offer more options to choose from. In contrast, smarter software that really adds value to the process will also evaluate the connection type, select the right disconn-ection time and present it all in easy to use, logical way that facilitates the design process. The result is that the number-crunching abilities of the software are used to their full potential and the user has more time to focus on the aspects of the design that require the application of his or her specialist knowledge.
It is hard to imagine going back to time-consuming manual methods for most of the activities that are routinely carried out by software — such as preparing bills of quantities.
Similarly, we know that many of the changes encompassed in the 17th Edition will be designed to bring the UK into line with European regulations, such as re-numbering regulations to align them with IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) numbering. As most test certificates quote the numbers of relevant regulations, this change has implications for day-to-day documentation. Here, test-and-inspection software can save the user a lot of time simply by incorporating the correct details in both desktop and mobile versions of the software. It is a relatively small detail but, potentially, a big help. Key role for software
These two examples illustrate a key role for software in getting to grips with new regulations. It cannot act as a substitute for learning about the new regulations yourself, but, by incorporating the detail and making ‘intelligent’ suggestions, software can save you a lot of time in looking up details that have not yet become familiar yet. And anything that frees up such time liberates more time for more productive activities. While we have a good idea about some of the changes we will know exactly what they are until BS 7671:2008 is published in January. There will then be a six month transition period before the regulations come into force on 1 July, giving everyone a chance to get to grips with the changes. In keeping with the responsibilities I outlined earlier, this is also the time for developers of electrical software to be ensuring that the future versions of their software are, at the very minimum, going to cope with the 17th Edition. Ideally, they will also be designed to integrate the changes to provide greater flexibility and higher productivity. Some companies that are adding value at a functionality level will also be adding financial value by offering new users free upgrades to the 17th Edition versions of their software when it becomes available. Philip Grace is senior Engineer with Amtech.