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Lack of motor management awareness costing UK industry heavily

13 July 2011

ABB has devised a scheme to encourage the process industry to uncover the true cost of running electric motors. Research by the company reveals that UK industry is failing to efficiently manage its motor inventory, thereby incurring millions of pounds of unnecessary downtime, repair and energy costs. Called MotorAdvantage, the scheme involves a simple three stage approach.

This includes a site visit by a motor engineer who, after assessing the installed motor base of the plant, identifies up to five motor-driven applications that offer the best potential for further analysis. From this, ABB can assess the end-users current policy in the event of a motor failure and the financial impact on the company; identify improvements to be made with regards to policy and stockholding; and determine the energy use of the current installation.

ABB’s concerns about the state of the UK electric motor installed base is driven by the widening gap between the value of new industrial low voltage motor sales in the UK – estimated at £70 million – and the motor repair industry which is conservatively valued at twice that amount.

While mechanical repairs – such as bearings and shafts – will always be needed, ABB thinks there is a lesser need for so many motor rewinds.

“No one should be making inferior motors today,” says Steve Ruddell. “The technology and materials used by today’s motors gives them an expected life span in excess of 20 years. They should be durable and highly reliable. Yet many repairers have motors less than 5 years old on their benches for rewind alongside older motors having had multiple rewinds. It is analogous to the car industry. Today you rarely see a rusty car and very rarely see cars breaking down. Technology has improved the reliability and life span of cars and the same is true for low voltage motors.”

The reason for so many rewinds and premature failures, believes Ruddell, is a lack of awareness amongst end-users as to the need to create a motor management plan. “It appears much easier when a motor fails to have someone collect it, rewind it and reinstall it. But what if this is a critical, continuous process application? Taking it off line could cost hundreds of pounds per hour.”

Yet, with electric motors accounting for 65 percent of all electrical energy consumed by industry, a motor management plan can help repay the investment in the plan within weeks, if not days, if you can prevent an unplanned outage. With a good motor management plan you can minimise, if not totally eliminate, many unplanned outages hence maximising uptime and profitability whilst simultaneously reducing your energy bill and carbon emissions.

 ABB can advise when a motor needs to be maintained and predict when it needs to be overhauled. That way it remains permanently on line.

With MotorAdvantage, a few simple measurements can show the likely time to a motor failure and the impact on production can be calculated. It also gives a realistic view of only having a repair policy when compared with a replacement policy. The scheme aims to show the value of holding critical spares and/or using a third party to hold replacement motors within close proximity to the site to minimise inventory.

MotorAdvantage aims to elevate motors from being a hidden asset, with an out of sight out of mind maintenance approach, to an asset that can earn you real financial rewards immediately. Our job is to re-educate the market into the enormous savings that they could be making from this asset.

“Some industries are better than others,” says Ruddell. “The pulp & paper sector, for example, tend to have a policy such that if any motor is running more than 4,000 hours per year it will automatically be replaced by a high efficiency motor at the point of electrical failure. Any motor below 75 kW, irrespective of running hours, is automatically replaced at point of electrical failure.”

Ruddell believes that there is also a hidden cost to unplanned motor outages: “The greater cost comes with the damage to a customer’s brand or image caused as a result of loss of production and the inability to fulfil orders.”

“We want to show industry that a few small steps can lead to significant leaps in a plant or process profitability. Normally motor management plans are overly ambitious trying to assess every single motor on a plant. By proving the benefits on a selected handful of motors, and coupled with our advice on implementation, we hope that companies can make small but significant steps towards improving their plant.

“As a motor manufacturer we need to offer “best advice, always” to motor users. If it is more cost effective to rewind a motor, we will advise of that action. Our role is no longer just about making motors, we need to help companies manage the ones they have in place more effectively.”

“We are in a strong position as we have undertaken some 2,000 drive energy appraisals during the past five years and where there is a drive there is a motor.”

More than just efficiency
“Efficiency is not the whole story; you must consider reliability – that is uptime. This means paying attention to preventive maintenance, critical spares, total failure scheduling etc. We must get some perspective back on reliability and not just efficiency otherwise, no matter how energy efficient the motors are, if they are not managed and maintained properly a company will be wasting money through unplanned outages.

“ABB hopes that, through MotorAdvantage, the process industry can be educated as to the very real savings that can be made in energy, carbon emissions and lost production time through the effective management of its greatest hidden asset – the humble induction motor.”

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