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UK industry `is not managing its motors effectively`

05 November, 2010

ABB is warning that much of British industry is not managing its electric motors correctly and is rewinding too many old motors, rather than replacing them with new, more efficient models. This is costing millions of pounds in terms of unnecessary downtime, repairs and energy usage. ABB says that the problem is highlighted by the fact that the motor repairs industry in the UK is now worth more than twice as much as the £70m market for new low-voltage industrial motors.

While acknowledging that mechanical repairs, such as bearings and shafts, will always be needed, ABB thinks that too many motors are being rewound automatically.

Steve Ruddell, manager of ABB’s motors business (above), believes that the reason for so many rewinds and premature failures is a lack of awareness among end-users of the need to create motor management plans. “It appears much easier when a motor fails to have someone collect it, rewind it and reinstall it,” he says. “But what if this is a critical, continuous-process application? Taking it offline could cost hundreds of pounds per hour.

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

“No one should be making inferior motors today,” Ruddell continues. “The technology and materials used by today’s motors gives them an expected lifespan in excess of 20 years. They should be durable and highly reliable. Yet many repairers have motors less than five years old on their benches for rewind, alongside older motors having had multiple rewinds.

“It is analogous to the car industry,” he suggests. “Today you rarely see a rusty car and very rarely see cars breaking down. Technology has improved the reliability and lifespan of cars, and the same is true for low-voltage motors.”

To encourage better motor management practices, ABB has launched a scheme called MotorAdvantage, designed to reveal the true cost to a company of running its electric motors. The scheme includes a site visit by a motor engineer who assesses the installed motor base and identifies up to five motor-driven applications with potential for further analysis.

The scheme also assesses the user’s motor failure policy and its financial implications, identifies potential improvements to this policy and stockholding, and determines the energy use of the current installation. According to Ruddell, a motor management plan can pay for itself within weeks, if not days, by preventing unplanned outages.

“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,” he says. “Our job is to re-educate the market into the enormous savings that they could be making from this asset.

“We want to show industry that a few small steps can lead to significant leaps in a plant or process profitability,” Ruddell continues. “Normally motor management plans are overly ambitious, trying to assess every single motor on a plant.

“If it is more cost-effective to rewind a motor, we will advise of that action,” Ruddell emphasises. “Our role is no longer just about making motors – we need to help companies manage the ones they have in place more effectively.”

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