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Can’t get a new motor? Fix your old one!

RJW Intelligent Engineering Solutions > Articles > Can’t get a new motor? Fix your old one!
11new motor

With supply chain pressures and soaring costs having a huge impact on manufacturers the world over, being able to repair a motor rather than simply buy a new one is a vital option which companies need to urgently consider.

The figures are alarming. A recent survey found almost 60% of SME manufacturers were concerned about the impact of inflation and rising costs on their businesses, in addition deliveries on parts and the motors themselves have extended, with less stock in the UK.

With this in mind, it makes more sense than ever for manufacturers to re-assess their options when it comes to replacing vital equipment such as motors.  

“There’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer to whether a motor should be fixed or replaced” said Lee Windsor, Director at RJW. “But with manufacturers looking to rein in spending, repairing a motor can be the sensible move. It’s often just as effective as buying a new one, while also helping reduce costs and downtime.”

So what are the options?

Replacing a motor is probably the most obvious choice when it breaks down and time is critical. But with rising inflation and supply chain problems, being able to secure that new motor in a timely fashion, and at a reasonable price, is much less of an option than it used to be. 

But repairing the motor is another option and one that should be considered. Depending on the extent of the problem, this can involve rewinding the motor or carrying out a mechanical repair. The repair process can be highly effective and can maintain or even improve efficiency. When undertaking repairs it’s also vital to keep clear and concise written records. 

The process includes:

  • Preliminary inspection
  • Dismantling the motor
  • Documenting and removing the old winding, cleaning the core and checking for hotspots
  • Rewinding the motor to the original specification
  • Mechanical repairs
  • Reassembling the motor 

Other factors to consider first 

Before diving in and taking action, it’s important to think about how the motor in question contributes to your overall processes.

Consider if the motor is a critical component. Will a failing motor put your operation at risk of interruption? Consider if the motor is a standard unit or is special in some way and therefore what will the delivery time be.  Also factor in the size and complexity of the motor, eg servo motors containing encoders and other feedback devices can often be hard to replace. These factors have a major bearing on the decision making of a potential repair or replacement. Even if the cost of repair is more expensive than replacement – it may still be the best route to consider.

The extent of the damage is also something to factor in. It can be much more cost-effective and indeed environmentally friendly to repair the motor rather than scour the world for a new one. This is especially the case if only certain parts of the motor need fixing. 

But perhaps the most important thing to think about – especially right now – is availability. Many motors that were on the shelf before the pandemic are simply not there now, and are often with longer than before lead times.  A repair can often be the fastest and only solution with no loss in performance of the asset.

Types of approach – reactive and proactive 

Of course, such a vital decision as to whether to fix or replace doesn’t have to be made when the motor is literally failing in front of your eyes. This is where being reactive or proactive comes in. 

Being reactive is when the motor has failed or is on the cusp of failure. You’re already starting to see an impact on your processes and at this point, even if it is considerably cheaper to fix your motor rather than replace it – desperation may force your hand and you’ll try and secure a new one. Costs and supplies being what they are, even if you can get the replacement in time, expense is likely to be higher than in the past. 

It makes sense, therefore, to be proactive. Have a plan in place for when the motor needs repairing so that your operations aren’t impacted. To assist with this, real-time maintenance and condition monitoring are an important tool to ensure you get early indications of problems – or are even alerted to them before they happen, thanks to AI, cloud-based analytics. You can then replace the before it becomes critical, avoiding downtime and keeping costs to a minimum. 

Planning ahead 

Trying to decide between replacement and repair isn’t an easy one. The answer as to whether you should repair your motor or buy a new one will be different depending on who you talk to. Vested interests both inside and outside the company will have reasons to urge a course of action one way or the other. 

With this in mind, it’s important to have a set policy already laid out so that when the motor does need replacing – everyone knows what to do. Do purchasing get on the phone and start scouring the world for a replacement that won’t break the bank in today’s soaring market? Or will you start combing through your own inventory to see if you’ve got the parts on hand to get your staff to fix things themselves or hire in external experts to help?

What factors will this policy consider? Cost? Downtime? Availability? All of these things should be considered before a problem is even encountered.

To fix or not to fix?

That’s the question. 

In the past, sourcing replacements have been simpler and less costly. It also made sense in a lot of situations. 

But the soaring cost of energy, inflation and supply chain issues are forcing manufacturers to have to reconsider a lot of what they’ve previously taken as a given. Repairing motors is therefore becoming a much less risky option. To make this work though, it’s important to have a strategy in place for when things go wrong. 

Even better – have effective condition monitoring to ensure that repairs can be made before they have a big impact on your operations. 

For more information on how RJW can help, visit our Motor Repairs page or contact us here.

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