“So, how long will it take?”
That’s often the first question when someone sends an electric motor out for repair. Fair enough. Is it a matter of days or are we talking weeks? How long should it be expected to be out of commission?
But here’s the deal. Before your repair shop answers that question, they need to ask some first. If they don’t do a little prying, you should strongly consider taking your business somewhere else.
A motor is a complex piece of machinery that’s just one part of the electric motor powertrain. Because it’s one part of an entire system, there are an incredible number of variables that come into play. Until your repair shop gets to the root of the problem, any time estimate is just a stab in the dark. Depend on it at your own risk. But if the shop probes with questions such as the following, you’re more than likely in good hands.
What are the motor specs?
Right out of the box, the repair shop needs to know what they’re dealing with. A 20HP motor and a 500HP motor may both be part of the motor family, but they’re distant cousins. Because of the differences, the amount of time to work on them will vary greatly.
Things get even more confusing for motors with adaptions such as special bearings. The bearing alone could require a multi-week lead time. Same goes for just about any special part. If the part has to be ordered, maybe the OEM has one in stock. Maybe it has to be shipped from overseas. Get the idea? Accurate repair-time specs depend on accurate motor specs.
What’s wrong with the motor?
Before the repair shop gives a timeline, this seems like an obvious question for them to ask. And we’ll admit, there are times when a brief description is all that’s needed to determine if it’s a quick fix, or a time-consuming one.
Either way, you want your repair shop to follow up by asking you (and themselves), “why did the unit fail?” Until the “why” is determined, chances are the same problem will reoccur time and again.
For the shop to give a repair schedule, they need to know why the breakdown happened, what corrective measures need to be taken, what parts need to be replaced, and so on. if you had a motor failure and your plant is experiencing downtime, make sure your repair shop is obsessed with “why.”
The answers will be important to determining whether it’s going to be a quick turnaround or a long process — and more importantly, preventing the same problem from rearing its ugly head again.
Is time really money?
Yep. When it comes to electric motor repair, that old cliché holds true. While motor repair shops prioritize jobs based on a variety of factors, it should come as no surprise that opening the checkbook can grease the skids. It’s up to you to provide what you are willing to pay to get the motor back quicker. Below are a few questions to consider:
- Are you willing to pay for overtime labor?
- Are you willing to pay for double time or holiday labor?
- Are you willing to pay for any materials to be freight expedited?
- Are you willing to pay for any materials to be air freighted?
Each one of these questions effect what the shop will do and how quickly they can do it.
One last note: when you give a motor repair shop the go ahead for overtime or optional expenses, you’re showing how important this motor is to your operation. Implicitly, you’re asking the repair shop to put it in front of already scheduled jobs to get it back to you quicker.
This is an unspoken agreement. but it’s important that you understand what is going on behind the scenes.
Is the quickest lead time actually the best option?
More often than not, the quicker path is not the best path for long-term reliability. Here’s an example: A motor failed and the plant is down. The maintenance manager asks two motor repair shops what their lead time would be to rewind the unit and return it.
- Motor shop “A” says that they can repair the motor in 10 days.
- Motor shop “B” says that it will take them 20 days.
Since “A” is twice as fast, the choice is clear cut, right? Well, you might want to take a deep breath first and ask “what are they doing differently?”
- Does motor shop “A” follow the same procedures as “B”?
- Are the shops using the same types and quality of materials?
- How experienced are the technicians doing the work?
- Did motor shop “B” provide a unique solution to solve the root cause, while “A” just replicated what already failed?
- Does motor shop “B” have a VPI process when motor shop “A” is just doing a varnish dip?
The simplest way of putting this is, “WHY” are the lead times different?
Because of differences in procedures and materials, no two motor repair shops are the same. It’s up to you to weigh all the factors — including time and expense — before making the call.
Real repair vs. kicking the can
Oh, one more thing. Let’s say the motor repaired by shop “A” fails after 6 months because it was done too quickly or the root cause wasn’t solved. But the motor repaired by shop “B” lasts 5 years. See, choosing shop “A” really didn’t save time. It just kicked the can down the road. And every time you kick that can, it gets more expensive.
Speaking of expense, the question of “How long should it take to repair an electric motor” is very similar to another of our blogs, “How much should an electric motor repair cost?” Check it out to get a better idea of what goes into pricing.
Got another question?
HECO can help with any questions you may have about electric motor repair. Of course, before we give you any answers, we’ll ask you some questions. Most will begin with “why.” Looking at the motor as part of the entire system, and determining “why” the failure occurred, makes HECO a little different than other electric motor shops. Our customers appreciate the difference. We think you will to.
To learn more about what our “All Systems Go” approach can mean to you, please contact:
About the author:
Justin Hatfield is Vice President of Operations of HECO, Inc. He is responsible for Electric Motor & Drive Sales, Electric Motor & Generator Repairs, and Predictive Services. Justin was instrumental in developing HECO MAPPS (Motor And Powertrain Performance Systems) which focuses on “why” you have a motor problem instead of simply “What” product or service should be recommended.