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Electric Motor Management or Electric Motor Hotel?


image-23Often times when I broach the subject of electric motor management with a potential customer I hear “we already have that”. I then ask them to explain to me what their motor management program consists of? Most of the time I get, “my motor shop stores my motors and when I have a motor fail, they send me another”. I then think to myself; “This is not motor management this is a motor hotel…” Motors are stuck on a shelf and held until they are needed.

Many companies are completely missing the boat and don’t realize the increased reliability and cost savings that a true motor management partnership would bring. Motor management should be a partnership between a repair/new motor vendor and customer with complete transparency and the vendor knowing the processes, and the expectations of the customer. These successful programs usually result in annual cost savings in the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. 

Motors listed on an excel spread sheet is not motor management. The tool required for a motor management program must be a live and dynamic software program that can constantly be changed and added that trends, tracks and provides reports on asset information and location, motor failures, equipment failures, a place to hold notes and photos that are available from anywhere. 

The management program should track the motor and the driven equipment. Why track the driven equipment? Wouldn’t you like to know the frequency that this particular piece of equipment goes through motors? Knowing how many motors you installed in that application will tell you if there is failure mode on this equipment that needs to be investigated. Maybe there is a base issue, maybe the motor is undersized, or the motor needs a different type of bearing. Why keep throwing motors into a bad application? So now that you are tracking the application you start tracking the motors. Motors should be given a unique identifier that is not duplicated. Motors are tracked from the day of purchase until that motor is eventually deemed irreparable. Every time that motor is put into service it is logged and tracked on the piece of equipment it is installed on. Now we can determine if the motor is failing prematurely no matter where it is installed or if the application is failing the motor?

A huge part of motor management is spare motor availability. A survey or audit of the plant should be done. Every in-service and spare motor is tagged with a unique identifier. An evaluation is done to determine if there are adequate spare motors for each critical application. This audit may tell you that you don’t have adequate spare motors, that there are too many spare motors, or there are motors that no longer have an application. This is an opportunity to reduce inventory. Spare motors should then be consolidated into one location that is clean, temperature controlled and controlled overall. Controlled meaning that any motor going in or out of this location is logged and tracked. You never want to show that you have a spare and it not be there.

So, now we have done an audit, consolidated our spares and put them into a clean and secure environment. But are they being stored correctly? How embarrassing would it be to tell your boss that there is a spare motor and the line will be up and running soon to find out that the motor had been on the shelf for five years and was grounded due to moisture? In a motor management partnership, the motors are electrically tested with shafts spun at least every six months with the electrical results tracked and trended in the database for that particular motor.

Now, we are testing and spinning shafts, but was the motor repaired or built to your corporation's specification before it was put on the shelf? Every company that uses, purchases and sends motors out for repair should have a specification. If you are using multiple vendors how do you know that the motor is being rebuilt to your expectations and not just cobbled together? Part of the repair specification should include a cause of failure document. This is very important in tracking/trending failures. Repeated failures should be attacked and a solution brought forth.

Your chosen equipment management partner must be capable of validating installations and perform failure investigations. An improperly installed motor makes a failure investigation is worthless. A partner with predictive maintenance capabilities is huge. Proper alignment at installation and vibration trending of a piece of equipment or motor can determine the life of the equipment and most of the time avert an unexpected failure.

So, getting back to my opening sentence about broaching the subject of motor management; do you have electric motor management or an electric motor hotel?


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Bob Bolhuis

HECO - All Systems Go



About the author:

Bob Bolhuis  is the Director of Equipment Management at HECO - All Systems Go. Bob has over 30 years of experience in the electric motor industry with a focus on large electric motors. Bob has been instrumental in the implementation of a variety of Motor and Powertrain Performance Systems that HECO has partnered with end-users on. 


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