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So... My Electric Motor Failed - What Now? A Reliability Story


motor failure.pngSo your electric motor failed, AGAIN! You remove it and send it to Harold at Acme Motor Repair across town and a few months later you get it back, just like the last time. Harold is a good old boy, always there to fix that motor every time it fails. The key words here are “every time”.

Harold never asks you what conditions the motor was under when it failed, what the environment conditions are where the motor was installed. Harold never asks you if you are lubricating the motor or if you even know how to lubricate the motor. Harold has never asked you if the motor is directly coupled or if you are belting it, he just fixes the motor. You once asked Harold for a failure report and he sent us a copy of the invoice. You’ve asked Harold if it made more sense to purchase another motor and he said that he was cheaper than anyone in the neighborhood on his repairs and under the price of a new motor.

Then things start to change at the plant. The Plant Manager hires George as a Reliability Manager. George is tasked with things like risk management, loss elimination and life cycle asset management. George starts digging into downtime and sees that motor failure is a major cause of downtime and lost production. George decides to do a vendor evaluation of Harold’s repair shop. During the evaluation, George sees that it is obvious that while Harold’s services are needed and adequate for some customers these are not the services that your company needs to maintain the reliability and keep maintenance costs down.

George starts checking around and he decides to visit another motor repair vendor. This vendor is not as close geographically. This vendors tells George that while their price is competitive, they will not be as cheap as Harold and tells George why he is not as cheap as Harold. This vendor has an in-depth and thorough inspection process that measures all electrical components in the stator and rotor. This vendor measures and records all mechanical fits and compares those to industry standards. This vendor has on staff both electrical and mechanical engineers that review each motor failure, looking for the root cause to see what can be done to make this motor last longer. This vendors asks questions like how the motor starts, how often the motor starts, is the motor directly coupled or belted, how often do you grease the bearings, how much grease, the type of grease, is the environment hot, dusty, wet, etc. etc.

George decides to send this new vendor the problem motor and answers the questions from the vendor. George receives a call from the vendor and discovers that this 200hp motor that is in a belted application has a ball bearing on the drive end. A motor of this size requires a roller bearing for the radial load of a belt. The vendor also tells George that the bearing has not been greased as often as it should have been greased and that the grease that was being used at the plant was not compatible with the grease that Harold was using in his repair shop. The new vendor provides George with a quote to repair the motor with a bearing modification and a price of a new motor with a roller bearing for comparison. George approves the repair of the motor and a couple weeks later the motor arrives with complete failure report with photos, incoming electrical test results, final electrical test results along with motor vibration readings. The vendor even advises George how often to grease the bearings, how much grease to use and the type of grease is required.

The problem motor has been in service without issue for 3 years now. The new vendor’s price was a little higher than Harold’s but the total cost of ownership has decreased dramatically and uptime on this line has increased substantially.

Oh by the way….George and the new vendor have solved issues with four other problem motors since then - with two of them not even being the motor's fault!


Download What To Look For In An Electric Motor Repair Shop


Bob Bolhuis

HECO - All Systems Go



About the author:

Bob Bolhuis  is a Senior Account Manager for HECO - All Systems Go. Bob has over 25 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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