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Motors drive manufacturing

Author : Steve Ruddell

11 January 2011

Throughout the food and beverage sector there are vast numbers of electric motors installed and operational. A large grain mill and bakery plant can have more than 2,000 AC motors in different applications.

The electric motor is the workhorse of the industry, driving pumps of various descriptions, fans, mixers, conveyors and compressors. In fact, about 65% of electricity used by the food and beverage industry is to power electric motors.

Yet, throughout the industry, very little attention is given to the electric motor, for what is probably the most profitable asset in the plant. OK, let me explain: If a motor breaks down what do you do? ABB's experience says in most cases, your local motor repair centre will arrive and take the motor away for repair. And yet that obvious response might be costing you far more than you imagine.

Now, in an ideal world, every company will have a Motor Management Policy. Such a document gives a detailed inventory of the electric motors on the plant; when they were purchased; what the maintenance schedule is for each; when they should be repaired versus when they should be replaced.

But even if you have such a document, ABB's experience shows often the policy itself isn't maintained. The reasons vary from lack of engineering resource to the high number of motors making it impossible to focus on any.

To help overcome this, and to prove the point the electric motor is a hidden gem of an asset, ABB has devised a scheme called MotorAdvantage. It's aimed at food and beverage companies operating a continuous process. Such processes tend to have critical applications whereby if a motor fails the cost to a company can be hundreds of pounds per hour in lost revenue. It isn't just the loss of production but the potential loss of the company's customer that is at risk.

There are three stages to MotorAdvantage: consultation, appraisal and proof. During the consultation process ABB examines the installed motor asset register for the plant and, working with the local engineers, identifies up to five critical applications that are running continuously or for more than 4,000 hours per annum.

For the appraisal an ABB engineer visits the end-user to inspect the selected motors; get an understanding of the plant; the inventory of spare motors; energy and maintenance plans. It isn't unusual to find an old motor can be 1-5% lower in efficiency compared to a new premium efficiency variant. If that motor is running continuously then you can achieve a typical payback of between 2-3 years should you wish to take the decision to scrap the motor prior to failure.

If the motor is replaced at the point of failure then, taking the rewind cost into the payback calculation, the new motor cost can be recovered in less than 12 months. Bear in mind many rewound motors will have only a six-month warranty of the repaired components while a new premium efficiency motor from ABB will come with a full three-year warranty.

Following the collection of the data, the findings are analysed and potential savings identified using dedicated software. Among the data available includes an estimation of present energy usage; whether the application would benefit from variable speed control; payback time if an investment is made in new motors; carbon dioxide emission reductions; along with many other key facts and analysis.

Now here comes the interesting bit: An action plan is prepared, usually comprising an executive summary and a detailed engineer's report, highlighting applications that can save the most. ABB offers "best advice, always" to motor users. If it's more cost effective to rewind a motor, ABB will advise of that action.

A few small steps can lead to significant leaps in a plant or process profitability. Normally motor management plans are overly ambitious trying to assess every single motor on a plant. By proving the benefits on a selected handful of motors, and coupled with our advice on implementation, we hope that companies can see the immediate benefits and can continue to make small but significant steps towards improving their plant reliability and efficiency.


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