Providing essential maintenance and repair services to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) requires a very high standard of service to be delivered. Companies that hold such contracts must have considerable expertise and resources. Individual customers can take advantage of these standards and facilities to ensure their projects are delivered efficiently and professionally.
Ross Barraclough, Regional Operations Director (North) for Sulzer, looks at how the partnerships formed by a maintenance service provider can benefit the wider customer base.
As a manufacturer, it is essential to offer your customers an aftersales service that will provide maintenance and repair services, to ensure continued, reliable operation of your equipment. However, with more complex or high-volume products, supporting an aftersales service can require considerable investment in facilities and personnel.
Take, for example, high voltage motors and generators. This equipment is of high value, either financially or as an essential part of a process, so the speed in which repairs can be delivered becomes crucial. By carefully selecting a maintenance and repair partner that can deliver the necessary service within the best possible timeframe, it is possible to support every customer to a point that they receive immediate attention.
Creating the partnership
It is this ability, coupled with an extensive, worldwide network of service centers, that has led motor and generator manufacturers in the UK, such as ATB Laurence Scott, ABB and Siemens, to form partnerships with Sulzer. In each case these OEMs have been looking for the highest level of maintenance services available to be provided to their extensive customer bases. Similar agreements are also offered by Sulzer across the world with the technical support provided by the UK-based team.
All of these manufacturers have a long history in producing large scale electric motors and generators which means that the age of a significant amount of these products can be measured in decades. However, in spite of their age, these manufacturers are keen to ensure that all of their products can still be maintained professionally and quickly.
The partnership with Sulzer enables the technical and engineering data held by the OEM for all of its products to be used by skilled engineers in the field to resolve maintenance issues and effect repairs. In some cases, the in-house engineering facilities at Sulzer can be used to improve on the original designs and reduce running costs. It is these skills and attributes that can prove to be of great benefit to end users.
In addition to the technical skills throughout the Sulzer workforce, there is considerable expertise in specific applications, such as offshore facilities, marine vessels, mining, power generation and rail. Each of these environments has its own set of demands and in many cases, requires engineers to receive additional training.
Customers that operate equipment in specialist applications can benefit from the instant availability of this diverse range of skills and qualifications. As with any maintenance project, speed is of the essence and the primary aim is to deliver a robust and reliable solution with the minimum of downtime.
Some industrial sectors, such as rail, employ a rolling maintenance schedule, where components are removed and refurbished on a set timetable, irrespective of their current condition. Where safety is of paramount importance, projects can be devised and executed to the most demanding schedules, ensuring that components are returned, with all the associated documentation, on time and on budget.
Selecting the right partner
The process of finding the most appropriate partner must be completed with the greatest care. Once a piece of equipment has been sold, contact with the customer will most likely be solely through the aftersales representatives. The reputation of a brand will often hang on the quality of service received from the aftersales team.
Clearly, any potential partner must be suitably qualified in the respective engineering fields, but also capable of delivering a high-quality service across a specified geographic region. The quality and speed of service depends upon the expertise and knowledge of the personnel as well as the facilities set up to support them.
For a completely rounded offering, the provision of a preventative maintenance service will help to identify potential issues early and allow a simpler solution to be implemented. This offers customers the opportunity to minimize maintenance costs and reduce downtime. In industries where lost production is calculated by the minute, preventative maintenance is essential.
Examining the detail
Preventative maintenance uses a range of techniques such as vibration analysis, thermal imaging, oil analysis and partial discharge, to determine the operating condition of equipment without interrupting the operation of the machine itself. These surveys require specific tools and experience to accomplish the task successfully. The results can enable plant operators to schedule repairs for a pre-planned period, minimizing any impact on operations.
Having identified an issue, either as part of a preventative maintenance scheme or as a result of an unexpected failure, the key is to resolve it quickly and effectively. Again, having adequate numbers of personnel to dispatch a field service team and the facilities nearby to complete the repair are essential to a successful outcome.
The effectiveness of a repair very much depends on the skill of the team responsible for the work as well as the supporting design engineers that can offer an insight to the cause of the original failure. By identifying the root cause, it is possible to improve some original designs so that the reliability of the machine will also be improved for the future.
Access to specialist facilities
The aim to deliver the best possible solution has led specialist maintenance and repair providers, such as Sulzer, to invest in a wide range of facilities to ensure they have the ability to help manufacturers deliver a quick solution. This leaves the OEMs to use their skills and equipment to create new products, while a group of specialists takes care of any after sales issues and developing replacement parts for legacy equipment.
For example, in-house design and manufacturing capabilities for new motor and generator coils can greatly reduce the time required to repair large electrical equipment. In addition, the designers can often improve the performance or efficiency of older components by integrating new materials and manufacturing techniques.
Of course, with all rotating equipment, it is essential that the component is properly balanced before being returned to service. Every provider of maintenance services should be able to deliver dynamic balancing at low speed, which for the majority of projects, will suffice.
However, some equipment, such as turbine rotors and large generator rotors, should be balanced at full operating speed and slightly beyond. This requires a specialist at-speed testing facility and these are mainly owned by the OEMs in the power generation sector. Nevertheless, there are a few independent sites, two of which are owned and operated by Sulzer. These additional facilities can make a huge difference in the speed of completion and the overall quality of a large-scale repair project.
Benefitting from OEM requirements
OEMs demand the very highest standards in terms of repair quality and timing, values that can only be met by a dedicated workforce that is properly equipped and trained. All those involved in the maintenance and repair of rotating or electromechanical equipment can also benefit from the expertise and specialist knowledge encompassed within independent repair specialists, such as Sulzer.
Those with products manufactured by the OEMs that have partnerships with Sulzer are actively encouraged to take advantage of the unique position Sulzer holds. Access to original drawings, specifications and procedures as laid out by the OEMs, provides Sulzer engineers with all the necessary information to deliver a fast and effective repair.
For those with other brands of equipment, the level of dedication to offer the most cost effective and reliable service is paramount. The worldwide network of service centers containing industry-leading equipment and supported by experienced engineering designers will ensure that all customers, and particularly end users, can benefit from the levels of expertise required by OEMs.