Future-proofing motor management

As technology gets smarter and Industry 4.0 becomes more of a reality manufacturers need to move with the times. Here is the Eureka! guide to future-proofing your motor management strategy.

Manufacturers sit at the cutting edge of the Industry 4.0 revolution. Technology is changing the industry as we know it – and manufacturers need to prepare for the impact advancements in tech are set to have. To do so, manufacturers need a clear vision as to how digitalisation is going to impact their sector. Whilst this isn’t easy, and there’s no set answer, manufacturers can take the opportunity to embrace new and innovative technology. In doing so, they’ll benefit from increased insights, and greater productivity. One of the ways they can do this is in their motor management strategy.

“In today’s market, the manufacturing industry dominates the industrial sphere,” says Martin Walder, VP industry, Schneider Electric. “Within the sector, an incredible volume of power is used to convert raw materials into finished goods. What’s more, more than 60% of the energy in the industry is being used specifically to power motors. Crucially, this is only set to increase if we’re to sustain the production rate for years to come and futureproof the industry.”

Whilst this volume of energy consumption may not come as a surprise, Walder says the amount of companies without a motor management strategy in place is surprising. What’s more – an intelligent motor management strategy is crucial to reduce overall energy consumption and increase plant uptime. In fact, the manufacturing sector is dependent on motors, so it’s essential to ensure that they are protected and fit for purpose now and in the future.

“Think of it like this,” Walder adds. “With more and more smart Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) compatible products available on the market, if part of the motor were to break, replacing like for like products would not always provide the best operational results.”

What’s wrong with like-for-like replacement?

Motor starters can be complex pieces of technology – and like all technology, they are at risk of faults, damage or breaking down all together.

There are several different conditions in the industry to watch out for that can create a motor starter failure. This includes, high or low voltage supply, phase unbalance, continuous excessive loading, jam or stall conditions, ground faults, single-phasing, seized motor bearing or binding mechanical linkages.

“When impacted by one of these situations, many plants are re-ordering a like-for-like starter,” Walder says. “Prior to its failure, it worked well and it’s a product they know and feel comfortable with. This however is a short-term solution.

“The issue here is that the technology and capability of the said motor may not be fit for the long-term. Without smart capabilities, businesses will suffer from a lack of insight and will get left behind in the plant process information technology race.”

Smart motor management strategies

The solution, therefore, according to Walder, is to implement a smart motor management strategy. This isn’t something that is needed purely for new machines, but also for upgrades and retrofit. A smart strategy offers the manufacturer additional digital based benefits above simply opting to implement energy saving technologies.

“A great example of this in play is Schneider Electric’s motor starting product, VSDs and TeSys island with EcoStruxure Machine Expert configuration and commissioning software and the EcoStruxure Motor Configurator tool,” says Walder. “The tool helps OEMS to accelerate the time to market by enabling multiple teams to simultaneously programme and control the quality of design. By enabling a more efficient integration, it becomes 40% faster to integrate and reduce installation costs by 30% compared with traditional solutions.”

By utilising these technologies, product and process information is automatically generated. This allows businesses to open up to the world of plant digitisation and enjoy all the benefits it brings. Benefits include reduced energy consumption, increased productivity, more empowered operators, preventative maintenance scheduling and asset management. Not only this, but access to smart data is key in increasing uptime, improving overall quality. All of these contribute to the same end goal – to increase the overall equipment performance (OEE) and ultimately, business profitability.

A future-proof strategy

“At present, a smart motor management strategy may not be the first thing on everyone’s minds,” says Walden. “But, in three to five years’ time, when the senior leadership team are requesting insights into why downtime on the plant floor is high, or into how many stop/starts a motor has done – we need to be prepared to give informed and data-driven answers. The only way to do this is by improving our traditional technology, and replacing it with smarter, more innovative and more connected motors.”

The question, he adds, is how do we get the most out of our manufacturing plants? The answer is simple. “It’s time to embrace change and opt for smarter, more innovative starter technologies that provide us with the analytics and business insight we are going to need. By preparing a smart motor management strategy now, it’s possible to remain competitive, and ready for the future changes technology is yet to bring.”