To repair or to replace – is that the question?

By: European Automation  29/07/2013
Keywords: automation, process control, Process control equipment

Our last blog post, Drives repair is a useful short term stopgap, resulted in a really interested question from one of our readers; Les Hunt, editor of Design Products & Applications (DPA) magazine in the UK. For those of you who don’t know the publication, it is well worth subscribing to – especially if you are involved in the design of systems, products or engineering applications.

Les asked, “Does the 'repair rather than replace' option indicates short term, recession-led thinking?”

This is a big question for us at European Automation for two reasons. The first and most obvious is that we want to give the best advice to our customers, so that they return to us next time they need to source a part. The second reason is that, while we sell new components, and can even sometimes provide them more cheaply than the manufacturer, we also specialise in sourcing obsolete components.

Obviously new parts can be used for repair but just as easily find a home with a systems integrator, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or machine builder who is replacing an entire system. In contrast, obsolete parts would normally only be used in repair and maintenance applications.

I think it’s a question of balance. The repair option should run in parallel with a sensible approach to replacing equipment that genuinely requires replacing.

In many cases our customers come to us when production has been affected or stopped entirely, often because just one part is no longer available in stock from the manufacturer. In these instances repairing the part is not an option - it has to be replaced, often with an obsolete component.

As you can see, the lines are already blurring – we are replacing the component but repairing the system! And we are doing so to achieve a short term objective.

However, we are also often approached by companies who want a more energy efficient solution. It might be that they are running a packaging line using old fashioned, non energy-efficient motors.

In this case, the best option would be to replace the motor and drive combination, and possibly all the peripherals such as braking resistors, chokes, filters and so on, to make the overall system as efficient as possible.

Again, we are replacing components to repair the system, but this time it’s long term thinking, not short term need that is the motivation. The key is to think long term – what will the system cost to operate over its lifetime? Do not make decisions that will undermine that operation.

So, to try and answer Les’s question without muddying the issue, it’s the needs of the application that determines whether the solution is the result of short or long term thinking. Sometimes a repair represents long-term balanced thinking and a replacement represents a short-term recessionary and reactionary philosophy where sometimes it’s precisely the opposite!

Keywords: automation, factory automation, Industrial automation, Industrial Process Control, Industrial Spares, process control, Process control equipment, refurbished spare parts

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