New machines are purchased annually for industrial facilities, for example, when improving the production process or updating the machinery. Purchases often have pain points, which result in unnecessary costs and schedule overrun. Big problems are caused by inadequate or completely missing pre-engineering, and lack of information when choosing a supplier. How can the problems be prevented?
Picture: Complementary equipment acquisitions from the point of view of automation engineering
Lack of pre-engineering leads to guesswork and non-comparable bidding
If you are asking for a quotation without specifying your needs - like what a new machine is supposed to do and how it links with existing machines and processes - you get a bunch of offers that are not comparable. Each bidder understand a call for tenders in his own way.
If the most inexpensive of the offers is chosen but is the wrong kind, it is often necessary to add items that were overlooked, because you are in a hurry to allow production to continue. Additions and the work they require are not included in the budget, which can result in unnecessary disputes with suppliers and subcontractors.
In the preliminary design phase, an expert engineer can still ask questions that the customer has not been able to take into account. Specifications improve the procurement and ensure its suitability as a whole to the plant’s processes.
The cost of pre-engineering in bigger machine purchases is typically a few percent, while compromised schedules and additional work are usually considerably more expensive.
A maintenance trap may close in the bargaining situation
Sometimes when purchasing a new machine, there are no requirements for machine documentation. In this case, the vendor may provide useless documents on the application programs for electrical installations and automation, for example only on paper or as a bad machine translation. This makes the incorporation and maintenance of the machines difficult - sometimes even impossible.
The quality of the documents must be assured at the latest when concluding the deal. These mistakes can also be avoided by consulting an electric and automation expert in good time.
Suppliers have also made password-protected parts for automation application programs that cannot be accessed by your own or your partner's maintenance. In such case, there is nothing that local staff can do to repair faults or make alterations, but the customer is fully dependent on the availability of the supplier's pricing and the availability of services.
In addition, it would also be good to examine the types of components included in the delivery to avoid very exotic makes and types for which it would hard to find spare parts.
By updating the control system even an old device can undergo a facelift
There is often no need to replace machines to improve productivity. By upgrading the old machine's automation system production line disturbances can be reduced and capacity increased. The machine interface can be programmed to be easier to manage. Such changes often pay for themselves quickly. Machine safety can be improved by adding safety devices and by updating the safety-related steering system.
- If the risks caused by old systems are not well-known and you have not prepared for them in critical locations, a machine breakage may cause the production to stand for a surprisingly long time. As an automation engineer, one would like to be able to support the customer already in the pre-engineering phase, solving a large part of the machine life cycle costs, emphasizes the automation team leader Janne Laitinen from Maintpartner.
- Overall, electrical and automation engineering have a significant impact on how quickly the cause is found when faults and disturbances occur.
Maintpartner, a company specialized in industrial operation and maintenance, has several experienced electric and automation experts in Finland and Sweden. - We have a full range of services. Many of our longstanding engineers have also process engineering skills, so one person can, for example, in the mechanical wood industry handle both automation and process engineering assignments," Janne sums up.
Janne Laitinen, Team Leader, Maintpartner
Markku Leinonen, President, Project, Installation & Engineering Services, Maintpartner
Maintpartner is a leading industrial operation and maintenance company in Northern Europe and the leading actor in the energy sector in the Nordic countries. We help our customers improve the productivity of their production facilities and minimize process disruptions. In addition to long-term operation and maintenance agreements we offer development, installation and engineering services. Our digital solutions represent the best-in-class development in the field.
Maintpartner Group employs approximately 1,900 people. Our net sales in 2016 amounted to some EUR 160 million. The Group has offices in Finland, Sweden, Poland and Estonia. More information at www.maintpartner.com