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Converting Traditional Starters to Soft Starters: Here is How to Calculate ROI

Let’s take a page from the lean operating handbook and talk about the simple idea of a waste walk.

For those of you not familiar with the buzz words associated with lean initiatives, a waste walk (Gemba) simply is a planned visit to a work site to observe what's happening and to note the waste.

Waste could be associated with many aspects of production environments, including process inefficiencies, excess transportation/motion, defects, waiting, etc. The point is to evaluate how things are operating and what is non-value-added work or energy, i.e. waste.

You might be asking yourself how this fits into a topic about traditional motor starting, so let me explain.

How many times have you walked around a plant floor just observing automation? The truth is we often focus on the obvious things that are associated with what we know best, such as making cars or cookies.

But have you ever just spent a day with a maintenance person? Performing maintenance activities is often overlooked when looking for ways to reduce waste. Consider the following ways in which equipment wear and tear is traditionally managed:

  • Replacing or repairing valves and belts
  • Cleaning or replacing filters
  • Changing fluids
  • Greasing components
  • General cleaning

Now, what if the frequency of these traditional preventative maintenance operations could be reduced or eliminated with the use of a simple soft starter??

  • What is the cost to replace or repair a valve once per year versus four times per year?
  • Consider the cost of performing preventative maintenance activities four times per year versus of 12 times per year?
  • How much time is spent adjusting belts and drive train components every year?
  • How much does it cost to replace/rebuild a pump or motor?
  • Consider the environmental impact of handling and disposal of grease/oils/lubricants?

Leveraging soft starters in these applications can be an easy way to reduce waste by minimizing the time and expense associated with servicing the equipment, allowing maintenance the opportunity to focus on other potentially more productive activities.

Additionally, using a soft start instead of a traditional starter solution can help reduce the amount of wear and tear on motors and equipment by reducing the energy supplied to the motor during startup.? In many cases, this is non-value added time and energy by itself.

Lastly, when you look at a typical industrial production machine or process, 90% of the motors controlling those applications are less than 10HP (7.5kW) and 82% of those are associated with pumps, fans and compressors.

For most applications involving motors of this size, soft starters are compact enough to fit in the same space occupied by traditional starter solutions.? So you can reap the benefits of a soft starter while maintaining the same footprint.

Now consider the waste walk concept again.

Looking for waste related to wear and tear is a great way of identifying the financial levers needed to calculate a real return on investment (ROI).

By putting yourself in the shoes of a maintenance person for a day, you’ll find some obvious — and maybe not so obvious – ways to avoid waste through the use of soft starter technologies.

Andy Jaap
Andy Jaap
Business Manager, Rockwell Automation
Andy Jaap

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