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Why independents may offer the best servo and automation solutions
There are plenty of reasons why smaller, independent suppliers of automation equipment may offer better service, provide more cost-effective solutions, cut costs, and even supply components that are better suited to a customer's application than the big manufacturers. So says Andrew Fallows, managing director of Motor Technology, a specialist supplier of servo and automation equipment and systems. In this short article he explains why.
'Independents, like Motor Technology, are not tied to any single manufacturer,' says Fallows, 'and so if we're designing a drive or automation system we can source components from different suppliers and this often enables us to specify a more effective solution or reduce costs. We can design systems based on our knowledge of a wide range of products and technologies, and can provide solutions that not all manufacturers will have available.'
Take motors as an example. Large manufacturers will often attempt to lock out motors from other suppliers forcing customers on to their preferred product line. This is unsatisfactory when some applications might benefit from a motor with higher inertia, a simpler feedback device or a different winding, than what is being offered. Motor Technology sources product from a number of suppliers and can provide the customer with the motor most beneficial to the application.
Another example is direct drives. Direct drives are suitable for applications requiring a high degree of accuracy, smooth running, backlash-free operation and high acceleration. Best of all, direct drives allow the system designer to dispense with many power transmission components such as gearboxes, couplings, toothed belts, sprockets and chains. This can reduce the cost of ownership of the system, increase efficiency and cut energy consumption.
Not all companies manufacture direct drives and so it's likely that less suitable solutions might be offered so that the manufacturer can supply its own technology. This might not only be less efficient than a direct drive solution but also more expensive.
The drive electronics also play a big part in providing the right solution. High dynamic applications might require the ultimate in drive performance or it may be that engineers are less interested in high performance and want to cut costs by integrating the PLC or motion control within the drive.
Some customers might be servo novices, getting to grips with the technology, and looking for a drive that is simply 'plug and play,' whereas others might want to delve into the control loops and change parameters 'on the fly'. Being independent Motor Technology can benefit all these customers, regardless of their requirements, by offering the full range of products and solutions.
A further benefit of independent suppliers comes when old servo drive technology needs to be replaced. A manufacturer would want to replace old components with their modern equivalent, which will involve the additional cost of new cabling and engineering so that the new part will fit the old assembly. A better solution for the customer might be to replace the old unit with a compatible product, manufactured under license, as this would be easier and quicker to install and less costly.
'There are plenty of reasons for championing the smaller independent,' Fallows explains, 'At Motor Technology, for instance, we've got over 25 years of experience in servo and automation technology with a wide range of suppliers of components and equipment. We can mix and match products from different suppliers to make sure customers get the very best solution in terms of cost, reliability, ease-of-use and efficiency.'