Choosing a company to be your motor and generator service firm isn’t something that people take lightly. There are many things to consider. Some may feel that the choice is price-driven while others are looking for quality above all. And still others may be looking for something as simple as reliable field service.
Whatever the reasons, it’s best to do your homework when looking to find a service partner you can trust to help get the most out of your motor and generator investment.
We discussed all of the basic elements that go into choosing a service company with a diverse sampling of oil and gas managers, service personnel, and industry veterans to develop the checklist below. These nine items, shown in no particular order, are the things they consider necessary when looking for a motor and generator service partner.
1. Be an authorized service, repair and parts distributor for multiple OEMs
This is a pretty big thing. Because companies may use many different brands of motors and generators depending on the project, most of the people we talked to were very adamant about having a service partner that had close relationships with many different manufacturers, and that included the ability to perform factory-authorized work with genuine parts.
“By using a company that has good relationships with multiple manufacturers, we know that means when they are working on a particular piece of equipment, they can return it to the original manufacturer’s specifications, especially if it’s still under the original warranty, and that they have access to the right parts and training on that particular brand of equipment,” said one industry veteran.
Having the manufacturer’s authorization saves time in repairs and also means they’ll be done right the first time.
2. Be current on the state-of-the-art technology that is available
Technology has come a long way in our industry, not just in the field, but in the shop as well. Computers and other technological advances are used for so much more than just playing video games. Sure they generate reports, as they have for many years, but technology has gotten to the point where customers can now remotely log in via smartphone or computer to watch their equipment being tested. Their equipment may be in one state and they may be a thousand miles away, but technology allows them to virtually be in the same room.
In addition, customers are extremely interested in their service company having a clean room to minimize damaging contamination, especially for rewinds, and a test stand that can replicate actual field conditions in a shop. These can go a long way to influencing who to hire.
3. Have experience providing equipment training programs, both in-house and on-site
Training in any service field is vital, but even more so when dealing with mission-critical equipment. “When we look for a service partner, one of the things we look for is a company that offers dedicated generator seminar training,” said one industry manager. “We’d like the company to not only consistently train its own people, but also provide training to us, especially if their generator training is specific to our equipment.”
According to many customers, one of the biggest benefits of training is that it shows the service company is an expert in that particular field. During training, customers get to know their service team better and trust them more. When you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars, it makes sense to teach a customer how to use what they’re paying for.
Training can take many forms. Some companies have in-house trainers while others bring in third party trainers. Companies also want to make sure that the trainers are certified and have specialized field training for the customers’ specific equipment.
4. Have a really good field service program
Emergencies happen, and the consensus within the industry is that a company that offers regular service also needs to offer emergency service.
When problems occur in the field, day or night, companies most definitely want a service partner that can respond immediately, wherever and whenever the problem occurs. That means the service company should have dedicated technicians who can respond 24/7. The field techs should also be trained in both predictive and preventive maintenance, as well as other in-the-field services such as electrical troubleshooting.
“We’ve had some companies who just sent out what we call ‘wire pullers’,” said one industry professional. “That’s not offering a solution to the problem. To use a sports analogy, if a pro football team needed a new quarterback, they wouldn’t look at high school teams, they would look for a seasoned professional.”
5. Have cross industry experience
Some smaller, “mom and pop” companies strictly focus only on individual industries, or even specific types of equipment. But with so much consolidation occurring in the oil and gas industry (and others) now, it’s important to look for a service partner that has a wider focus, including many different segments such as upstream, downstream, midstream, petrochemical, marine and even food and beverage.
“Cross-industry experience gives us the confidence that no matter what the problem might be, the service partner has the experience to solve it,” said one customer. “They are aware of the different processes involved, and may even take an experience that they used in one industry segment, and apply it to another segment. We look for someone who has the ‘been there, done that’ type of attitude and knowledge.”
Being involved in a variety of industries allows exposure to a variety of different applications. The root cause may be different, but the higher level of experience helps broaden the knowledge of the application.
6. Have dedicated, in-house capabilities
As important as experience and knowledge is in the field, customers look for high-level in-house services as well.
A firm with in-house machining and fabrication capabilities will always have an advantage over those who don’t. The in-house capabilities help in many different areas, including maintaining control of lead times by having the ability to develop and fabricate without having to send a project out. That, in turn, makes for faster delivery times.
In-house testing capabilities are also paramount when choosing a service partner. The company can capture diagnostics to measure against industry benchmarks and uncover critical usage and electromechanical trends. Dedicated load testing facilities for motors and generators is the icing on the cake. Even the simplest of services such as painting and sandblasting are always factored into the decision-making process, and if they can be done in-house, it gives that company an advantage.
7. Have both generator and motor experience – broader capabilities are better than narrow
It’s much easier to deal with a “one-stop shop” rather than having multiple vendors. The savings in accounting and billing paperwork alone makes tracking expenses much easier.
“If a service partner can handle our motor service as well as the generators we require, that makes our job much easier,” said one customer. “And it’s also important that they be able to handle all of the different sizes. For example, in generators, if they can handle small 20 kW and have the same experience and confidence with a 20 megawatt generator and then have a similar range of capabilities with motors, that’s a company we’d like to do business with.”
In addition to the wide range of experience, companies also look for some very basic standards such as length of time in business. Companies that have been around for more than a decade means they have survived both the good and bad times in our industry, a fact that is important when choosing a firm – stability and reliability are key. They also want to look at previous or current customers to make sure they can handle everything from the smallest to the largest situations.
“Some of the equipment we use in the field is old, not by choice, but when oil prices are low, we have to stretch older equipment as long as we can. Some of the equipment isn’t even manufactured anymore,” said one customer. “By working with a partner that has been around for a long time, they are going to have experience with older equipment, and may have access to parts or at least the refurbishing abilities to keep things running smoothly.”
8. Offer climate-controlled asset storage and maintenance programs
Not as many companies as you may think offer this type of service.
Climate-controlled asset storage requires a lot of space, and that can be taxing on smaller “mom-and-pop” shops. But having the ability to house multiple customers’ equipment when it is not being used, and keeping that equipment in good working order, is something companies look for.
It saves money in the long run, enables dormant equipment to last longer, and during storage, maintenance can be provided so when it is ultimately needed in the field, it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice.
State-of-the-art, climate-controlled warehouse facilities allow for monitoring of temperature and humidity (a major factor in the longevity of the equipment), and it also allows for quick delivery and setup when needed.
9. Have strict quality assurance standards and meet critical industry requirements
One thing that is asked on virtually every vendor packet is whether the service company is ISO 9001 certified. Service companies that don’t have that ISO certification, or at the very minimum, a Quality Management System in place, stand a lesser chance of getting selected as an approved vendor.
Service companies should meet or exceed the standards set by various organizations (EASA, IEEE, UL, ATEX, CSA, Lloyd’s, ABS, etc.) in order to be qualified. In addition, many customers have their own set of specific standards that must be met by the service company, so it’s critical that some sort of quality management system be in place before trying to become an approved vendor.
Of course, one additional point that almost goes without saying is the fact that all companies looking for a service partner want the company to have a pristine safety record. In addition, having their employees being continually trained and tested in safety procedures is also critical.
1. Authorized service, repair, and parts distributor
2. State-of-the-art technology
3. On-site and in-house training
4. Exceptional 24/7 Field Service
5. Cross industry experience
6. Dedicated, in-house capabilities
7. Both generator & motor experience
8. Climate-controlled asset storage & maintenance
9. Quality assurance standards that meet industry requirements