I read a lot of articles in regard to obsolete equipment and the solution is usually to upgrade to a modern equivalent unit. But what happens when an upgrade is not so simple?
Take these two Thorn Stardrives, 1970’s technology, a pretty simple DC drive and considering their size, they are only 5 amp units! The unit on the left developed a fault and the system operators switched over to the standby unit. Understanding that the site does not want to run without a backup, what would you recommend as a solution?
A) Replace the faulty drive with a modern type?
B) Replace both the drives with modern types?
C) Repair the drive?
I’m guessing you are thinking A or B as the drive is 40 yeas old and obsolete. Upgrading to a modern type will give the customer greater reliability and increased functionality, well I’d tend to agree with you, however there’s a critical piece of information that I’ve not shared. These drives are housed within a nuclear reprocessing facility. Just that knowledge alone prevents what would be simple upgrade taking place without a lot of engineering change documentation, proving, paperwork and not to forget, a great deal of time.
So the option available in this case is C) Repair the drive. Luckily repairing obsolete equipment is something we at Fletcher Moorland carry out every day. The word ‘obsolete’ to us just means that it’s not available from the OEM anymore, obsolete doesn’t mean it’s not repairable.
In this case the drive has a blown input rectifier, we could just replace this and then decommission the drive but I wouldn’t consider that to be good engineering practice, we have standard overhaul procedures for many types of electronic drive systems, this means the drive will be fully refurbished where we replace all components that will degrade with age, reflowing the solder joints, replacing the interconnections etc. What’s more the drive will have a twelve month, whole unit warranty.
Several years ago we presented our obsolete equipment repair service to the engineering teams at Sellafield, here’s our stand which received a lot of attention.
I’m not going to say that repairing equipment is always the right thing to do, replacing and upgrading is correct in many cases, however it’s worth thinking that if your equipment is doing the job you need it to. Why replace when it fails? a repair may just be the thing you are looking for. What’s more, it costs less too…
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