Design Engineering

10 things everyone ought to know about custom gearmotors


General DPN

A custom gearmotor is one that meets your particular application specifications. It has the correct mechanical and electrical interfaces, fits within the envelope available, meets your performance, maintenance, lifetime and aftermarket criteria while it also fits within your budget. There are many questions and considerations involved in specifying the correct gearmotor for your application. They run the gamut from AC or DC, single or three phase, PSC or split phase, PMDC or BLDC, TEFC or TENV, cord or flying leads, parallel shaft or right angle, stub or hollow shaft, keyed or splined, grease or oil lubrication, face or foot mount, just to mention a few! Determining your torque requirement, output speed, overhung load, duty cycle and environmental criteria all add up to a real design engineering challenge.

You could spend days perusing catalogs and web sites in search of just the standard product that meets your needs and your “needle in a haystack” search may still not reach a successful conclusion. Of course, if your requirement is for only one or two or a few dozen gearmotors annually and you have some design latitude that will allow you to specify a close, but “good enough”, standard product solution yours may be like thousands of other applications that can be fulfilled with an off-the-shelf, catalog gearmotor.

However, if you’re designing equipment that will likely require thousands or gearmotors per year then you should be working with a gearmotor supplier who can give you a truly custom solution that meets all your needs and for which you don’t have to pay extra for features or performance in excess of your engineered requirement.

To help you successfully specify and procure the best custom gearmotor solution, here are ten things you ought to know:

1) Involve the Gearmotor Supplier Early in the Design Process: To the extent that you engage
your gearmotor supplier’s application engineers early in your design cycle, you will ensure
that you meet all of your specifications as well as your budget target. Skilled and
experienced gearmotor application engineers can literally save you months of time. If
brought in early, they can understand, and possibly even help you design, your test
protocol. The time and expense savings are significant if you are then able to avoid
gearmotor iterations that may be required when you and the gearmotor supplier are not
able to work together early in a team environment. A skilled gearmotor application engineer
can also help improve your machine’s performance, lifetime and profitability based on what he and his company have learned from thousands of other successful custom gearmotor


2) Expect Custom Engineered Samples in a Reasonably Short Timeframe: It’s not unusual to
see “next day samples” touted in marketing materials. On reading the fine print, though,
that only applies to a limited variety of standard, catalog products. If your application only
requires slight modification to a standard item, such as shaft detail, cord or connector, gear
ratio change, etc. it is not unreasonable to expect such prototypes can be turned around in a
matter of a couple weeks or so. Changes to motor windings or designs, new gearheads,
castings, or other truly custom solutions will take appropriately longer. However, a good
gearmotor supplier will have the resources to significantly reduce leadtimes for prototypes.
With today’s rapid prototyping capabilities, it is no longer necessary to wait 16 weeks or
more for a custom engineered gearmotor prototype.

3) Can They Scale-Up to Meet Your Volume?: If you are considering changing gearmotor
suppliers on an existing high volume project, you need to know if they have a track record of
successfully ramping up new, high volume business. They should also have the capability to
quickly and effectively “reverse engineer” your existing gearmotor designs. A really good
gearmotor supplier is capable of engineering and delivering more than a dozen different
gearmotor models that a customer may require to replace his old supplier and ramp up to
thousands of units per month production within just a couple of calendar quarters.
4) Value-Added Capability Adds Value: Your gearmotor supplier should be capable of working
with you to provide more than just a gearmotor. Increasingly, companies are finding they
can increase productivity, reduce inventories and facility requirements by working together
with their gearmotor supplier to provide engineered sub-assemblies or assemblies. Your
gearmotor supplier should be willing to work with you to supply your needs to level of value
add you desire.

5) Get to Know Your Gearmotor Supplier Team: Your gearmotor supplier will be an important
element in your company’s supply chain and they should welcome a visit by you and your
team. Take this opportunity to assess your gearmotor supplier’s facilities, personnel and
quality procedures. In addition to their sales and marketing executives, you want to get to
know their engineering, operations and other key executives and managers who will
become an important part of your own extended team.

6) It’s Your Specification and Your Business: Your gearmotor supplier should be willing to
enter into a nondisclosure agreement with your company to protect the confidentiality of
your work. You’ll find that the best gearmotor suppliers often dominate a particular market
segment and continue to do so because of their discrete handling of confidential
information while working for several competitors in a given market. In addition, the custom
gearmotor specification you develop with your gearmotor supplier is your specification that
is not to be offered to others in your market, nor to your customers in the aftermarket.
7) Take Lead Time Out of the Picture: A customer-focused gearmotor supplier should be able
to work cooperatively and creatively with your supply chain team to develop processes that
will ensure that product lead times become a non-issue for you by employing Kan-Bans and
other systems.

8) How Customer Continuity and Loyalty Play a Role: You will probably want to do business
with a gearmotor supplier that is not only well-established and respected, but also one that
builds long-term customer relationships. Keeping customers over periods of five, ten or
twenty-five years or more signifies not only the ongoing viability of the gearmotor supplier
but also his commitment to continuous improvement and performance excellence. In
today’s business world, multinational companies expect long-term supplier relationships
that offer ongoing productivity improvement and insulation from erratic commodity

9) The Benefits of an Expanding Product Portfolio: While your short-term focus with a
gearmotor supplier may be very well-defined and limited, you will undoubtedly want to
align yourself with a supplier whose business model is based not only on performance
excellence, but also an expanding portfolio of new products resulting from their own voice
of the customer research. Such a gearmotor supplier is more likely to have the more
sophisticated, energy efficient gearmotor solutions you may need for your own next
generation products.

10) You Deserve a Gearmotor Supplier Who Shows Appreciation and Expresses Thanks for
Your Business: The best customer and gearmotor supplier relationships are based on
knowledge and understanding of each other’s businesses. The gearmotor supplier should
build a strong, personal relationship with the customer that fosters open creative and
constructive dialogue that helps ensure long-term success for both parties. The customer
should expect to be able to call on any member of the gearmotor supplier team to solicit
input, discuss issues and work on joint projects without reluctance.

Link to Bison Gear audio interview/podcast on this subject

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