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Which? Controlgear

World Cement,

When purchasing consumer goods such as mp3 players, mobile phones and laptops, you are offered a wide choice of products from different suppliers. Each product has a different price and each comes with a different set of values based on brand, function, reliability and compatibility. The same principle applies for industrial controlgear used in aggregates applications; but do you make the same evaluation when choosing which to purchase? Here Steve Brambley of GAMBICA’s controlgear group explains how to navigate through the maze and come out safely on the other side. 

Assessing the value provided by each supplier might seem daunting but there are a number of objective measures that you can apply to help make your decision. Consumer advice magazines do this for everything from washing machines and toasters to sports cars and speedboats. Whilst there isn’t a Which? Controlgear magazine, this article will try and take its place by helping you make an informed decision when buying controlgear and other industrial automation equipment.

The cost of an item is pretty obvious; it is how much money you pay for it. But what is the value? In the context of industrial controlgear for the cement sector, one can measure performance and lifetime cost and judge value according to these two indicators.

When you buy a printer, you have some requirements in mind. Imagine you find a printer that meets these criteria, at a bargain price, on an online auction site. But what if your printer arrives and the power lead has a two-pin plug? There is no automatic paper feed and it’s very noisy?

It ticked all the boxes but the performance is unsatisfactory; it has met your minimum specification but not your operating expectations.

When evaluating the lifetime price tag of a product, you are really thinking about how much will it cost over the next five years, 10 years or however long you plan to use it for. With controlgear, buying the lowest cost contactor or overload relay doesn’t mean you will be getting the best value or lowest lifetime cost. Manufacturers that are developing their technology and leading the market are able to meet the above criteria, offering a product and service that delivers value.

You might be buying a machine, a production line, a control panel or a sub-assembly and the systems integrator is charged with the responsibility of assembling its component parts, including switchgear. In such cases you should agree a component strategy with your provider and their supply chain. It can also be worth verifying that what is specified is also what is eventually supplied. It is not unheard of to investigate early failure of a component to find a low-cost alternative has been put into the cabinet in place of the one specified on the design.

Irrespective of whether you are buying directly or via an integrator, you should always prioritise value above cost. Making a decision about controlgear for your aggregates application isn’t as easy as deciding on a laptop or printer, especially without the aid of a Which? Magazine. But good communication between the designer, systems integrator and manufacturer will more than compensate.

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