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Emergency motor repair for Rio Tinto Alcan

When a large, bespoke-framed fan motor failed at Rio Tinto Alcan the consequences could have been significant. Instead, thanks to quick intervention and significant rework by ERIKS, the motor was back in action six days earlier than anticipated. The failure of vital equipment is an engineer's worst nightmare, especially if it plays a key role before subsequent downstream operations. Just such an issue was faced by Rio Tinto Alcan when the main 920kW 3.3kV motor used for unloading powdered alumina at the ship unloading facility failed; leaving the company temporarily unable to re-stock its UK smelting sites.

The primary issue faced by Rio Tinto Alcan was that it had no spare motor due to its size and a very long normal operating life expectancy. The unit in question was a special frame size and a replacement was only available from the USA... with an unacceptable lead time attached. Rio Tinto Alcan had to think of a solution and it had to think fast. Luckily ERIKS was on hand and through its timely intervention was able to prevent an extremely costly situation unfolding.

The first step was for ERIKS, Killingworth engineering facility to collect the motor from the Rio Tinto Alcan site and undertake a strip down. Following the strip down and subsequent inspection, ERIKS implemented a plan to remanufacture a full set of coils, rewind and overhaul the motor on emergency-service basis.

Fortunately, the ERIKS Killingworth workshop - one of many ERIKS centres of excellence across the UK - has a copper mill, coil manufacturing facility and repair facility all on the same site meaning that engineers were able to start manufacturing a new set of coils within 24 hours of receiving the motor, using materials from stock. ERIKS engineers then worked around the clock - with the coil and repair facilities working in tandem to reduce downtime to a minimum.

Throughout the entire rework process, Rio Tinto Alcan was given regular updates via e-mail, with pictures of the current progress to allow it to plan for the re-installation of the motor. Thanks to some fantastic efforts and co-operation from the ERIKS engineers the motor was returned to Rio Tinto Alcan's site six days earlier that the original agreed date. Phil Wrigely, Rio Tinto Alcan's Lynemouth Smelter Works Director, was effusive in his praise for ERIKS' efforts, commenting: "Your [ERIKS'] efforts helped us in continuing our operations without major interruption to our customers." Sometimes it is just not financially sensible to carry spares for very large components that have long operating lives.

Unfortunately, in these instances, companies have to shoulder an element of risk, especially when it comes to having so much reliance on a single, vital component. Even with proper servicing and maintenance routines it is hard for engineers to predict the unpredictable, so contingency plans are often put in place.

This case is a prime example of how a specialist such as ERIKS is able to come to the rescue - calling upon its significant expertise and experience from one of its many UK-based centres of excellence - and help a company address what turned out to be a major issue.


We offer over 90 years technical knowledge and experience from 76 nationwide industrial service centres, supplying over 500,000 unique industrial products. We have 88 integrated on site stores and procurement centres reducing the costs of all maintenance and repair products and industrial services. With 9 Product Business Units and 23 fully equipped repair workshops maintaining equipment from electric motors, pumps, gearboxes, generators, transformers through to condition monitoring based preventative maintenance services, such as thermography, air leak surveys and vibration analysis.

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