Risk of sole source motors
When a company has a single (or sole) source for an electric motor or generator, that company exposes itself to a certain amount of risk. A company should develop a risk-mitigation plan for the sole source product (no matter what that product is). The risk-mitigation plan should determine the impact of scenarios such as price fluctuations, loss of supply, and poor quality. The plan should also identify recovery or mitigation plans for each scenario. Reverse engineering can play a pivotal role in mitigating the risks associated with a sole source supplier.
While it is easy to search the internet for electric motor manufacturers and find a plethora of companies, the truth is that only a handful of them have the expertise and experience required for electric motor development (brush DC, AC induction, permanent magnet, brushless DC, etc.). Even fewer will have a business model to support reverse engineering and lower or limited production rates.
Much like mitigating obsolescence, a company has a few options to minimize risk from a sole-source supplier: 1) if the component is easily replaceable, the company may just identify other suppliers to be used if the sole supplier has any issues; 2) if the electric motor or generator is more complex, the company may choose to create and qualify a brand-new solution; and 3) the company may choose to reverse engineer the existing electric motor or generator to add an additional supplier. If the program has a risk mitigation plan, then there may already be a plan and a budget to develop and qualify a new solution. Given the long duration for development and qualification, this is typically started prior to incurring any major setbacks from a current supplier. But what if a company’s budget and schedule don’t allow for new development?