Vacuum Furnace Lifecycle Management and Why OEM Matters

Ipsen Field Service Engineer at vacuum furnace controls
When you need components or services for your heat-treating equipment, it’s important to consider the advantages of using the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). With expert internal resources, these companies can resolve issues the first time and give valuable insight into the health of your furnace.

Lifecycle management for vacuum furnaces includes three basic elements: service, parts, and modernization (upgrades, retrofits and rebuilds). Using an OEM for your aftermarket needs ensures that you have a customer service team dedicated to supporting your equipment throughout its entire lifespan.

Who and where you purchase components from can mean the difference between extended periods of downtime and resuming production in just a day or two. By having the right parts in stock and the ability to quickly ship them, OEMs help customers minimize downtime and better prepare for unexpected maintenance or repairs. Not only does this prevent long lead times, but also ensures that the parts are identical to the ones being replaced.

When assessing whether to use an OEM for replacement parts or major upgrades and retrofits, consider that the value goes beyond the cost of the part. Often, aftermarket parts are reverse engineered, resulting in lower costs, but sacrificing quality. OEM products are designed to perform and fit factory specifications, and that can increase the operational life of your equipment. Replacing components with non-OEM alternatives could cause your furnace to function less efficiently or even result in damage to your equipment and parts.

For the average OEM, aftermarket parts and services comprise about 60% of their business and revenue. This is a service intended to improve the overall customer experience. By providing access to valuable resources, OEMs set a standard that no one else can match. They understand their products better than third-party providers.

Advantages of using OEMs for service include access to factory trained technicians and support capabilities like engineers, process experts and technical support. By providing a better service experience, with greater parts knowledge and access to better resources, OEM suppliers help customers reduce mean time to diagnose and repair (MTTD/MTTR) and better prepare for downtime and unexpected maintenance.

When OEMs provide connected services such as remote troubleshooting or predictive maintenance tools, they are able to pull live data from the furnace to assist in real time. If they need to deploy a field service technician, they have all the live and historical data at their fingertips. When OEMs build their services with a predictive, proactive and responsive approach, it provides better value to the customer in the long run. Aligning these business processes with technology helps OEMs improve response times and collect better data to prevent downtime and expensive damages.

Ipsen PdMetrics Tablet

Case Study

Energy Consumption Comparison of OEM Versus Non-OEM Hot Zone

In the following case, Ipsen’s predictive maintenance software PdMetrics calculated the energy consumption of a vacuum furnace with an Ipsen hot zone versus a non-OEM alternative. The program monitors heat loss through the hot zone and alerts the customer when the KW usage is higher than normal. After running a burnout cycle, the customer received a warning for heat loss of 1.14 KW/square foot. The normal range for this particular furnace is up to 0.75 KW/square foot. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the hot zone had been replaced with a different brand. This caused the hot zone to degrade more rapidly than expected.

To determine the heat-loss value, energy consumption was calculated during an average cycle using data from the original Ipsen hot zone, versus the replacement.

OEM Hot ZoneNon-OEM Hot Zone
KW usage during ramp (1.5 hrs.)45 KW117 KW
KW usage @ 1960 °F (4 hrs.)240 KW422 KW
Total KW hours/cycle285 KW539 KW
KW hours difference254 KW
Additional cost per cycle*$25.40
Additional cost per year**$13,360.40
*Calculated at $0.10/KW
**Based on 526 cycles

By using a non-OEM hot zone, over the course of one calendar year, the customer spent an additional $13,360.40 and increased energy consumption by about 89%.

Overall, choosing the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for heat-treating components and services is crucial for efficient and effective lifecycle management. Selecting OEMs ensures optimal performance, minimal disruptions, and maximized return on investment in furnace equipment.