The new driving force

Louise Smyth

Breaking the buying cycle in precision power transmission component specification

Whether you’re building a prototype, starting a new production run or sourcing replacement parts, specifying power transmission components that integrate with each other, run reliably and fit to the necessary footprint can prove challenging. Once real-world commercial considerations are also factored in, it can be hard to identify the best solutions for any given project. Working with knowledgeable distributors gives engineers access to expert knowledge that can increase the profitability of many projects.

If we look back at buying trends for power transmission components prior to 2008, it’s quite easy to identify an attitude cycle that every few years shifted between ‘lowest possible purchase cost’ and ‘best quality, highest performance’. However, since the financial crisis, a new trend has emerged in which end users are looking for the best ‘total cost of ownership’; for the component that will offer best value throughout its life in terms of cost and performance.

This shifting attitude should be seen as a positive step, not only for the end user, but also for the manufacturer and distributor. It rewards high-quality engineering and reliable performance without placing too great a premium on brand recognition. At the same time, distributors that are able to speed up specification and guide end users to the perfect solution are able to positively influence the total cost of ownership – meaning that they are able to add value to the components that they are selling.

In fact, knowledgeable distributors can now play a greater part in the specification process than ever before, offering their expertise and understanding of different brands and designs to quickly lead the end-users to the best solution for them. Drive Lines Technologies is one such distributor that has developed a service that focuses on supporting the customer through from the initial enquiry to delivery, installation and beyond.

Ian Carr, managing director, explains: “We don’t just source the best products from top manufacturers across Europe, we support these products with technical documents, free 3D CAD models and customisation services. We also employ experienced sales engineers who can more than simply look up part numbers in a catalogue. We talk with our customers about their application and their requirements and make suggestions based on our first-hand experience.”

Drive Lines offers a range of power transmission components that span the entire drivetrain, with solutions for applications as diverse as high precision machine tools to heavy industries. Its rotary transmission components include MS Graessner and ZF gearboxes, R+W precision couplings and torque limiters as well as a selection of brake and clutch components. It also boasts an extensive range of linear transmission solutions that include mechanical screw jacks, linear actuators and linear bearings that can be coupled with Exico electric motors and other accessories to create a complete lifting or positioning system.

Carr continues: “It’s taken us years to build up our product range to a point where we are able to offer tried and tested solutions for almost any application. We know which of our components integrate well with each other and we have the understanding of what’s possible in terms of customisation. In recent years our customers have found this knowledge and support almost as important as the quality of the products that they eventually buy from us.”

No engineer, whether they specialise in design, manufacture or maintenance can maintain an expert level of knowledge on all of the various technologies and designs that are being developed every day; nor should they be expected to. It is therefore important that suppliers and distributors of components are able to offer their customers more than just a wide product range. They must be able to offer them a service based around partnership, where they become an integral part of the specification team and invest themselves in a business beyond the sale.