Tekwell Services LLC

Dynamic service keeps industry moving
Written by: 
Christine Fisher
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

Across the United States, countless electric motors whirl, pumps labor and cutting-edge controls keep it all going.

Most people have no idea how important these motors are, though, and they don’t know about companies like Tekwell Services LLC, a motor repair and maintenance company that works behind the scenes to keep motors, pumps, gearboxes and fans—anything that rotates—functioning properly.

From rock quarries to steel mills, from skyscrapers to public wastewater utilities, and from textile plants to food manufacturing, Tekwell keeps all the moving parts at peak performance. For every client, Tekwell professes one mission: keep business up and running.

Tekwell Services LLC

With motor repair shops in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Cartersville, Georgia, Tekwell serves clients in those states, as well as North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama. The company provides round-the-clock service and prides itself on, above all else, delivering consistent and reliable service quality.

Always in motion

When a manufacturing client that’s working to produce liquefied ammonium nitrate solution (ANSOL) for industrial purposes had a 4,000-horsepower motor fail, the company called Tekwell. The 4160-volt compressor motor had stopped working and, without that compressor, the plant shut down.

For manufacturing clients like that, an interruption of that scope that can mean losses as high as $10,000 per hour, says Jamey Steffner, Tekwell’s CEO. So the company knew how important it was to get the motor back online—and fast.

 

Tekwell transported the compressor to its Knoxville plant and launched an all-hands-on-deck recovery mission. In 10 days, Tekwell’s team pulled out the motor’s old winding, installed a new winding and had it up and running.

That’s just one example of the type of work Tekwell can perform in its two shops, which are equipped with a full range of service technology, like overhead cranes that can maneuver motors up to about 40,000 pounds.

“We want to make sure our customers are satisfied and happy. We treat people fairly,” says Barlow Walters, vice president and a general manager.

The company has invested heavily in its Knoxville and Cartersville shops, which are divided into disassembly and inspection, motor winding, assembly, and painting departments. The shops have temperature-controlled winding rooms and modern machine tools, and Tekwell places an emphasis on keeping things clean and orderly.

“If you’re cleaning out a motor that might be dirty and full of BBs from a customer process or dirt or sand, you don’t want to disassemble that stuff and have it fly around and get another customer’s new motor winding dirty,” says Neil Koepke, Tekwell’s sales manager.

Steffner compares it to cooking: you wouldn’t make your salad on the cutting board you just used to prepare raw chicken.

Wired for detail

“The motor repair industry, in general, has been largely kind of a knuckle-busting, dirty, grimy, garage shop, mom-and-pop shop [industry],” Steffner says. “It has this stigma, rightly so, because for years it operated this way.”

But Tekwell is changing things. The company is proud to be a Certified SKF Motor Rebuilder. SKF is one of the largest bearing manufacturers in the world, and it holds its certified motor rebuilders to the highest standards, meaning Tekwell must adhere to rigorous, best-practice standards, as well as provide its technicians with extensive training in electrical motor analysis, bearing installation, lubrication and monitoring technologies.

In Tennessee, there is just one other Certified SKF Motor Rebuilder, and in Georgia, there are just three others.

“The personnel you need are highly skilled,” says Dale Cooper, one of Tekwell’s general managers. “We search out and hire the most experienced people.”

Customers agree. “I continue to marvel at the caliber of people Tekwell sends to work in our facility,” says Fred Malone of Franklin Woods Community Hospital in a review posted on Tekwell’s website.

A tradition of reliability

Steffner comes from a motor repair family. In the late 1800s, his great grandfather ran a bicycle shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He and an employee, who had emigrated from Germany and knew how to repair electric motors, saw an opportunity to service street cars in Chattanooga, so they shifted gears from bicycles to electric motors.

One way or another, the Steffner family has been involved in the motor repair industry since then. So, Steffner can spot trends as they arise, and he’s seen a need for enhanced preventive maintenance as well as repair.

“Through the years, the belief that you have to wait on something to break to fix it has completely changed, and most everybody has gone to reliability-based programs,” Cooper says. “We still do repairs, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nothing like it used to be. The times have changed completely from repairs to more of the reliability part of it.”

Tekwell uses the industry’s top tools and technologies to detect underlying problems before they become full-blown failures. With a robust and growing field service team, they can respond to both maintenance and repair needs in record time.

Sometimes preventative maintenance reveals that equipment simply needs to be cleaned. Other times, it needs more lubrication or it’s been under-engineered. When possible, Tekwell places transducers on equipment in order to monitor readings remotely. When sensors show, for instance, a change in vibration pattern, it’s a sign that something needs to be addressed before the equipment breaks.

Scheduled maintenance maximizes up-time

Jason Fields, who oversees Tekwell’s field service division, came from the mining industry in West Virginia. He says the preventive maintenance Tekwell is able to do is “unreal.”

“Back in the mining division, it was run to failure; run and run and run, till they can’t run anymore,” he says. “With what I know now, I could save [the mining industry] a lot of time on the maintenance side.”

Fields remembers spending Christmases and other holidays underground, completing emergency repairs. With the technology Tekwell has, he says, companies can schedule repairs on their own time, rather than let repairs schedule them.

Fields sees the field service side of the industry skyrocketing as more predictive technology and maintenance becomes the norm. From his perspective, Tekwell is ready for that shift.

“Tekwell is dedicated to being the best in the business,” Fields says. “We are hiring the best. We are making the best, bar none, hands down. [We’re] investing in Tekwell to be the best.”

With a combination of team and technology, Tekwell keeps its customers’ machines moving, while the company itself is on the move, too – straight to the top.