A load tap changer is one of those things in everyday life that most people never pause to consider – more than likely because they have never heard of them. But without load tap changers in a modern world that demands energy at the snap of a finger. We would not get the right amount of energy we need when and where we need it. Nobody in the power generation industry knows this better than Reinhausen Manufacturing of Humboldt, Tenn.
Load tap changers work quietly behind the scenes on the energy landscape. Too much energy surging through distribution wires could cause irreparable damage to businesses and residences, while too little energy could bring the wheels of commerce to a sudden stop. Load tap changers are the diligent guardians of kilovolt capacity. They assure that voltage traveling through distribution wires is not too much, not too little, but just right.
Weighing in at about 3,500 pounds, they keep electrical energy running at level capacities and protect businesses and homes from power surges and power outages. “We make very specialized products for the transformer and power distribution marketplace which, simply put, regulate voltage, thereby ensuring the reliability of power distribution throughout a community,” says John Gamane, operations manager.
In fact, the load tap changer is Reinhausen’s only product. “Because we are focused on only one product, we are acknowledged as being, by far, the worldwide leader in this industry by a huge margin,” Gamane says. This is no idle comment, for Reinhausen has the lion’s share of the global market – with more than 70 percent of sales in a market in which about a dozen companies worldwide participate.
Reinhausen offers seven models of load tap changers, depending on the specifications of the transformer a
tap changer will accessorize. The company sells primarily to transformer manufacturers who, in turn, supply transformer-tap-changer units to utility companies.
“Our units are essentially thought of generically as voltage regulating devices,” explains Gamane. “A transformer has ‘x’ amount of voltage capacity, but it can’t let it all out at once because it can cause a lot of damage. So the tap changer controls all of that and keeps everything in check.”
We’re all too-familiar with what can happen at the height of a hot, summer weekday when businesses and industries (and residences) are creating peak demands in energy for air conditioning. “Our products keep everything running smoothly,” Gamane says.
Reinhausen, with headquarters in Regensburg, Germany, first entered the U.S. market in the late 1980s after the success of its joint venture with Westinghouse Electric Corporation in early 1987. “Our first job was to upgrade all of Westinghouse’s existing tap changer products,” says Gamane. “We eventually designed a brand-new, state-of-the-art tap changer, called the RMV (a 69 Kv tap changer), in 1990 as a result of that joint venture.” And, because of the company’s reputation and outstanding performance history it seemed like a good idea to develop an American presence where it could develop products for the North American market.
In fact, prior to Reinhausen’s U.S. presence, load tap changers had been considered a bane in the industry for their unreliability, notes Gamane.
“We reinvest a sizable portion of our revenues into research and development,” says Gamane of the ISO-9001 company occupying 28,000 square feet of manufacturing space. “We are also a privately held company. So these two factors combined create for us a window of opportunity. Other companies manufacturing tap changers are publicly held and tap changers are not their core business. As a result, their tap changers get less attention and this fact allows us to maintain our sizable lead advantage.”
The company’s commitment to excellence is evident everywhere, in its manufacturing systems as well as in its products. “The team that came in to do our ISO certification commented to us that our manufacturing system is one of the strongest they have ever seen,” says Gamane, referring to the checks and balances inherent in the Reinhausen system. “It’s a peer-to-peer check system, meaning that when you build something here, you are required to check it and sign the product to testify that you’ve done it right. Then one of your peers audits your work and verifies that you’ve done it right. Work on a product is audited several additional times throughout our process.”
The next time you take a look at a Reinhausen load tap changer, you will see at least a dozen names written on the product, a testament to reliability and safety, as well as to the employees’ pride of workmanship.
This system is taken seriously by all 47 of Reinhausen’s employees, who periodically rotate their manufacturing duties to increase their understanding of the products they make. “Our employees understand the import of their jobs and they maintain an awareness that when you make a load tap changer, if you make a mistake, it can cause someone to be killed,” says Gamane. “If the product is not made properly things can fall apart internally and that can cause the machine to explode.”
Dedicated to continually advancing its R&D efforts, Reinhausen recently developed a program that is energizing interest among utility companies. Poorly performing tap changers made by other companies can be replaced with Reinhausen state-of-the-art products without moving the transformer from the field. “The cost of taking that transformer out of service and moving it out of its sub-station to a repair shop can cost more than $100,000,” says Gamane. “We can retrofit the transformer right there in the field.”
The 101-year-old family-owned company stresses family values internally as well as with customers. “We treat even the smallest utility in the country with the same level of energy and respect that we give to the largest utility,” Gamane says.
Respectful employees are treated with reciprocal respect and appreciation and receive full health coverage, a generous 401K plan, and a generous bonus structure.
With its team of dedicated employees manufacturing products renowned in the industry as the world’s finest and most reliable load tap changers, Reinhausen clearly is positioned for future growth. “We plan to maintain our excellent reputation through continuous R&D investments and efforts,” says Gamane. Since the first RMV load tap changer was delivered in America, he points out, none of Reinhausen’s products have shown any wear and none of the copper contacts have shown any wear. “These things are unheard of in this industry and we intend to nourish our big lead over the competition by building on these issues of reliability and safety.”