Fail Your Machines, They'll Fail You
You’d be hard pressed to meet a heavy equipment owner who doesn’t understand the need to extend machine life and minimize down time. Getting the most from a fleet is a priority for owners and managers, but not their only one. Budgets and time constraints have left more than one piece of equipment waiting for repair until it became critical.
Whether cutting costs or simply ignoring equipment, consequences can be exponentially expensive if overlooked.
Consider the following maintenance tips:
Follow Manufacturer Guidelines How often do you check the torque on your bed articulation hitches? When did you last look at the wear on your bearings? Do you take time each day to look at your excavator’s track tension? Equipment manufacturers include specific recommendations about which items to monitor and how often.
The less frequent an adjustment is suggested, the less likely it gets performed. It’s easier to remember daily maintenance compared to semi-annual or annual. The do-it-yourself option is to go through the manual, note each one and monitor your hour meter.
Equipment dealers offer packages ranging from free inspection programs to complete service agreements. These help hold maintenance expenses below the potential thousands a repair could run later.
If nothing else, take the time to review your manufacturer’s maintenance suggestions.
Inspect Proactively Good construction equipment operators have a relationship with the machine they run each day. They should make the most of it. Use daily walk-arounds to help find leaks, check wear items and other issues. Operators should be the first to notice equipment failures and the small symptoms that lead to them.
Even if something does not require immediate action, it should be recorded. If you use dealer service, you can bundle multiple minor repairs under one field mechanic trip.
Address Operator Abuse or Improper Technique Maybe they’re in a hurry. Perhaps they don’t know better. In some cases they don’t care. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. An operator can dramatically alter the life expectancy of the unit and its components.
Train Your Personnel and Make Your Expectations Known For instance, if you see a bucket used on an application that calls for a hydraulic hammer, don’t let it slide. Repeatedly hammering with a bucket puts undue stress on hydraulics and structural components. It saves you little and can cost you considerably. In this case you’d also be in danger of voiding a warranty claim.
It’s also important to avoid improper filter maintenance. Your diesel engine is a closed system. Fuel, oil and filtered air are the invited guests. Dirt is the party crasher. When you try to save a few dollars on air filters by blowing them clean, you run the risk of loosening dirt and introducing it into the system.
When it comes to lubrication, it is important to not delay or skip scheduled intervals. Moreover, the oil sampling done as part of the service may help diagnose any issues. Don’t worry about being a few hours late on a service. An extra hundred hours, however, will catch up to you.
Keep Meticulous Machine Records It can seem like overkill, but the more information you have on your fleet the more prepared you are to make the right decisions.
Consider how closely you track:
- An accurate hour meter reading, even after replacing the hour meter.
- Types of hours. Time idling is not the same as time fighting through and moving heavy rock.
- Hours remaining on your warranty.
- The age of replaced parts.
- Fleet history of machine failures. Noticing trends can help plan down time and analyze how machines are used. Are some wear items consistently replaced too often?
- Parts consumption. Putting the serial number on parts orders can track a unit’s consumption of parts and dollars.
- Some machines come with on-board computers. The software tracks a variety of data including time spent idling, time spent in each gear and settings used, as well as items such as how many times the unit shifted into a forward gear while still moving in reverse.