Using Site Simulation in the ‘Fight for Inches’
In the movie “Any Given Sunday,” Al Pacino plays a football coach who is wise but worn down by life. In a pregame speech he talks about football being a game of inches.
Take a few minutes and look at your job site. Can you see where you’re losing money? The “inches” are all around you. “The inches we need are everywhere around us,” goes Pacino’s speech. “They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch.”
Your “inches” are dollars. The Pacino monologue is dramatic, but the point is valid. Little things add up and can determine success or failure. Job-site analytics help find those inches in terms of cost savings.
Heavy-equipment dealers have proprietary manufacturer-designed software that considers several factors. They determine a baseline of your production, what it could be and the best methods to get there. The programs monitor cost for each ton produced if your goal is to do more than increase volume.
These calculators weigh variables such as material type and density, the price of fuel, length of work days, how much of each hour is spent working, expected machine downtime, bucket sizes/fill levels and how much distance is covered to complete a cycle.
You can compare the bucket sizes of your loader or excavator to the capacity of the truck they’re loading to see how many passes it should take to fill to the proper level.
“Proper level’’ is key. Under-filling has obvious inefficiencies, and piling material too high increases spillage and can affect cycle times more than the operator realizes. Both affect your cost per ton.
Manufacturers design software with their own products in mind so competing products will generally not be represented in the default data. If you try a study and have more than one brand on your site, you’ll need to have some idea of what their ratings are and plug those numbers in. This is by no means impossible, but it does add a small step.
The first simulation result shows the current situation you produce and the cost per ton. From there you can create “what if’’ scenarios to see which machine combinations and site alterations maximize efficiency. Suggestions will vary as each site is different.
Reducing bottlenecks eliminates unneeded idling and waste. When trucks are lined up or an excavator’s stick isn’t swinging because no truck is available, you’re losing money.
Some studies find production is best served with more trucks. You may get a recommendation to replace a single 40-ton articulated haul truck with two 25-ton trucks.
If the cycle of a truck covers enough ground, it may be worth it to buy, rent or reassign a motor grader to smooth a road or straighten a curve. Trucks run faster when they don’t have to negotiate sharp turns and they spill less material. Spillage and slowdowns increase what you pay to produce.
Depending on how you feed materials, there are times a 3-yd bucket can be more cost efficient than a 5-yd bucket. That doesn’t even take into account operators who fail to utilize the extra bucket size afforded them.
Job-site analytics can show when you should use an excavator instead of a wheel loader to load trucks. If there are long, straight stretches where dirt needs to be moved, the reports can help determine if scrapers would serve you better than trucks and excavators.
Assorted, complete site simulations arm you with reliable estimates that tell the whole story to help make clear decisions.
On-site managers can rely on more than just gut instinct or anecdotal evidence when making proposals to a corporate office that could be in another state. In turn, off-site supervisors will better understand day-to-day operations and see facts laid out on spreadsheets that show paths to improvement.
Changes might be equipment-based or operator-based when improving production or cost effectiveness, but all add up. Improving the production of one truck by one cycle per day will yield an additional 260 truckloads in a year working a five-day work week. Imagine if you have multiple trucks running on long-term projects.
The recommendation won’t always be to buy more units or go to larger pieces. Quite often it’s the opposite, but it’s worth the time to line out production goals and consider options. Good fleet managers know how to spend money and other resources for the best long-term return. Don’t let the opportunity go to waste.