The Importance of Equipment Maintenance
May 30, 2019
Jump To Sections:
Underestimating the importance of equipment maintenance is taking a toll on your bottom line. The saying “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is too often the way some view construction equipment maintenance. Why would you pay for service on your equipment if there’s nothing wrong with it? Believe it or not, there are several reasons.
Construction equipment is an investment — one that requires time and money to keep in optimal shape.
We are sharing what you need to know regarding the best care of your heavy equipment and some of the key benefits of sticking with a strict maintenance routine.
Types of Maintenance
When it comes to the upkeep of heavy construction equipment, there are a few different kinds of maintenance that help a machine perform at its best. Here are the main types to prioritize:
Preventative maintenance involves regularly scheduled inspections and tune-ups to address anything that may turn into an issue in the future. The purpose of this type of maintenance is to catch failures before they happen.
You can save costs over time with regular preventative services as they can help avoid the need for expensive repairs and replacements down the line. Utilizing preventative maintenance to repair before failure can also greatly minimize costly unscheduled downtime.
Corrective maintenance refers to services you’ll need when something on your equipment breaks or malfunctions. This type of maintenance is also referred to as repair.
When a machine fails to operate properly, a technician will address the problem and decide if it needs a repair or replacement part. If broken parts are not taken care of with corrective maintenance, damage can spread to secondary systems and lead to greater expenses.
Predictive maintenance foreshadows an equipment failure through close monitoring and data collection via technology. The data will indicate when maintenance is needed to prevent issues before they occur.
Unlike preventative maintenance, this type does not require a pre-planned schedule. Instead, operators will wait for the technology to indicate that service is needed before taking action.
Benefits of Proper Equipment Maintenance
Preventative equipment maintenance is key to extending equipment life and ultimately saving you time and money. While your perception may be that paying for preventative maintenance is unnecessary spending, the reality is that without it, you’re often left with more expensive repairs.
Explore the many benefits of keeping up with proper maintenance for your heavy equipment:
Keep Equipment Running Efficiently
One of the greatest advantages of proper maintenance is how it helps a piece of equipment run optimally.
When your equipment is kept in great condition, you can elongate the life of your machine and boost operational efficiency. This enhances your ability to get work done quickly and ultimately boosts your bottom line.
Well-maintained equipment can operate at peak performance, and that’s good for business.
Avoid Small Problems Growing Over Time
We’ve all been there before. Something on our equipment isn’t functioning properly, but we leave it alone because it isn’t affecting our work in a major way. We continue on, using our equipment to complete the job in the short term and ignoring the ways we are making the problem worse over time.
If something isn’t working the way it should, even if it is a seemingly small issue, the chances are that it’s going to grow into a bigger problem if it isn’t addressed. Proper maintenance is key for correcting minor issues before they can become large, costly ones.
Fixing Big Problems Is Expensive
Waiting too long to address small issues with your equipment will often cost you more than it would to keep up with ongoing maintenance efforts. The bigger a problem becomes, the more complex its repairs will be, adding to even greater expenses. And it doesn’t end there.
Major problems lead to costly downtime. You might fall behind schedule or end up paying employees who were scheduled to work with that machine and now have nothing to do. Likewise, having to pay for expedited shipping on replacement parts can also put a dent in your wallet.
The bottom line? Maintenance is much cheaper than fixing big problems.
Boost Your Resale Value
Experts project that the Global Construction Equipment Market will reach $228 billion by 2028. It is likely that you’ll eventually be looking to sell a piece of equipment to upgrade your fleet. Whether you plan to trade for a newer model or sell it through a private sale, you want to get the maximum amount you possibly can for your machine.
Detailed maintenance records will go a long way in getting you the most money for your resale. Think about the last time you bought a piece of used equipment. Regardless of whether it was a piece of heavy construction equipment or the family car, many of the questions you have are the same:
- Is it reliable?
- Was it maintained properly?
- Has it ever had significant damage that could continue to affect its performance?
Service records and documentation answer many of these questions and put many of the concerns of the unknown to rest. You can’t put a price on the confidence that having those service records on a used piece of equipment gives you when it is time to sell or trade. Make the investment in your construction equipment maintenance up front and it will pay off later.
Regardless of how many safety trainings you or your employees have been through, they don’t have control over equipment failure. Of course, there will always be unexpected breakdowns, but you can minimize them by being proactive about your construction equipment maintenance.
Workplace injuries and fatalities are tragic and expensive. Company morale suffers and so does your bottom line. Consistent and comprehensive maintenance doubles as a proactive step in reducing the number of injuries or fatalities you have on site. You can’t put a price on your team’s safety in the field.
Maximize Warranty Coverage
If you’ve invested in a piece of equipment that is new or lightly used and covered under a warranty, you have extra motivation to stay on top of routine equipment maintenance. Equipment warranties often require detailed service records in order to maintain coverage.
If you’ve invested the money in purchasing a newer piece of equipment with a valuable warranty, it makes sense to invest the time to keeping its routine maintenance up to date. However, it doesn’t end with completing the service. You also need to keep detailed records and receipts of the service history, so if a repair is needed, you have the documentation to show that you’ve done your part and that the issue should be covered under warranty.
Challenges of Heavy Machinery Maintenance
The following are some of the top challenges associated with managing maintenance efforts for heavy equipment:
- Costs: Heavy equipment is an investment, and it is essential to protect that investment with ongoing maintenance efforts. It gets complicated knowing when to spend money on ongoing repairs and when to replace a piece of equipment entirely.
- Scheduling: Another challenge can be finding the right time for maintenance services. You’ll want to ensure your machine is ready when you need it and that maintenance is scheduled at opportune times to avoid project downtime.
- Skilled personnel: If you have an immediate maintenance need, you’re also going to require someone who is both trained on the specific piece of equipment and available to help.
- Documenting maintenance history: It can be difficult to keep a well-organized history of maintenance tasks, big and small, for every piece of heavy equipment you work with. However, it is necessary to do so if you want to maintain your warranty and maximize your return on investment when selling your machines in the future.
Heavy Equipment Maintenance Checklist
Realizing the importance of equipment maintenance is only the first part. The second part is knowing what to do to ensure you’re maximizing the life of your equipment. There are several tips you can use to extend the operating life of your machine, regardless of what type of equipment you have or the size of your fleet.
Monitor Equipment Technology
This seems like a no-brainer, but equipment technology has come a long way. Many models have a variety of sensors in place that will tell you if something isn’t working properly, even if it’s something small. Make sure someone is monitoring the technology and collecting data on equipment and performance. This technology is only valuable if someone is there to bring it to your attention when a sensor detects something isn’t working right.
There are also tools you can use to supplement the technology a particular piece of equipment has.
The following can help you collect additional information on your equipment so that you have real-time information on each machine’s condition:
- Vibration monitoring
- Thermal imaging
- Audio gauges
Train Operators and Technicians
Regardless of how many different technologies are available, there is no substitution for the human touch. After all, what good is the technology if no one is proactively monitoring and testing it? It takes a trained operator to understand the problem and a trained technician to know how to fix it or to alert someone that it needs repair. Educating your equipment operators and any technicians you have on staff is key to extending the life of your equipment, as their hands-on experience can provide an early warning and ensure that small problems don’t turn into big ones.
Training staff can also help prevent repairs due to misuse or overuse of equipment. Operators need to be trained on the specific model of equipment they will be using. If an in-person training isn’t feasible, there needs to be a summary of best practices and an operation manual in place so you can ensure operators are using the equipment the way it was meant to be used. An untrained equipment operator could unintentionally cause costly repairs, so make sure the best practices and expectations are outlined clearly, not only on training day, but also reinforced on a regular basis.
Set an Equipment Maintenance Schedule and Stick to It
Every piece of equipment is different. They all have their own intricacies and need a maintenance and repair schedule to match. Over time, there are some seals, belts, bolts, etc., that will need to be replaced. Rather than waiting for these parts to cause a problem, swap them out when they are scheduled to be replaced.
How do you know when that is? The piece of equipment will have an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) maintenance recommendation. Commit to it. It may seem like being proactive is attempting to fix something that isn’t broken, but trust us, neglecting to do this will result in expensive repairs.
Those seals, belts and bolts are all a part of a much larger system, and the last thing you want is to replace the whole thing. Not only does that involve a higher cost for parts, but it also leads to downtime as a result of the equipment needing a more extensive repair.
Conduct Regular Inspections
Inspections are not the same thing as maintenance schedules. Construction equipment should be inspected every time it’s used. Trained operators should know what to look and listen for to ensure equipment is working properly. Checking for simple things, like signs of wear on equipment, can go a long way.
The reality is that heavy equipment often experiences vibration, high temperatures and friction, all of which contribute to the wear and tear of moving parts. Add age to the mix and you have a recipe for deterioration.
This happens with all machinery, and a key to extending equipment life is to make sure you do something as simple as adding an operator visual inspection to your equipment use requirements. Noticing warped belts, dry or cracked seals and loose bolts may seem small, but these things can be identified through a visual inspection and fixed before they cause a larger problem. We also recommend keeping up with more extensive inspections that may be a part of your OEM maintenance plan.
Lubrication is key in any equipment. It reduces friction between moving parts and can extend the life of heavy construction equipment. Get to know each piece of equipment you have and what type of lubricant each of them requires.
Lubrication is not a one-size-fits-all substance, so make sure you talk to a knowledgeable dealer to determine the manufacturer’s recommendations for oil, grease and other lubricants. Know where you can and cannot add lubricant as there may be some places you’re able to check and add on your own between scheduled maintenance, but some may require a trained technician.
Get to know your equipment and make sure you keep things lubricated over time. Friction due to a lack of lubrication can drastically reduce the life of your equipment.
Lubrication is the key to more than just reducing friction and wear-and-tear. It can also be a valuable tool in finding problem areas. Learning what parts of your equipment use lubrication and are accessible can help you identify issues.
Look for a buildup of oil or grease on seals, hoses and other connections, and check for leaks on the machine and on the ground. You can also check lubricants to discover parts of your heavy equipment that may be worn down. Analyzing particles in used oil, for example, can reveal contaminants that show a breakdown in potentially unseen areas.
Not an oil expert? That’s not a problem. A knowledgeable Warren CAT technician can perform a fluid analysis for you and you can request a fluid analysis any time from the Warren CAT Fluids Lab on any kind of machinery – not just Cat equipment. This is usually a part of scheduled maintenance, but it’s also something you can check if you suspect there’s something wrong or want to better understand the health of your machine.
Keep Equipment Clean
Construction equipment, no matter how big and heavy, is still susceptible to dirt and contaminants. Remember, this large piece of equipment is made up of several moving parts, all with their own intricate system. If filters aren’t changed regularly and breathers and electronics aren’t kept clean, they impact the way the equipment runs and can ultimately cause an expensive repair. When things get dirty, they can break down.
Ideally, to extend equipment life, it should be kept in a building away from the elements.
Use Genuine OEM Parts
Why use genuine OEM Cat parts when you can get the same part from another company for less money? This is a legitimate question and one we hear often. It’s not a secret that you can find the same part for a cheaper price.
Let’s take something small and simple for example a bolt. If you’re looking for something small like a bolt, is it really that important to have the OEM bolt replacement? Let’s say you’ve found a cheaper option. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you know it’s made from the exact same material composition as the original?
- Do you know if it has the exact same thread pitch?
- Does your warranty require OEM parts?
- Is that bolt compatible with the sensors in place to check that part of the equipment is working?
- Are you guaranteed to get that bolt within a certain timeframe?
- Are you confident in the chemical makeup of the bolt that it will resist corrosion the same as the original?
Obviously, a bolt is a simple example, but if we have this many questions about a bolt, is it worth the risk, especially when it comes to a more complex part? The last thing you want is to void your warranty to save money on a part or to be left with additional downtime when it doesn’t arrive in a timely fashion.
Your equipment manufacturer spent a lot of time formulating that exact part for your piece of equipment, so in the interest of extending equipment life, choose genuine OEM parts.
Contact Warren CAT to Learn More
At Warren CAT, we have the expertise and tools to keep your heavy equipment running at its best. Our skilled service technicians can provide preventative maintenance and repair services to help you minimize expensive downtime and boost productivity.
Are you ready to maximize the life of your equipment and keep it operating at peak performance? Contact Warren CAT to learn more about partnering with us for your maintenance needs today!
Our service team is composed of highly skilled Caterpillar® technicians who receive state-of-the-art training. They are educated and have the resources available to find the fastest and most cost-effective solution to get your equipment back to you in optimal working condition.
In addition to offering this service at all of our convenient locations throughout Oklahoma and Texas, we also have mobile work crews that can bring the same level of expertise to you on site. Whether it’s an emergency repair or a piece of heavy equipment that doesn’t make sense to transport for repair, our field service team can provide a variety of repairs to you on the job.
While we understand emergencies happen, we believe in the importance of preventative maintenance and offer customer service agreements to help you manage your fleet and prevent costly repairs. We know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why we offer agreements tailored to your specific needs.
Our goal is the provide you with cost-efficient solutions that can help you maximize the life of your equipment and machinery. With over 40 years of industry experience, we have the expertise and the resources to be your reliable source for full-service maintenance and repairs. To learn more about the specific types of service we offer, visit the equipment services section of our website. Contact us to learn more about how partnering with a local dealer can help save you times and money when it comes to your fleet of equipment.