The Importance of Equipment Maintenance
May 30, 2017
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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.
Benefits of 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. We believe in the importance of preventative maintenance, and after reading over the following reasons, we think you will, too.
Keep Equipment Running Efficiently
A new piece of equipment is in optimal shape. It runs efficiently. The definition of efficiency for each piece of equipment may differ, but new equipment runs like a well-oiled machine ? and that’s good for business.
When equipment runs efficiently, projects get done on or ahead of schedule, and your bottom line does well. Keeping that optimal, like-new condition is key to maintaining that level of equipment efficiency. If maintenance suffers, so does efficiency. When efficiency suffers, so does your bottom line.
Small Problems Grow Over Time
We’ve all seen it before ? something isn’t working exactly the way it used to, but it isn’t affecting our job in a big way, so we continue, sometimes even making adjustments in how we use the piece of equipment to keep things moving. While it may seem like this is the most efficient way to get the job done in the short term, it could cause you major headaches in the future.
If something isn’t working the way it should ? no matter how small ? chances are it’s going to grow into a bigger problem if it isn’t addressed.
Fixing Big Problems Is Expensive
While it may seem like it doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money to have it inspected or repaired when you’re able to work around it, the reality is waiting is going to cost you even more. Bigger, more complex repairs come with a bigger price tag. Think of more than parts ? yes, a more complex problem will likely come with having to replace more and/or larger parts that are expensive, but it doesn’t end there.
Big problems often translate to more downtime, and more downtime means you’re suddenly behind schedule and/or unable to take on a new project. If you have employees on the clock that were scheduled to work with that piece of equipment, now you’re paying them despite the fact that they are unable to work temporarily due to equipment downtime.
Obviously, if you get to this point, you’ll do what it takes to get the equipment back up and running as soon as possible, but that too comes with an additional set of costs. Expedited shipping for parts comes with a price tag. It all adds up. Bigger problems have a snowball effect. Don’t wait for the bigger problem — invest in the small one.
Boost Your Resale Value
The projected construction equipment market size in 2017 is $192 billion. Chances are you’ll eventually be looking to sell a piece of equipment to upgrade to a newer style. Whether you plan to trade it in for a newer model or sell it through a private sale, you want to get the maximum amount you possibly can for that piece of construction equipment.
Detailed records of heavy equipment maintenance will go a long way in getting you the most money for your resale. Here’s why: 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 having those service records on a used piece of equipment gives you. Make the investment in your construction equipment maintenance up front ? it will pay off later.
Reduce Injuries and Fatalities
The construction industry is at the top of the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s list of most injuries on the job. Within the construction industry, 17% of fatal construction accidents are due to contact with objects and equipment. If your equipment isn’t being serviced on a regular basis, there’s a chance it isn’t working properly. If it isn’t working properly, you’re increasing your chances of workplace injury or death as a result of equipment failure.
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 through being proactive about your construction equipment maintenance.
Workplace injuries and fatalities are tragic and expensive. Company morale suffers, and so does your bottom line. One of the benefits of 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 be covered.
If you’ve invested the money in purchasing a newer piece of equipment that’s covered, it makes sense to invest the time in 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 those repairs are needed even though you’ve kept up with the routine maintenance on the piece of equipment.
As a side note, the fact that equipment manufacturers require proof of routine maintenance is something worth noting in itself. These manufacturers are the people building the equipment, and if they’re going to offer to foot the bill of repairs for an extended period of time as long as the routine maintenance is kept up with, it shows they value maintenance. You might even say they offer to cover equipment under this condition because they have confidence in knowing routine maintenance prevents costly repairs.
How to Extend Equipment Life
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. Obviously, there are a variety of construction equipment models, each with its own design and specific parts. However, there are several tips you can use, regardless of what piece of equipment you have, whether it’s one or an entire fleet, to extend equipment life.
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. For example, vibration monitoring, thermal imaging, audio gauges and other technologies and tests can help you collect additional information on your equipment so that you have real-time information on the condition of your construction equipment.
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 repaired. Educating your equipment operators and any technicians you have on staff is key to extending the life of your equipment, as they will be sure that small problems don’t turn in to 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 ? respecting all weight limits, etc. 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 on a regular basis as a reminder.
Make Someone Accountable
In addition to training operators and technicians, your staff structure should give someone accountability for equipment maintenance. Construction companies come in all shapes and sizes, so this looks a little different for everyone. When someone is given the responsibility of looking out for the condition of the construction equipment, over time they will see what an impact proactive maintenance can have ? and how much of a mess reactive repairs can create. Empowering and educating someone to take on this role is crucial to the success of preventative maintenance ? otherwise it will always get pushed aside.
The bottom line is if it’s someone’s responsibility to make sure a certain piece of equipment or a fleet is working properly, they’ll do it like their job depends on it ? and that’s exactly what you want.
Set and Stick to a Maintenance Schedule
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, replace them 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 by being proactive you’re 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
No, 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 heavy equipment is often used with 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 equipment, and the 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 any 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. Know where you can and cannot add lubricant. There may be some places you’re able to check and supplement on your own between scheduled maintenance, but other areas 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 cause significant wear and tear, reducing 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 pistons, leaky oil seals, etc. 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 a particular area. Not an oil expert? That’s not a problem ? a knowledgeable Warren CAT technician can do an oil test for you. This is usually a part of scheduled maintenance, but it’s also something you can check if you suspect there’s something wrong.
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. Wind and rain can cause rust, which can be expensive to replace.
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, for example?
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.
Warren CAT Can Help
At Warren CAT, we are committed to providing the best construction equipment service in Oklahoma and Texas. We have the expertise, tools and technology to keep your machines and equipment running so you can minimize expensive downtime and maximize productivity.
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.