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You know your construction equipment needs regular maintenance to prevent breakdowns, but are you confident in how you keep your fleet running? Maintenance requires the efforts of a team of personnel from the operator to those making the repairs. With so many people working on keeping your heavy equipment running, you may find gaps in service. Keep these tips for heavy equipment maintenance in mind as you create the service schedule for your fleet.
Why Maintenance Is Important
Maintaining your fleet is essential in preventing problems. By incorporating these heavy equipment maintenance tips, your company will reap many benefits, including:
- Fewer breakdowns
- Minimized downtime
- Longer equipment life
- Safer working conditions
- Improved productivity
Think of maintenance not as a dreaded chore but as a way of improving your company's productivity and operations. Keeping up with heavy equipment requires diligence in cleaning and care to maximize the benefits your business sees.
Tips for Heavy Equipment Maintenance
With construction equipment, you cannot put off maintenance chores if you want to be proactive. But conducting preventative maintenance is only one part of the picture. For a fully realized upkeep schedule, your company needs to embrace as many of these construction equipment maintenance tips as possible. Doing so will help keep your fleet in prime condition and ready to tackle any task without breaking down.
1. Prevent Problems With Scheduled Maintenance
Preventative maintenance will do more to help your projects finish on time than making repairs once a part fails. Look up routine maintenance schedules for the equipment brand, and create your preventative program around those numbers.
When you're conducting maintenance to prevent problems, you'll replace parts before they reach their full lifespan. At first, the extra service and additional components you use may seem like a waste. Stick with it though — this type of maintenance offers several benefits. You'll lower the chances of your equipment breaking down from components running until failure. Because you'll save productivity and reduce downtime from unexpected breakdowns, you'll eventually save money by scheduling regular service for your fleet.
Preventing problems through proactive service schedules will ensure that your equipment operates at its best. Fuel efficiency will remain high. The machinery will also perform better without the wear caused by neglect.
Routine maintenance includes chores such as checking the oil levels and airing up the tires. These tasks prevent problems such as low oil levels and poor tire pressure. Preventative maintenance goes a step beyond these chores and examines the systems in your construction equipment for signs of wear. Any parts that appear to have severe defects developing will get replaced to preserve the peak productivity of the machine and your business.
2. Use Checklists
Even if your maintenance workers are long-standing employees, they may not know how to conduct preventative inspections or repair certain heavy equipment brands. To keep workers, new and seasoned, from missing important parts during an evaluation, create checklists designed for each machine. Include in the list all the systems the inspector must look over to ensure he misses nothing in his review.
To save time, consider combining cleaning routines with inspection checklists. To thoroughly clean construction equipment, a worker must get deep into the nooks and crannies of the machine, giving the individual a perfect chance to run through a visual inspection of the operating systems.
Not all inspections can happen by just looking at the machine though. Encourage operators to fill out checklists if they notice anything unusual about their vehicles during operation, from strange sounds to sluggish performance and anything in between. Operators have the luxury of evaluating the equipment during use, making them invaluable members of your maintenance team.
3. Train Operators
Operators have training in using heavy machinery, and they often have experience with a specific brand. Because the operators use these machines regularly, they're the front line of identifying problems with their machines' systems.
Operators must know how to run their vehicles and also look for signs of problems. Well-trained operators who know how to safely use their construction equipment will not take chances that could cause injury or part-damaging accidents. Part of training requires operators to understand the vehicle's limits and avoid pushing those limits to prevent the vehicle from enduring more strain than it can handle. Pushing machinery to its limits or beyond shortens its life while increasing the chances of accidents.
Training operators in machinery's functioning and conducting safety and inspection checks before and after use ensures operators use the equipment safely each time. If pilots have to conduct preflight checks for the safety of the plane, heavy equipment operators should do the same for their vehicles.
Operation checklists that include whether the user experienced anything unusual during their shift can help maintenance crews find problems early, primarily if the problem occurred between scheduled inspections. Though strange sounds, performance issues or visual cues may not prevent the machine's operation, any of these factors could indicate a growing problem. Smoke, reduced fuel efficiency, grinding noises and other issues all require reporting, ideally through a software-based system that immediately alerts maintenance.
4. Document Services
Keep close track of the frequency of repairs and maintenance chores. If you have vehicles in your construction fleet that require repairs more often, those machines may be approaching the end of their usefulness. Without careful documentation of services, you likely won't be able to track the frequency of services and know when to decide between continuing to repair an older machine and replacing it.
Documenting services also provides your company with proof of keeping up required care if you need to have warranty coverage. Some warranties will require you to have done all manufacturer-recommended services on the vehicle. If you don't have proof of the routine care you've performed and any other repairs or part replacements, you may void the warranty on the equipment.
5. Examine the Fluids
Fluids are the lifeblood of your equipment. If you don't maintain adequate fluid levels and quality conditions, your machinery will not operate as efficiently and could experience more wear on its components. Be careful to allow the vehicles to have the exact amount of fluids required — no more, no less. For example, if you have too much transmission fluid in your vehicles, they could overheat.
Lubrication can also be excessive or inadequate. Grease keeps things moving smoothly, but too much can waste lubricant and cause problems in operation. Use no more than three shots of lubricant when you're greasing equipment.
The quality of your vehicles' oil also plays a critical role in the longevity of the equipment. When you're checking oil levels, look for signs of contamination. If you want to get a better picture of how well your engine uses its oil, send the fluid off for analysis. Many manufacturers have fluid analysis labs that will help you determine when to conduct preventative maintenance to maximize fluid effectiveness.
6. Make Cleaning Routine
Cleaning is not just a job in place to make your equipment look good. During the cleaning process, your workers can look for visual signs of problems. Just as inspections require checklists, give cleaning crews lists to ensure all equipment receives a thorough cleaning.
Additionally, cleaning your heavy equipment will prevent dirt from contaminating the inner workings of the engine or blocking moving parts. Keeping your construction equipment clean on the outside is a reflection of the care the fleet receives on the inside of its engines. Never neglect cleaning because it makes visual inspections of the exterior of the vehicle easier without inspectors having to search for issues through mud and dust.
7. Consider the Effect of Conditions
When you're planning preventative maintenance, don't neglect the effects of working conditions on the equipment. Freezing weather, extreme heat, snow, mud and more can impact the stress on the machinery on your jobsite. If you regularly work in extreme conditions, plan maintenance more frequently than if you worked in mild weather.
If possible, don't use more equipment than necessary when weather conditions reach extreme levels. The fewer machines you operate during extra cold or hot weather, the less total stress your entire fleet will experience.
8. Handle With Care
Despite their ruggedness on the jobsite, your construction vehicles need special care when you're moving them into a secure location and guarding them outside working hours. Keep equipment in a protected area, away from direct sun and rain.
When you're moving equipment into place, take care to avoid bumping it into anything that could cause damage. While minor knocks on a large excavator may not make a difference, if you must remove a part and carry it manually into a service bay, dropping or knocking the part against anything could cause even more harm. For components without wheels, consider using skids or a rolling carrier to move them into the service area and protect them during transport.
9. Don't Be Afraid of Technology
Integrating technology into your upkeep schedule can make your workers more efficient. Thanks to the introduction of robust tablet computers and the prevalence of smartphones, workers don't need to put pricey notebook computers at risk in the field. Tablets can remove the problems posed by traditional paper checklists and give your workers more accuracy in conducting inspections.
If you've ever relied on paper forms for inspection checklists, you know how much of a hassle they are in the field. Mud, wind and water all make using paper outside difficult. Additionally, with paper checklists, you need to either use a standard form for all equipment or have your crew carry around a pile of papers to get the list required for a specific vehicle.
This extra paperwork still needs input into a system for the maintenance crew, which can take days or more. One construction company in Louisiana Barriere Construction would require up to two weeks for paperwork to get through the system and problems to be addressed. When the company switched to electronic forms and input, the time for repairs plummeted to under a week. Inspection crews also had a full library of forms at their disposal by only carrying around a small iPad on the worksite.
The investment Barriere Construction made in tablets and the software for its inspection forms proved worthwhile in the reduced repair times the company required. You may need to make a small investment in improving your company's operations, but it will pay off in lower turnaround times for repairs, which will increase your productivity and uptime.
10. Educate Your Crew
Educate your crew thoroughly on the signs of problems. Get copies of the manuals for all the heavy equipment you operate at your worksite, and have them available as a reference for maintenance and repairs. Operators and repair crews need to know the specifics of using and fixing each brand they work with.
Depending on how your company has viewed fleet management in the past, you may need to add training for your service crew on the importance of conducting preventative maintenance. Explain to them why it's critical for the productivity of your company. Without well-maintained construction vehicles, you could fall behind on existing projects and lose future contracts. Employees who understand this fact will make a more significant effort to keep your heavy equipment running.
11. Customize Maintenance Chores
While tips on maintaining construction equipment often include scheduling service for your fleet, these tips may neglect to mention that you cannot conduct the same chores on all types of machinery. For instance, tracked excavators require oil changes in the gearboxes every 1,000 hours and regular track tension checks and adjustments. Vehicles with tires need air pressure checks and visual inspections to watch for leaning that could indicate failing bearings.
For wheel loaders, flipping the bucket regularly prevents wear on the edge, lengthening the bucket's life. Additionally, not using a worn edge will help the loader be more efficient by needing less force to push the bucket forward through the dirt.
These examples are just a handful of the many part-specific inspections and service chores you will need to complete. Always plan to incorporate them into your checklists for each piece of machinery. When you're creating inspection checklists for your fleet, make separate lists based on the components in the equipment. Customized lists ensure your maintenance crews look for vehicle-specific problems that may not occur on other types of equipment.
12. Find a Go-To Source for Brand-Specific Parts and Service
When your equipment needs repairs, or if you want to outsource your preventative maintenance, don't just send it anywhere. You need a team who understands the brands you have in your fleet. At Prime Source, we have technicians who have a familiarity with multiple brands of heavy equipment and can provide services and repairs for you. Our experience, knowledge and honesty make us a prime source for service for many construction fleets in North Carolina, and we want to help your company too.
Keep Your Fleet Running
Regardless of the brands in your construction fleet, you rely on the equipment to get your work done. Regular maintenance of your heavy equipment will keep it running. Whether your vehicles need preventative maintenance or repairs, trust our trained technicians at Prime Source to get you back in business quickly.
Our customers trust us to care for their construction vehicles, and we back up our work with some of the best aftermarket warranties in the industry. For more information or to schedule service for your heavy equipment, contact us at Prime Source. We're here to help keep your construction business running.