Heavy equipment, such as backhoes, bulldozers, graders, and cranes are vital to the construction, agriculture, and mining industries. Without these beasts of burden, work would be slow and tedious at best, and some things simply could not be done. Because of the high demands put on the machines, they have to be designed and built tough, and that makes them extremely expensive. In order to protect such a large capital investment, a heavy equipment preventive maintenance program is a must. Here, Ryan Rock, Ankeny, IA resident and owner of Empire AG, LLC describes four key areas to focus on when maintaining heavy equipment.
You’ve invested tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars into the best equipment for the climate, terrain and projects you typically work with. However, you also have to invest in the most important asset of all, your operators. “Training employees on the proper operation of your specific equipment is vital,” stated Ryan Rock. Not only will it ensure that the project is completed properly, but it will also create a safer working environment for all. Over time, however, bad habits set in and people forget the little things, which has the potential to lead to accidents. Therefore, ongoing safety and operation training is essential for all operators, regardless of experience, or time on the job.
Every morning, before the day begins, each piece of equipment should be thoroughly inspected front to back, side to side. Obvious problems such as a low, or flat tire, worn belt, or fluid leak have to be addressed immediately. Once a visual check has been completed and issues resolved, the equipment can be started and tested to be sure it’s fully operational. The driver should perform simple maneuvers such as moving forward, backward and turning each way to test the transmission and brakes. Hydraulics should be tested by lifting, turning and lowering them; the driver should pay careful attention to how well the machines are operating.
At the end of a long day, it’s tempting to simply shut down your equipment and head home for a cool shower and a good meal. However, dedicated professionals like Ryan Rock in Ankeny believe that it is crucial to spend time each evening cleaning your equipment so it’s ready to go in the morning. Sweep and rinse dirt, mud and other debris from machines and clean the windshields and mirrors. Always store your heavy equipment inside when you can, or under an awning or other protective covering when you can’t. This will protect it from the elements, which helps reduce rust and protects tires and other components from deterioration. Finally, remove the keys, lock the cab and secure the machine so to avoid unauthorized, and potentially damaging, use.
Even if your heavy equipment is working perfectly and keeping up with demand, don’t get a false sense of security. At any moment, a belt could break, bearings could seize up, or a hose could crack, all of which will lead to downtime while the problem is fixed. Whether you own one or a hundred pieces of heavy equipment, it’s vital that they are put on a regular service schedule. The frequency, of course, depends upon how often it is used, how it is used, and under what conditions. In some cases, weekly service is necessary, other times, a monthly, bi-monthly, or annual service suffices.
The last thing that you want is for a piece of your heavy equipment to malfunction or stop working altogether. In order to avoid a catastrophic event like this, you have to keep equipment in optimal working condition with preventative maintenance. Additionally, you must continually train operators and encourage them to use best practices for safety and performance. When these components are in place, you will see an increase in productivity and a decrease in repair bills and delays. Plus, your clients will take note and will gladly ask you to come back for future projects.