It’s hard to imagine the excavation projects of the past. Massive projects including city development, public works projects, and the tunnels and utilities we utilize every day were done with primitive machines, or in some cases, no machines at all. Today, we can excavate projects, pour and grade asphalt, and install utilities in the matter of days, not months or years. All thanks to modern, heavy machinery.
Of course, with the advantages of heavy equipment comes a massive increase in maintenance and service needs. The complexity of today’s heavy machinery requires advanced knowledge not just of mechanical systems, but also of electronic systems and computers. So what are our keys to keeping heavy equipment maintained and serviced?
Keeping Heavy Machinery Rolling
We look at a number of systems and principles that help us to keep our heavy equipment ready and able at all times. This includes:
- Maintenance Log: We can’t stress enough the important of information in the heavy equipment world. Keeping a maintenance and information log for each piece of equipment allows you to easily track what has and has not been done recently. Not only does this help you to schedule future maintenance but, in the case of a malfunction or incident, you have records that can be reviewed to find potential leads on faults or ruling out reasons for failures.
- Have a Game Plan: Schedule preventative maintenance and downtime ahead of time to avoid gridlock on the jobsite. Using that maintenance lock and tracking machine time, you can figure out exactly when each piece of equipment needs to be serviced. This also helps when it comes to managing maintenance and service workers, letting them know what sites to be at on which days, weeks ahead of time.
- Know Your Machines: Experienced operators will develop a feel for their machine, and will get to know the idiosyncrasies and quirks of every unit. This allows them to sense when there may be something off about their machine, something amiss. Encourage them to report these issues, and be open to what they contribute. Their input may help to detect an issue before a mechanic or monitoring application can.
- Know Your Applications: Some job sites will have different demands, and may throw up unique difficulties or maintenance concerns. Contained areas and harsh environments may require air filters to be changed more often. If you are working in an area with corrosive soils or pollution, the undercarriage and areas where dirt sticks will need a little extra attention.
- Cleanliness: Your heavy equipment is going to get plenty of mud and dirt on it at the job site. Give it a rinse between jobs though – clean machines make it easier to observe broken parts, fluid leaks, and potential safety issues. Letting dirt and mud sit on equipment can also accelerate rust formation, and increase wear.
- Listen to Your Fluids: Everyone recognizes that maintaining proper fluid levels is extremely important in the operation of heavy machinery. Lubricant, hydraulic fluid, coolant, and other fluids need to be kept filled to avoid potential failures. It’s not just the level that matters though. Properly analyzing these fluids allows you to get a picture of what is going on internally without having to open everything up.
- Use Protection: Even for a busy excavating contractor like S.E.H., there is down-time during the year and sometimes machinery isn’t being used. During that time, protect it! Make sure it is cleaned and lubricating before storing it, and protect it by storing it out of the elements and in a fairly clean shop. Warm, humid environments can encourage rust, while dusty and dirty environments can allow particulates in without you realizing it.
Each of these points will help keep your heavy machinery rolling, and keep it performing at its best on the job site.
The Advantages of Maintenance
There are numerous advantages to proper maintenance and service of your units:
- Maintenance adds resale value when you are looking to upgrade.
- Proper maintenance lengthens overall equipment life, avoiding costly premature replacement.
- Downtime will be limited, allowing you to ensure that projects are completed on time.
- Regular maintenance helps control service intervals and makes service needs more predictable.
- Allows for easy scheduling of personnel, avoiding downtime or lengthy, unscheduled travel.
- Demonstrates corporate responsibility to clients, employees, and potential clients.
- The bottom line – maintenance reduces cost. And we all want to reduce cost.
These are advantages that owner Scot Hare saw early on in business, and its why he has held to strict maintenance principles over all these years. Not only does it help us keep our costs down, it helps us make sure that projects are done right, on the schedule promised.
The Right Tools to Do the Job Right
How do we do it at S.E.H. Excavating? It starts by having an in-house team that can handle fleet maintenance. This includes not just shop technicians and road mechanics, but a welder and a fabricator as well, allowing us to tackle major repairs. Having highly-trained staff on hand allows for continuous maintenance by experienced mechanics. It allows us to be mobile and flexible. It also means we can get multiple eyes on the equipment, getting input from a variety of disciplines.
We also utilize JDLink telematics throughout our fleet. A machine-monitoring system that provides real-time alerts and utilization data, it allows us to instantaneously dispatch technicians if something crops up. This prevents small problems from growing into larger ones. Automated fleet management systems like JDLink are becoming a must for excavators and contractors everywhere.
Finally, the most important part – we listen to our heavy machinery operators. With up to 17 crews in the field, working up to 30 jobs at a time, our maintenance team can’t be everywhere at once. Even though JDLink is thorough, it’s hard to replace the first-hand experience. So when an operator tells us there is an issue, we make sure to investigate it straight away.
At SEH Excavating Contractors, we’ve been in the business for almost 30 years, and we’ve seen generations of equipment come and go. We’ve seen technology evolve, and we’ve evolved with it. One thing that hasn’t changed in those years is the fact that, when you take care of your heavy equipment, your heavy equipment will take care of you.