Looking back allows Luck Stone Corp. to look forward.
That doesn't mean employees of the Virginia-based stone and aggregates company spend their days reminiscing, but rather compiling, analyzing, and referring to sound historical data in making equipment-maintenance, rehab and replacement decisions. This comes from being consistent, says Butch Rakes, an assistant mobile equipment manager at the family-owned-and-operated Luck Stone, founded in 1923 by Charles Luck Jr.
"We try to be specific in the type of equipment we buy," says Rakes. "It's easier to trend one particular type of equipment, and so we really don't have a lot of everything. By doing that, you can take the historical data, you can trend it, and then you can go by it and say: 'Well, this transmission historically is going to last 15,000 hours.' So, you know to put those markers up into those areas — that in 15,000 hours we're going to have to schedule to put a transmission in this or that truck."
It starts on the first day any piece of equipment hits the ground running at a Luck Stone quarry.
"Absolutely, the record-keeping starts down with the service man," says Rakes, who works in Luck Stone's construction aggregates division, "and we have a good maintenance program in place with our computerized system. When we fuel up every day, we enter the data of how much fuel we've burned for that day and how many hours that particular machine has run for the day. That goes into the computer and adds onto the existing data.
"If a machine's got 5,000 hours on it and we put an engine in it, then we go back and re-zero that engine, to reflect that the machine might have 5,000 hours but the engine's got zero. And then every time someone enters fuel into the system, and it knows how many hours it ran for the day, then it starts ticking up the time on that new engine as well as the 5,000 hours on the machine and any other component we want to track. So, we keep up with that machine — it's got 6,000 hours, the engine has a 1,000, the transmission has 2,000 or whatever — and that gives us a way to budget our repairs for the next years, or our replacements, or our rebuilds."
Beyond the record-keeping of operators, mechanics and service people, all of whom regularly receive operational and maintenance training on such topics as cold-weather starting, Luck Stone has inspectors who make the rounds of the various facilities to help determine the state of the equipment at work.
"By staying on top of our repairs, and staying on top of the equipment and the type of conditions they are in, we pretty much know through our historical data what we're looking at," says Rakes, who credits company leaders for long setting the standard.
With the four primary businesses of construction — aggregates, architectural stone, real-estate development and Lee Tennis clay-court surfacing, Luck Stone today has about 1,200 associates, which is more than double the number of employees from just 10 years ago. President and chief executive officer is Charles Luck, IV.
The effectiveness of the mobile-equipment-fleet's historical data relies on the consistency of equipment application, type, make and even model. Take, for instance, the 988-size in-pit loaders that, at standard capacities of 8 to 10 cubic yards, are at the core of Luck Stone's predominately granite operations.
"It's in the face all the time; it's digging and clawing all the time," says Rakes. "That's just a very rough application.
"We try to rebuild every piece of equipment at least one time. Each piece of equipment has a certain lifespan, and we know by our records how long that lifespan is. A pit loader, with the environment that it's in, we know we only want to rebuild that thing one time. So, once it's at 80 percent of its second life so to speak, then we know it's time for it to be evaluated: 'Is it still a good machine, can it be put into different role, or does it need to go away from here?'"
Admittedly, says Rakes, there are occasions when "there's just a particular piece of equipment that you look at it and you're thinking, 'we're spending more money on it than what we're getting out of it; it just seems to be down all the time, or there's something broke on it all the time, or it's just in rough shape.'"
Chances are, he saw that coming down the road from way back.
"We know through historical data the type of conditions our equipment is in, from plant to plant," says Rakes. "We know how many times we can rebuild something, or when it is time to replace something."