Repair Roulette

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief | September 28, 2010

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief
Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief

It's the time of year when this industry heads to Las Vegas. Although many gamble at the slots, the tables, or the roulette wheels, few souls would admit that they gamble with their equipment.

Yet a recent survey reveals just the opposite about equipment fleet management.

Last year, Construction Equipment asked equipment managers of various sized fleets and vocations about their lifecycle practices (See July Construction Equipment, page 24). As part of that research, we asked managers about the timing of repairs and rebuilds of major components. We were astonished to see that about half of those maintenance efforts take place after the component has failed.

We specified engines, transmissions, final drives, hydraulic pumps/motors, hydraulic cylinders and starters/alternators. Granted, those components will fail unexpectedly. But to consistently let components fail drives down productivity. Machines that should be earning money are dead on their tracks, either on a jobsite or in a shop yard.

Our research also reveals a strong tendency for remanufactured or supplier-rebuilt components. For instance, 39 percent of transmissions are remanufactured, and 44 percent of hydraulic cylinders are rebuilt by the supplier. If those components are in stock, that machine might be back to work rather quickly. Of course, there's a parts-storage cost. If they're not in stock, downtime will suffer even more as the machine sits idle.

Emergency repairs cost the equipment department more than the sum of parts, labor and downtime. This is crisis-based repair strategy, and as Mike Vorster points out in Equipment Executive this month, it's a flawed strategy.

Equipment managers must ensure that machines are accurately inspected on a regular basis. Records should be maintained to allow easy tracking of hours and usage. In addition, a philosophy must be articulated regarding component repairs. Understand and emphasize that the payoff of stretching a component a couple of hundred hours isn't worth the risk of a major component failure at the wrong time and place.

The roulette wheel belongs at the casino, not at the equipment shop.

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief, 630-288-8130,