Barber Brothers Reforms Maintenance with Tools in Hand

Sept. 28, 2010

When Baton-Rouge-based Barber Brothers Contracting got serious about preventive maintenance, Ronnie Falgout found the firm already had the tools they needed to stop PM-related failures. They just needed to put them to good use.

"We had always kept file folders on each piece of equipment and our serviceman would pull folders and try to get maintenance done, but we were overlooking machines," says Falgout, Barber's construction manager. "We've got 20 tri-axle dump trucks, and when I went to the file folders, they could tell me the last time the oil had been changed on only about five trucks.

"When we went out to the field, we were finding filters on machines that had year-old dates scratched on them," he adds. "We were trying to track over 200 pieces of equipment by hand, and that's just too much for any one person to take care of without some kind of record-keeping system."

Barber's management has been using BidTek's enterprise software to run the company for seven years. About two years ago, Falgout started using EM, BidTek's equipment module.

Administrative people were already entering equipment hours reported on operators' time sheets to feed data to the payroll and job-cost modules. Each piece of equipment was numbered and recorded in the system for accounting purposes, too.

"We just had to build the links in the software so the EM module communicates with the system to get that data," Falgout says.

Using the maintenance scheduler aspects of the module has completely reformed Barber's PM program. Equipment is flagged for service at 250-hour intervals, and the serviceman gets a weekly report of maintenance jobs that are due. The report tells him the unit number and location. He schedules service with project foremen.

"Within the last year or so we've taken scheduled maintenance pretty well in hand—things are getting done when they need to be done," Falgout says. "It has prevented some failures—we had seen filters actually fail because they were so old. And when air filters or fuel filters fail, you can have some serious problems."

"We've had maybe half the number of in-frame engine rebuilds to do since we started maintaining machines more regularly," says William (Squeaky) Jones, shop superintendent.

Since spring, Falgout and Ronnie Bottoms, Barber's serviceman, have been developing EM's capacity to print parts lists for each maintenance job. As Bottoms gathers the filters, lubricants, and other parts for a job, he gives a list of part numbers to Falgout to enter into the EM database. When that chore comes due in the future, the system prints a parts list automatically.

"Bottoms is going to start looking ahead and stocking parts," Falgout says. "He's picking up parts in town every day now, and with a little more of an inventory, he'll probably be able to get several more machines serviced every week."

As Barber Brothers measures the benefits of computerizing maintenance records, Falgout has been attracted to features of the equipment module that will lead to better-informed decisions about repairs and machines replacements. In June, he and Gwen Young, shop coordinator, started using BidTek's work-order capability.

The company had always assigned parts costs to individual machine numbers, but work orders are allowing them to tie mechanic labor hours to each repair.

"The shop had been this big black hole of labor costs—all the mechanic labor was just charged to The Shop," Falgout says. "Work orders will tell us how efficient are we at the kind of repairs we do. And we will be able to compare what it costs us to do a certain repair to the price somebody quoted us to do the same thing.

"Before, we would get an estimate to repair, say, a turbocharger for $5,000 and somebody would say: 'Gee, that's a lot of money. Let's do it ourselves.' But we didn't know whether we were going to spend $3,000 or $7,000 doing it here.

"Eventually, the work-order histories are going to help us figure out when it's time to replace machines," Falgout says. "A lot of the time it's hard for us to quickly find out what kind of shape a machine's undercarriage or engine or transmission is in.

"When we're buying a new machine for a project, it's hard to know which of our older machines to replace without some record of when those parts have been rebuilt."

Ronnie Falgout
Ronnie Falgout,
Construction Manager
Barber Brothers Contracting

Headquarters: Baton Rouge, La.

Ronnie Falgout,Construction Manager
Barber Brothers Contracting

Headquarters: Baton Rouge, La.

Founded: 1928

Specialty: Highway and heavy construction

Equipment Value: $49 million

Fleet Makeup: 375 total units, including 200 off-road machines and 76 Class 7 and 8 trucks

Facilities: 1 repair shop, 2 fabricating shops, 3 mechanics trucks, 2 welding trucks, 3 fuel and lube trucks

Equipment Staff: 15 total, including 6 mechanics

Market Range: 90-mile radius

William(Squeaky) Jones, shop superintendent (left), checks out a repair with mechanic Patrick Henderson. Jones estimates the need for engine rebuilds has been cut in half since maintenance became more consistent.
Serviceman Ronnie Bottoms (left) investigates the performance of an excavator's automatic greaser as mechanic Manolito Rosato refills the reservoir. Bottoms has played a key role, taking service to the field.
Grease Is Golden

New machines added to the Barber Brothers fleet for the past year have been equipped with automatic greasers.

An auto greaser is a reservoir of grease and computerized pump. At regular intervals while the machine is running, the system pushes grease through its plumbing to all the lube points.

Costs range from $900 for a backhoe-loader or a broom to $6,000 on a big excavator.

"Machines that have them don't have any bearing failures," says Squeaky Jones, shop foreman. "And we have some track hoes with front-end pins and bushings that are two years old—before auto greasers, they would wear those bushings out in six months."