Extending Equipment Life
With proper care and handling, some mobile equipment can enjoy a second life before being replaced.
by Daniel C. Brown, Contributing Editor
In today’s economy, everyone is trying to stretch dollars as far possible, and the aggregates industry is no exception to this trend. With nearly 40 percent of respondents to Aggregates Manager 2009-2010 Forecast study who reported they intend to decrease capital spending this year, many operators throughout the nation are looking for ways to extend equipment life at their sites.
What does this mean for day-to-day operations? Many operators run equipment for more hours than normal. Capital for new machines is scarce so equipment is being kept longer and worked harder. Knowing that the equipment has to last, managers carefully watch oil samples for wear particle signals that mean component failure is approaching. And some equipment managers are even replacing small components, such as water pumps and alternators, before they fail.
Finding the “sweet spot”
Although at first glance, longer equipment life may cause concerns, the actual age of the equipment isn’t the key parameter, says Dan Connelly, vice president of equipment services, Oldcastle Materials Inc. in Atlanta. With about 40,000 pieces of rolling stock and eight divisions, Oldcastle is one of the nation’s largest integrated construction materials companies.
Connelly says that because its demand is down, Oldcastle’s equipment is being kept longer. But, he adds, the equipment is not working its usual number of hours. “Operating hours, not calendar days, is the important factor in determining our replacement cycles,” Connelly says.
He says Oldcastle strives to replace most equipment at the “sweet spot” — the optimum point in a machine’s financial life just before its repair costs balloon and major components need to be replaced. Oldcastle determines its own sweet spot for each category of equipment, based on historical records and analysis of owning and operating costs.
However, in some categories of equipment, such as 7-cubic-yard wheel loaders, Oldcastle considers going for a second life by replacing major components. Forty-ton and larger rigid frame haul trucks would also be considered for major component replacements. The company owns about 500 dozers and 800 excavators, but “typically we don’t rebuild them,” Connelly says.
How about replacing small components before failure? Yes, says Connelly. “We certainly attempt to replace components such as starters, alternators, and water pumps before failure,” he says. “We advocate condition-based maintenance.”
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