August 1, 2009
By taking a proactive approach to maintenance, you can avoid reacting to emergencies, schedule your downtime, and add to your bottom line.
by Christina Fisher
A drill makes money when it is operating efficiently and maintaining productivity levels. It has to be ready when the operator climbs into the cab and powers up the machine. By implementing and adhering to a routine maintenance schedule and taking advantage of an equipment auditing program, unscheduled downtime can be avoided — and you can add to your productivity and bottom line.
The operator and the daily checklist are the first line of defense against equipment failure. All drill manufacturers include daily checklists in their service manuals. Many aggregate producers tailor these checklists to meet their specific needs. Drill manufacturers also have recommended service schedules that should be followed.
Atlas Copco’s ROC Care program, for example, offers scheduled routine services, a detailed rig inspection, and an extended warranty program. Satellite monitoring is also available on some models. “The … program can be structured to meet the needs of the customer,” says Andrew Lee, district manager for Atlas Copco Construction Mining Technique USA. “Customers that take advantage of the program see a major return on their investment.”
Linder Industrial Machinery Co., an equipment dealer in the Carolinas and Florida, has incorporated the preventive maintenance program into its own drill auditing process. Linder services all drill makes and models, so it has developed a generic inspection/auditing form that can be used to cover all of the critical areas on any drill. The entire drill rig is inspected during the course of the audit. If a minor repair is needed, the drill technician can take care of it right away or provide a quote. If the repair is more extensive, the technician can point it out and schedule a maintenance visit for a later date if the customer chooses.
John Coughlin, Linder’s vice president of service, explains that although Linder has always provided service support for drills, “We found it very effective to go out and perform periodic inspections of the drills rather than just reacting to people who call with failures or a problem. This limits or reduces the downtime.”
The number of audits performed depends on the customer’s needs and requirements. “We like to do it quarterly,” Coughlin says, “but most of the companies are now doing it once every six months because activity has dropped. Companies who do it more often benefit more from it.”
Linder charges $500, not including the cost of parts, for each audit. “The cost of the inspection is very small in comparison to the length of time it takes to perform the inspection,” Coughlin says. “Depending on the size of the drill, an inspection can take between six and 16 hours. It’s a pretty intense inspection with detailed results given back to the operator or end user.”
Nevertheless, Lee adds that many aggregate producers raise concerns about the cost of an equipment auditing program, particularly in the current economy. A quick look at the numbers, though, may overcome financial concerns and demonstrate that any thorough routine maintenance program can actually add to the bottom line.
“It’s easy math,” Lee explains. “Take a million-ton-a-year operation. Divide the million tons by 12, which is approximately 84,000 tons a month that a quarry manager must produce. Divide this by 25 working days a month; now you’re producing 3,360 tons a day. Divide by eight hours in a day, and you get 420 tons an hour. Multiply this by $15, which is an average selling price for a ton of aggregate. This means the average quarry is producing $6,300 an hour or $50,400 a day worth of aggregate.
“With these numbers in hand, you can show the quarry manager that an auditing program is well worth the investment,” Lee says. “If the auditing program keeps him up and operational for only one hour, then the investment has made him money. Look at how much he’s losing if the drill is down.”
Although these are general numbers intended for demonstration purposes, a quarry owner can easily see what he stands to gain — or lose — by being proactive with scheduled maintenance and taking advantage of an auditing program.
Another benefit to an auditing program is that major problems can be more easily avoided. If a component such as a pump appears to be failing, it can be ordered and a maintenance visit can be scheduled.
Some dealers have also added operator evaluations as part of the auditing process. In situations where employees are more transient or may perform several job functions in a company, the drill technician will observe the operator to ensure he’s working the machine correctly and maintaining it according to schedule.
Finally, an auditing program could add to the potential resale value of a drill. Detailed records will demonstrate and verify that a drill rig has been thoroughly maintained and regularly inspected.
There will always be emergency breakdowns and unplanned downtime, but a proactive approach to maintenance can minimize these occurrences. In today’s economy, more so than ever, a program that helps maintain or improve productivity and the availability of equipment is money well spent.
Christina Fisher is a writer and public relations specialist with Ellenbecker Communications. She has been covering the construction and mining industries since 2000.