Construction equipment is the backbone of every company in the industry, allowing them to complete tasks with unmatched efficiency. Each piece of equipment in a construction fleet also represents a significant financial investment, which means it’s in every organization’s best interest to safeguard machinery as a long-term investment.
The best way for business owners to manage both the financial and opportunity costs of machinery is to utilize these tools for as long as possible. How can fleet operators increase the lifespan and improve the longevity of their construction equipment?
Untrained operators should not be allowed to use the equipment on a construction site. The most obvious reason is that they create a safety hazard and put everyone around them at risk. However, they can also decrease the lifespan of the equipment they operate. This is because they may put undue wear and tear on the machine or ignore critical maintenance standards that keep equipment in good shape.
Trained operators know and understand the limits of a particular piece of equipment and won’t exceed those limits. They are also familiar with how the piece sounds and feels during normal operations, so it’s easier to identify problems when machinery begins showing symptoms, rather than when it falls into complete disrepair.
Trained operators should also be held to an inspection standard for ongoing maintenance. This isn’t just important for increasing the longevity of a piece of equipment. It’s also essential for safe operation on a daily basis. Before each shift begins, each operator should go over a daily inspection checklist.
This doesn’t need to be excessively detailed — save those for weekly or monthly inspections. This is just so the operator is aware of any changes that might happen to their equipment, so they can alert the maintenance crew and, if necessary, take the equipment offline until it can be repaired.
Speaking of taking equipment offline, regularly scheduled maintenance should take priority over any other scheduled work. Most equipment will come with a recommended maintenance schedule from the manufacturer. It is essential to follow that schedule to prevent problems from potentially causing equipment failure.
Construction managers may find it tempting to forego prevention, but this can lead to more dramatic downtime that can’t be accounted for in project scheduling. The goal here is to keep small problems from becoming big ones. The easiest way to do that is to catch them while they’re still small — a few hours of expected maintenance trumps emergency downtime and disruption every time.
Construction technology can augment daily and monthly inspection schedules. While predicting the future is outside the skill set of most construction managers, it is possible to use technology to track patterns and even predict when something needs repairs or maintenance based on past experience and events.
Predictive maintenance, artificial intelligence, and machine learning programs are beginning to make an impact in the construction industry, even though it tends to be one of the slowest sectors to adopt new technologies. Predictive maintenance tools in modern construction equipment make anticipating repairs more hands-off than ever.
Properly Lubricated Machinery
Finally, during maintenance and inspections, the one thing that no equipment owner or operator can afford to neglect is lubrication. Grease and lubrication are essential when there are multiple metal moving parts in contact with one another, but it does break down and fade over time.
Lubrication is even more likely to be negatively impacted by extreme weather conditions or high-pressure work environments, so determine which grease types are best suited for the conditions of a specific work site. Any signs of poor or lacking lubrication — such as grinding or squeaking noises or jerky movements — require the equipment to be taken out of rotation for repairs.
Working on a construction site is not something the average person would call clean, but keeping the equipment at least moderately maintained can go a long way toward improving its lifespan.
Getting dirt and sand into moving parts can cause damage over time, slowly wearing away the metal and making the surfaces more susceptible to rust and corrosion. In regions that treat their roads with salt or de-icing chemicals during the winter, corrosion is more likely because those substances can damage metal surfaces and make rust more likely.
Careful Storage in Off-Hours
This is especially important for equipment that isn’t used or inspected on a regular basis, such as special equipment or items designed for a single task. Ensure everything is carefully stored away from the elements or in such a way that foul weather won’t damage them over long periods.
Items that get stored for long periods of time need to be inspected once a month or so to ensure there is no rust or other damage that could interfere with the equipment’s lifespan.
Invest in Equipment With Care
“You get what you pay for,” or so the old saying goes. Construction equipment is already incredibly expensive, and investing in new or high-end equipment may be out of reach for small companies or those just starting out. This doesn’t mean maximizing longevity is out of reach. Careful research can guarantee that older equipment is a solid investment for companies with stricter budgets.
Before purchasing used or older equipment, ask the dealership for inspection and repair reports to confirm the machinery has been cared for in the past. Then, take the time to carry out a proper inspection of your own to verify the quality of the equipment. Well-maintained equipment should still offer good longevity even if it isn’t the newest model on the market.
Protecting Construction Equipment Investments
Buying construction equipment already represents a significant investment, especially when buying new machinery instead of renting or purchasing used. Thankfully, there are plenty of steps that companies can take to protect their investments and increase the longevity of each piece of equipment in the fleet.
Authored By; Evelyn Long. She is a writer and editor focused on construction and sustainability. Her work can be found on Renovated, a web resource for better building and design.