In today's environment of increasingly tighter component tolerances and climbing fluids costs, getting equipment serviced in the field in a timely manner using clean, contaminant-free products is more important than ever.
Contamination issues have really changed the dynamics of on-site lubrication, indicates Tim Worman, product manager for commercial vehicles, Iowa Mold Tooling (IMT). "Introducing even a small amount of dirt into a hydraulic system can take a piece of equipment down, and downtime is the worst enemy of revenue generation," he says. "Contamination control is becoming more and more important."
Fortunately, lube skids, trailers and trucks provide you with a choice of efficient fluid delivery methods. To determine which option best fits your operation, evaluate your specific uses for the unit.
"Careful consideration of all of the factors will yield a system that is designed to accomplish the duty (or range of duties) required by the end user, making him effective and efficient in servicing his equipment," says Phil Halt, director of marketing, Auto Crane.
Size vs. mobility
Lube skids are small in size and have the lowest price point. They can be transported on a flatbed or in the bed of a pickup and loaded and unloaded as needed. They're also a great complement to mechanics trucks, where they can be used for fluid top-offs, emergency maintenance or primary lubrication when large fluid volumes aren't required.
Skids can be a good choice when fueling isn't needed or you want to separate lube and fueling functions. "[They work] well when a contractor wants to designate personnel to the oil change and greasing function only," says Phil Seidenberger, vice president of product development, Sage Oil Vac. "This allows job specialization and the contractor doesn't have engine mechanics performing oil change tasks."
Even large fleets can benefit from a lube skid, says Bryan Hayes, owner, Valley Engineering. A skid can easily service a few pieces of equipment brought to a jobsite before the bulk of the work begins or those left on site once the majority of the work is finished. "They need some way to service smaller spreads," he adds, "and it makes sense to use smaller lube equipment for just a few machines."
Moving to a lube trailer provides many of the same advantages, but with greater capacity. Their enclosed environment also protects against vandalism, theft and the elements. "Water is a contaminant," says Hayes. "Also, if you have oil filters and other consumables in boxes, they can't be exposed to the weather."
An enclosed unit also stays cleaner. "Any time you get [dirt] on a reel, hoses, etc., you have a chance for contamination," says Hayes.
Ease of transport is another benefit. "It's common for a smaller contractor to have several jobs going at once that can be scattered on opposite ends of town," says Hayes. "A trailer is easy to move between those jobsites."
When maximum fluid capacity is needed, you will likely need to move to a lube truck. "More products and quantity of products can be transported with a lube truck," says Seidenberger. "Contractors with more pieces of equipment or larger equipment might have the need for 150+ gal. of used oil or new oil tanks, which are not common capacities for lube skids."
You can also incorporate fueling or fueling top-off into a lube truck. However, fleet size typically determines whether you can justify the capital expense required.
"This point typically occurs when the contractor is running a job or series of jobs where the combined fuel use of the equipment is about 750 to 1,000 gal. per day," says Halt. "At that point, there is enough equipment running that the expense of fueling and maintaining the equipment on a daily basis can be absorbed by the operation."
A side benefit of adding fueling to the lube truck is a qualified service person sets eyes on each machine every day. "This person is able to track and forecast maintenance events," Halt comments. "[This] helps the contractor plan maintenance intervals that prevent small maintenance items from progressing to catastrophic failures, which cause downtime and cost real money."