Trapeze artists might be used to working at high altitudes without a net. After all, flirting with danger far above the ground is part of the reason they're so exciting to watch. However, working without a "safety net" on a scissor lift should not be met with the same degree of flair for the dramatic.
In fact, just the opposite should hold true. Minimizing danger is an important part of your responsibilities as a contractor. A part of that means developing and implementing a preventive maintenance (PM) program for your scissor lifts to avoid premature failures.
"A successful program can not only help you detect maintenance-related issues that can lead to unexpected downtime, it can also reduce the cost of ownership and increase machine longevity and resale value," says Bill Dovey, JLG Industries.
Rick Soltas, Skyjack service representative, agrees, noting, "The primary objective of a preventive maintenance program is to keep the scissor lift operating at its safest and most efficient level. The major benefits realized from a program are low operating costs and long life span. Other benefits include contributing to a safe work site environment and maintaining productivity."
Even with these advantages, some may question whether it's really worth the investment. "It is often hard to see the upfront benefits of having a full-time preventive maintenance program," says Eric Ludwig, product manager, Genie Industries.
Ludwig admits that PMs are often viewed as tasks that generate no income, yet take time to complete. "But if [you] calculate the equipment's productivity and profitability and compare that to the money spent to maintain the equipment," he contends, "the benefits of the program to the company's bottom line quickly become clear."
Most premature failures of scissor lifts occur at normal wear points that are not maintained, or are maintained incorrectly, notes Soltas. Therein lies the importance of implementing a PM program.
The most effective programs focus on simplicity. "Keep it simple, yet pay close attention to detail," Ludwig advises. "It is easier to deal with things little by little, rather than have premature wear on the machine and face the consequences - costly repairs and expensive downtime. It is the little things that build up over time that cost the most to repair. It is cheaper to maintain the equipment than to repair or replace it. Preventive maintenance saves money."
Another successful ingredient is designating a particular person to perform maintenance tasks. This individual should be trained in proper maintenance and inspection of all the scissor lifts your company owns/operates, says Jeff Smith, product support manager, MEC Aerial Work Platforms. "Also provide this person with the means to acquire the parts and supplies needed to maintain the units properly," he states. If the machine is a rental unit, the job foreman should mandate regular inspection and maintenance from the rental company.
By putting someone in charge, you create an environment where the mechanic can become familiar with the particular brand(s) of equipment. "A trained eye will be able to spot problems early and adjust or repair them before the lift fails and causes downtime and more costly repairs," says Soltas. "Also, repairs and adjustments are made correctly according to manufacturers' specifications, ensuring the repair will not cause further problems."
Premature failures can also be averted by training operators on proper use of the machine. "Properly trained operators know the lift and how it operates," says Soltas. "When they are doing their job correctly, they perform an inspection prior to each shift, and can spot problems early."
Some areas you will want to focus on in your PM program include:
Recharge/monitor the battery - For electric scissor lifts, the battery is arguably the most common failure point. Batteries take a certain amount of maintenance to keep them at top operating performance, says Smith.