Honing in on Operational Efficiency

Beaver Excavating, a Canton, OH-based company, owns more than 150 pieces of equipment, ranging from cranes, diggers, excavators and loaders to dump trucks and Class 8 heavy-duty vehicles. To optimize performance of its extensive fleet, the company integrated a customizable, online oil analysis program into its maintenance plan.

"Our heavy-duty equipment is the lifeline of our business," says Ed Bartholomew, equipment manager. "So implementing a proactive maintenance program, which includes a comprehensive oil analysis program, is vital to the livelihood of the company."

The company has leveraged the program so it could move more than 10 million cu. yds. of dirt last year, plus it garnered a significant cost savings, minimized downtime and enhanced equipment reliability.

Formulating a successful plan
W. Don Sterling founded Beaver Excavating in 1959. Now, almost 50 years later, the family-owned company has more than 400 employees and specializes in all types of site preparation, including excavation, embankments, grading, clearing and compaction. Projects include industrial and commercial expansions, residential and retail developments and environmental restoration.

Because its equipment is vital to its mission to deliver quality workmanship to its customers, Beaver Excavating takes a proactive approach to formulating its maintenance program.

For example, Bartholomew, a 41-year veteran with off-highway equipment and preventive maintenance programs, devised a strategy that focuses on monitoring the condition of in-service lubricants used in the company's heavy equipment.

"In our industry, keeping dirt out of our equipment is unavoidable," says Bartholomew. "While dirt has a deleterious effect on the lubricant, the rate of wear conditions and degradation need to be closely monitored to maximize the service life of our lubricants without compromising equipment performance."

After a thorough investigation of oil analysis offerings, Beaver Excavating selected ExxonMobil's Signum Oil Analysis Program. This customizable, online program provides a platform to easily manage all oil analysis activities, including monitoring critical components, developing sampling strategies and analyzing trends. According to Bartholomew, the functionality of the program gives his team the information needed to make oil suitability decisions that support the company's business objectives.

Strategic sampling
Beaver Excavating has developed a comprehensive sampling strategy. Based on component type, the company maintains complete records of the lubricant used, its service hours, the component's operating hours, make-up volume and any system change-outs. It uses the Signum program to capture and manage this information when samples are taken. This enables Bartholomew and his crew to receive the most accurate and complete analytical interpretation possible, minimizing any guesswork.

This strategy has paid off several times with Beaver Excavating's large hydraulic excavators. The company isolates each pump case drain, so it is able to individually monitor their condition and react when any of them are showing early signs of failure. By detecting equipment issues early, the company is able to minimize downtime and maintain production schedules.

Critical component monitoring
All areas of the machines are important. But there are some component systems that are more critical than others. These require a more thorough fluid examination to gain the necessary information to make informed decisions about a lubricant's condition.

"A little particulate debris in a Cat final drive is not quite as severe as it would be in our Hitachi hydraulic system reservoir that operates at 6,000 psi," states Bartholomew.

Using Signum's customizable laboratory test slate menu, Beaver Excavating is able to select different levels of analysis for each component based on its significance and operating environment.

"The program enables customers to select from a variety of sample test slates based on the analytical information they need for a given equipment component," says John Sewall, chief engineering manager, Northeast, ExxonMobil Lubricants & Specialties. "Selecting an application-specific analysis, coupled with the additional test options for contamination and wear, allows customers to hand pick the amount of detail they want in their oil analysis."

Beaver Excavating has used the specialized test slate menu features to address hydraulic filter efficiency issues, identify root causes of wear in gear drives and troubleshoot engine overheating concerns. "Having individualized oil analysis data on critical hydraulic systems has helped us improve and monitor oil filtration practices," adds Bartholomew. "We have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in pumps, motors and valves. With a generic oil analysis test slate, this would not have been possible."

Continuous improvement
Being able to evaluate oil analysis results against target goals is critical for continuous improvement. So Beaver Excavating also uses Signum to compare actual result data vs. target objectives. This enables adoption of additional equipment maintenance procedures for enhancing reliability.

"We observed numerous final drive assemblies exceeding our target limits for contamination and wear metals, and as a result we implemented a detailed flushing technique when the values were approaching maximum values," Bartholomew points out.

This vigilance has dramatically lowered the number of final drive alerts due to contamination, and has assisted in extending useful service life by at least 10%.

Overall, the Signum program has enabled Beaver Excavating to simplify tasks such as developing component test slates, maintaining updated equipment registration data and understanding interpretation of results. This convenience affords the company the opportunity to better manage analytical data, and obtain the technical guidance to make informed equipment decisions.

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