By Lonnie Fritz, Market Professional, Construction Industry, Caterpillar Inc.
When it comes to heavy equipment repairs, the question isn’t “if” but “when.” They’re as certain as death and taxes. But they don’t have to be budget-breakers. Here are some tips for keeping your repair costs under control.
1. Use telematics to identify repairs before failure
Even basic telematic systems provide information about fault codes, which can help you prevent small issues from turning into expensive repairs. It’s a good idea to set up email or text alerts so you receive notifications immediately in the event of a problem. Once you get more comfortable with telematics, use your system to keep maintenance on schedule, track idle time and monitor operator performance — all great ways to reduce repair expenses and increase uptime.
2. Schedule maintenance and stick to it
Thinking about skipping an oil or filter change or a routine maintenance check because you’re busy? Bad idea. Regular preventive maintenance is your best weapon in the battle against rising repair costs. Some studies say it can cut repair bills by up to 25%. Follow the recommended schedule outlined in every machine’s Operation & Maintenance Manual — and work with your equipment dealer to adjust that schedule as needed if you’re operating in challenging weather or site conditions.
3. Reduce idle to reduce wear
Cutting fuel costs isn’t the only benefit of cutting idle time. Because excessive idling causes engine parts to wear more quickly, stopping it helps you keep repairs on schedule and costs and downtime in line. A quick training session with your operators on how and why to reduce idle time is a great place to start. Auto-idle technology and auto shutdown systems are also available on many new machines today, and telematic systems can help you track idle time and your progress toward reducing it.
4. Keep operator skills fresh
One simple way to avoid unnecessary repairs is to make sure your operators run the equipment right. Allot time for training (in person or online) for new employees and encourage experienced operators to refresh their skills as new machines, systems and technologies are introduced. Require operators to conduct a thorough machine walkaround before they climb into the cab — that’s a critical step in spotting and warding off potential problems. And use telematics to identify any operator training opportunities.
5. Consider your parts options
If purchased individually, fluids, filters and replacement parts can really add up. See if your equipment dealer offers maintenance agreements that provide a fixed cost for service at regular intervals. That can help you better budget for repair costs and reduce the likelihood of expensive failures. Consider remanufactured parts as a cost-saving option, too. You generally get same-as-new performance at a less-than-new price, and they’re available off the shelf to reduce downtime.
Equipment repairs may be inevitable but paying too much to address them doesn’t have to be. Follow these proactive steps, commit to a preventive maintenance schedule, use telematics and other technology to identify and avoid potential problems, and you’ll be well on your way to reducing repair costs and downtime.