By Jason Hurdis, Global Market Professional, Construction Materials Industry, Caterpillar Inc.
There are so many bucket options available these days, it’s tempting just to pick the biggest one that fits your machine and hope for the best. Fortunately, there's a better strategy — and it starts with these simple questions.
1. What type of material are you moving?
Material density plays a big role in bucket selection — perhaps the biggest. A good strategy is to choose a bucket based on the heaviest material you handle the majority of the time. A general-duty bucket may be a good choice if you’re working with a wide variety of lighter materials, but you’ll probably need to go to a heavy-, extreme- or severe-duty version for more rugged jobs. There are plenty of specialty options available as well, so talk to your equipment dealer about what’s best suited to your material.
2. How big of a bucket do you really need?
It’s a fallacy that bigger is always better. A smaller bucket may out-dig a larger one in very heavy, hard-to-get-through material by allowing equipment to cycle faster. Using a bucket that pushes your machine over the recommended capacity accelerates wear, shortens component life and can lead to unplanned failure. The cost of repairs and downtime will likely wipe out the short-term gains of going bigger.
If you want to maximize productivity, follow these four steps instead:
- Identify the capacity of the machine you’re loading.
- Determine how many loads you need to move each day.
- Select the bucket size that delivers the ideal pass match.
- Choose a machine that can accommodate it.
3. Which bucket is built for your needs?
A bucket’s a bucket, right? Wrong. Quality counts, and the right features can help you get the job done in less time for less cost. Look for:
- Harder, thicker plate material. You’ll pay more for it, but your bucket will last longer.
- Higher quality edges, side cutters and teeth. They’ll pay for themselves in productivity, reusability and ease of installation.
- Quick coupler. It can be a big productivity booster if you change buckets frequently by letting operators make the switch in seconds without leaving the cab.
- Add-ons. Bolt-on teeth and cutting edges can make one bucket more versatile, and wear protectors or extra guarding can reduce damage and extend bucket life.
Don’t let the wrong bucket choice hamper your productivity, increase your fuel burn or create premature wear. Going into the bucket selection process with a strategy — one that starts with these three questions — is key to finding the perfect fit for your application. These tips for matching bucket type and material will help, too.