6 Steps to Prepare Construction Equipment for Spring Start Up
BY AsphaltPro Staff
These last few weeks of winter are the perfect opportunity to prepare for the 2021 paving season. During a recent webinar, experts from Case Construction Equipment, Racine, Wisconsin, shared their top tips to prepare your machines for spring start-up.
“You don’t want to go into the summer wishing you had done this or that,” said Garrett Campbell, Sales Training Manager in North America for CNH Construction Equipment, the parent company of Case CE. “Now is the time you want to be doing that, when you aren’t in the field just yet.”
1) Perform A Pre-Season Walk Around
Case’s experts recommend following best practices of any pre-shift walk-around. However, they suggest paying particularly close attention to some items. For example, ground-engaging tools, such as milling teeth.
If teeth are too worn down, this can cause damage to the holders or the drum. If wear isn’t consistent, this may indicate that you need to alter operating practices. Case reminds us that fleet managers who check wear patterns regularly across machines can identify discrepancies in the quality of parts or operator efficiency, so keep this practice up throughout the season.
“Pay special attention to tires and tracks,” Ted Polzer, Director of Product and Customer Support for Case North America. “They take a lot of abuse out there, and this is a good time to check for any issues so you can make sure to have those parts available when you need them.” (See tip #4).
Check engine and hydraulic oil levels, as well as coolant and overflow, and check for leaks. Polzer reminds us that many machines have UV-reactant dye in the oil so a UV light can be a great tool to help identify leaks.
As you walk around the machine, Polzer also suggests taking photos of the serial numbers and other information you will need for quick reference when purchasing grease or parts when you’re away from the machine.
“Once you’ve done the walk-around, jump in and start it up to see that all the features are working as they should,” Polzer said. For example, are all the gauges showing correctly? Are there fault codes present? Check that the lights work and the heating and cooling features are working properly. After all, Campbell reminds us, a comfortable operator is likely to be more efficient.
This is also a good time to address safety items. Make sure the seat belt is working and lap bars come down as they should. Check that the horn and backup alarms are functioning and will be adequate for the jobs you have planned for the season ahead. “Some jobs call for special types of backup alarms,” Polzer reminds us.
2) Spring Clean Your Machines
While you’re in the cab, take some time to perform some spring cleaning. Remove excess material from the floor of the cab that could hinder operation. Make sure the windows are clean to maximize visibility. Take the shop vac for a quick spin around the cab.
3) Dig Into the Data
“Telematics data can tell you a lot about how the business is doing,” Campbell said. “This is the perfect time of year to translate the data you collected last season into real action.”
For example, look at machine utilization. Do you have machines not in use for long periods of time? Maybe it’s time to rent that machine out or sell it to reduce overhead costs.
Look at excessive idling and brainstorm ways to change that by better training operators or by employing tools like Case’s SiteWatch that automatically turn off idle machines. “Excessive idling adds unnecessary engine hours,” Campbell said. “That puts wear and tear on your machine that you don’t need and will depreciate the amount you’ll get for the machine when you trade it in.”
Excessive idling also wastes fuel. “In a time when we’re uncertain about what fuel prices will be coming up, you want to be sure you’re using fuel as efficiently as possible,” Campbell said.
You can use telematics information to plan downtime. Additionally, the more you know about the costs of running your machines, the better you will be when determining what to charge customers.
4) Plan for Parts
“Last year could be a good indicator of what you’ll need this year, in terms of what parts you should have on site,” Polzer said. He specifically points out having extra fuel filters on site, due to tight tolerances increasing how often those need to be changed and the fact that a plugged one causes immediate downtime. Keep the right oil and other fluids on-hand for top-offs.
Order the items you’ll need replacements for, from teeth to blades, so you’ll have them on site as you need them. Don’t forget attachments. What attachments would have made last year’s jobs easier? “Once we get into the season, a lot of other contractors start thinking the same thing and you may have to wait a few weeks to get in the attachments you need,” Campbell said. “Talk to your dealer now, so those attachments are in your fleet by the time you’re ready to use them.”
5) Upgrade Equipment
It’s also a good time to think about updates and upgrades for your machines. “Get those updates done now, so they aren’t affecting you when you should be out there digging holes, pushing dirt and making money,” Campbell said.
If you do make upgrades, for example, with machine control, Campbell suggests doing so with enough time for operators to familiarize themselves with these changes. “You want to make sure they understand it before they get on the job so they are most efficient during the season,” Campbell said.
Pull out those photos of the serial numbers you took during your walk around (see tip #1) and check them to see if any updates are needed; your dealer can also do this for you.
6) Educate & Train
If there’s still time before season start-up, review your equipment operations manuals. “You may be missing out on a feature you never knew existed because you’ve never had time to read the manual before,” Polzer said.
Take this time to train your crew, not only based on what you may have learned from your telematics data (tip #3), but also to sharpen their skills. Check out AsphaltPro’s Asphalt Paving 101 online training program for a virtual training solution.