Construction

Why Equipment Maintenance is Crucial for Construction Sites

by ManagerPlus on April 8, 2020
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Fleet Maintenance Toolkit
 

For most construction companies and contractors, heavy equipment maintenance represents the highest costs. Quality machinery carries a hefty price tag, and even the best-built pieces eventually need repairs.

Given these costs, contractors of all sizes may be tempted to postpone routine maintenance, delaying the costs in favor of greater liquidity in the near term. While this may not seem like a risky move when all is well, veering away from your maintenance schedule will likely cost you in the long run.

For example, a University of Nebraska study found that an $80,000 tractor typically requires $24,000 in repairs for every 5,000 hours of operation. With improved preventive practices, however, that cost dropped to $18,000—a 25% difference!

In other words, you can’t afford not to practice proactive equipment maintenance. Given the potential savings, increased safety and higher ROI on your costliest machines, better equipment maintenance practices could mean the difference between stagnation and significant growth. Likewise, if you’re operating on thin margins, reducing your short-term repair costs and long-term preventive maintenance costs may finally produce the cash flow you need to purchase more machines and cover more jobs.

Benefits of proactive equipment maintenance

Significant savings

Between rentals, replacements, downtime, and time spent below peak efficiency, poorly maintained equipment invariably leads to higher costs. For example, a used piece of equipment that costs roughly $10,000 and lasts for five years might cost $1,000 per week to rent. Estimates of downtime costs likewise range from $100 to $350 per hour. Keeping up with routine maintenance and avoiding common oversights can drastically reduce these costs, allowing you to finish every job on time or early.

Job site safety

Poorly maintained machines are as dangerous as they are costly. While slips, trips, and falls are the leading cause of construction industry deaths, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “fatal four” also includes falling objects, electrocutions, and deadly compression by machinery and materials. Businesses can avoid many of these incidents—as well as the potential for hefty OSHA fines—with proactive equipment maintenance.

Maximizing uptime

Sidelining an asset for a few hours of maintenance is no trivial cost, but it’s far cheaper than losing the use of an asset for days while it’s repaired after a failure. The former is an inconvenience you can build into your schedule, while the latter derails productivity and negatively impacts profits. Plus, with the right management system, you can ensure that routine maintenance is minimally disruptive.

Maximizing efficiency

Uptime isn’t the only equipment maintenance metric to monitor. You might keep an asset in operation for weeks or months before you order maintenance, but that time is likely not as productive as it could be. Even the best-built machines need tune-ups to perform optimally, and adhering to a maintenance schedule allows your employees to avoid the compromises and slow-downs that eat into profits.

Greater ROI

Machinery is a major investment whether you’re buying new or used. Deferring maintenance will certainly save in the short term, but it will inevitably lead to higher costs over an asset’s lifetime. With proper maintenance practices, you can get the most out of your equipment during every job, and you’ll delay replacement purchases by years. In the meantime, each year you can maintain an asset is another year of depreciation on your books.

Accreditation and certification

There are a number of certifying and accrediting bodies in the construction industry, including the Construction Manager Certification Institute, Accredited Quality Contractors, and the American Institute of Constructors. From concrete manufacturing to corrosion management, there are several task-specific associations, as well. Acquiring and maintaining these organizations’ credentials may require rigorous, well-documented equipment maintenance practices, along with a track record of worker and jobsite safety.

Insurance

For both worker’s compensation and asset protection, insurers want to see that you’re doing everything in your power to keep their costs low. With sound equipment maintenance practices, you may be able to reduce your premiums, as well as your other operating costs. In the event an insured asset does break down, you’ll also be able to prove your due diligence in keeping it functional.

Warranty coverage

Manufacturers’ warranties are excellent for avoiding unnecessary costs related to defects and early failures, but their coverage is typically contingent upon operators’ maintenance practices. Some machine parts will inevitably require replacement, and if you’ve kept up your end of the bargain, you may get those replacements for free.

The costs of waiting

According to the International Journal of Engineering Science Invention, improper construction equipment maintenance contributes to 40% of industry-wide overrun costs. A lack of maintenance also leads to stalled production, missed milestones, and lower customer satisfaction. Finally, in hazardous scenarios, improperly maintained equipment may even lead to worker injury or death.

Given these significant, far-reaching costs, it is essential for contractors large and small to implement sound equipment maintenance practices. With the right schedules and strategies in place, construction companies can prevent:

  • Major equipment failures
  • OSHA fines
  • Frequent replacements
  • Unplanned downtime
  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Loss of business

Equipment maintenance best practices

Preventive maintenance

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By far, the best way to maximize uptime and avoid unscheduled repairs is to regularly service all of your heavy machinery according to manufacturers’ guidelines. The benefits of a preventive maintenance program include:

  • Greater equipment reliability
  • Longer equipment life
  • Improved inventory management
  • Reduction of unexpected breakdowns

In addition to these cost-saving, logistically sound improvements, preventive maintenance will likely improve the resale value of your most expensive equipment. If you’ve got your eye on bigger, better machinery, one of the best ways to raise the necessary capital is to get the greatest return on your current investments.

Root cause analysis

An effective preventive maintenance program requires an understanding of why your equipment typically breaks down. For instance, the treads on a bulldozer may be sluggish because they’re misaligned, or because operator errors have created faster-than-normal wear.

To understand the cause, first identify the nature of the failure. Sudden failures can typically be attributed to a single component. Intermittent failures are harder to correct but are often preventable once the cause is identified. Finally, gradual failures attributed to wear and tear are often preventable with routine maintenance.

Most failures also fit into one of three major categories, each of which requires a different approach to long-term maintenance: 

1. Mechanical failures 

These equipment failures occur due to vibration, shock, and collision, and they may be the result of normal wear or operator misuse. These failures are the easiest to identify, and they can be mitigated by:

  • Lubricating parts
  • Tightening fasteners
  • Routine alignment
  • Monitoring operating conditions
  • Following manufacturers’ instructions

2. Thermal failures 

These equipment failures happen when temperatures cause components to bend, break, or erode. These failures are most common during weather fluctuations, but also may occur due to overheating or a lack of warmup. Measures to curtail thermal failures include:

  • Coolant replacement
  • Cooling system pressure tests
  • Adequate warmup time
  • Inspecting for radiator corrosion

3. Erratic failures 

These failures can be difficult to correct because the variables leading to the failure can be harder to identify. However, the most common causes include sudden overloads, such as on hydraulic or electrical systems. In some cases, these failures can be minimized with:

  • Embedded software updates
  • Onboard computer hardware updates
  • Tire, battery, and hydraulics inspections

Following manufacturers’ recommendations

Manufacturer’s recommendations are an excellent starting point from which to build a more comprehensive maintenance schedule. It’s in your best interest to follow the advice for keeping machines operable, reliable, and safe.

Team training

Knowledgeable, well-trained operators are not only more productive, they are less likely to cause unnecessary wear and tear on expensive machinery. To realize the greatest ROI on your equipment purchases—and to keep your workers safe—it is imperative that your team is regularly trained on the use of your heavy machinery. Likewise, if they know the warning signs that a machine is headed for failure, they can prevent most costly repairs or replacements later on.

Consistent documentation

Clear, consistent documentation of a machine’s service history serves two critical purposes. First, it lets you and your team know when scheduled maintenance is due and which repairs are overdue. Second, it provides proof that you’ve followed the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines. Without that proof, you may not qualify for warranty parts replacement or service calls.

Creating inspection checklists 

From fluids and filters to lockout/tagout procedures, every machine has a laundry list of items for inspection. Keeping track of them may seem like a daunting task, but with a few simple checklists, you can account for every detail. Depending upon the equipment and nature of its use, you may decide to keep a series of checklists for daily, weekly, and monthly monitoring.

Why equipment maintenance software matters 

Despite the clear, bottom-line benefits of routine equipment maintenance, many contractors struggle to stay on schedule. Margins are thin, and in order to win contracts, they must consistently complete projects on tight schedules and budgets. Even though they understand the long-term savings they can realize through preventive maintenance, taking assets out of commission means downtime, delays, and lost business.

It can be a tricky balancing act to align maintenance strategies and immediate business goals.

With a comprehensive suite of equipment management software, that doesn’t have to be the case. The right software solution will allow you to track every aspect of your equipment maintenance schedule, including work requests, order assignments, parts, and inventory. With a bird’s-eye view of all your assets, you can minimize jobsite downtime and keep preventive maintenance on schedule.

Built-in platform analytics will allow you to spot trends and adjust schedules. With customized reports, you can determine not only which parts and machines are breaking down, but when, why, and under what conditions. This level of detail and clarity allows you to find the greatest opportunities for improvement and savings.

When choosing an equipment management software for your sites, be sure to look for a platform that is designed for the construction industry and allows you to customize your data collection and reporting. You also want to make sure the solution you choose is cloud-based and mobile. 

With the right solution, you can ensure your equipment maintenance strategy works for your teams and your business. Our equipment management software is comprehensive, yet easy for your entire team to use anywhere. You can track all types of construction equipment and maintenance tasks and get access to valuable data to help you make more informed decisions. To learn more about how ManagerPlus can help you stay on top of your equipment maintenance, request a demo today.

“ManagerPlus is my day to day; I use this software constantly. It is nice to be able to track our assets and parts with very little effort.”  -Ty P. A-Core Concrete Cutting

“ManagerPlus ensures that the fleet is getting its regularly scheduled tune-ups and maintenance. We have reduced roadside breakdowns to zero.”  -Amy H. The Kerner Group