Cutting costs on heavy equipment

By |  February 3, 2015

PQ1502_total-cost1Every equipment owner needs an edge. Here are 10 easy ways for you to lower operating costs on your heavy equipment.

Each job, machine and application is different, but there are a few universal things you can do with each piece of equipment to make its operation more practical and cost effective. Here’s a look at 10 things that can have a direct effect on your bottom line.

1. Control idle times

Whether through telematics, idle management control features (i.e., one-touch idle, automatic shutdown) or through one-on-one operator coaching, equipment owners can save a significant amount of money in fuel costs and long-term engine costs by simply reducing engine idling. Excessive idling is a drain on fuel and adds unnecessary/non-productive hours to the engine, shortening its life and wasting the machine’s warranty.

2. Properly use and deploy your fleet

For large fleets and decentralized operations – possibly with multiple quarries spread out across a region – it may be easy to overlook underused pieces of equipment. You might need a wheel loader in one quarry, but you may not know that a wheel loader in another quarry is only used 20 percent of the time.
Getting a better understanding of equipment use through telematics can help you better deploy equipment and reduce unnecessary equipment rentals and purchases when you think you are in need of another machine but actually have the assets sitting somewhere else, ready to go.

3. Working features/services into purchase

Have you ever had this thought during the equipment-buying process: “That sounds like a great feature, but I’ll wait and add it at a later date.”

That may seem practical, but take into consideration the costs that will be involved with taking that machine out of service at a later date, and the costs associated with adding that feature or technology at an aftermarket price. Carefully weigh initial purchase or package prices versus the cost it may take to add that feature at a later date.

Also important to note: Factory fit features generally equate to factory quality and warranty.

Depending on the part and the machine, a remanufactured part can cost up to 40 percent less than a comparable new part.

Depending on the part and the machine, a
remanufactured part can cost up to 40 percent less
than a comparable new part.

4. Planned maintenance contract

A planned maintenance contract can save equipment owners a significant amount in time and cost savings. Some planned maintenance contracts afford producers the ability to only worry about fueling and greasing the machine for the first few thousand hours. Dealers carry out all other preventive maintenance activities, and there are practical savings with planned maintenance contracts as well.

5. Machine control

Machine control can seem intimidating at first, but it offers a wealth of advantages for equipment owners large and small. Machine control lowers owning and operating costs in a number of ways. Greater quality and productivity are two benefits. More accurately calculated material costs are another.

Machine control also allows for less wear and tear on equipment, shortening the training window for new operators and cutting down on time and labor for related activities.

6. Remanufactured parts

The practice of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) remanufacturing parts has grown considerably in recent years and has evolved to include thousands of parts and components in stock that can be shipped to equipment dealers upon request. This can be a significant advantage for fleet managers as they race against the clock to get equipment back up and running.

That’s the first advantage: Rather than having a machine down while a major component is rebuilt or having to rent a replacement machine in its place, customers can purchase a remanufactured part and have it installed immediately upon receipt. Remanufactured parts come ready to install and can significantly lower downtime and repair costs.

Another advantage of a remanufactured part is purchase price. Depending on the part and the machine, a remanufactured part can cost up to 40 percent less than a comparable new part – all without sacrificing quality. There is no drop-off in quality between remanufactured parts and new or rebuilt parts, and they can provide an apples-to-apples cost savings in many cases.

Remanufactured parts can also feature warranties that are better than what a rebuilt part can offer, and may meet or exceed other OEM warranties. This provides fleet managers with peace of mind and protection against additional costs during the life of a warranty.

7. Operator practices

There’s a reason it’s called owning and operating costs. How a machine is operated can have a significant effect on its bottom line.

Operators can be coached in a number of ways to help reduce equipment costs, including methods to reduce idle time, operating the machine in a manner that puts the least amount of wear and stress on an undercarriage, and proper use of machine controls and functions to optimize fuel efficiency. Identifying and curtailing rowdy or unsafe operating practices is also important to reduce possible damage to the machine and the surrounding work area.

A telematics program can be very important in keeping ahead of preventive maintenance.

A telematics program can be very important in keeping
ahead of preventive maintenance.

8. Outfit machines to handle all applications they may encounter

Whether it’s an attachment you commonly use or a machine feature that gives you a little extra lift or digging power, don’t leave your machine shorthanded for the work ahead. Fully understand the scale of your work and anticipated work so you’re not renting or purchasing additional equipment to compensate.

9. Understand benefits of lease, renting and owning

The financial realities of each company are different and, as such, the pros and cons of the different equipment acquisition methods vary. There are, however, some general truths.

Leasing provides owners with new equipment every two to three years. It bonds services together in a single payment and allows contractors to bid jobs more accurately because owning and operating costs don’t change. Owners must simply factor in fuel and operator costs.

Leasing also makes disposal easier, as leaseholders have no concerns over trying to sell machines. Rental places’ owning and operating costs are squarely in the hands of the dealer.

Also, leasing ultimately reduces transportation, storage and carrying costs, but it also may limit access to equipment based on availability. Owning equipment offers a variety of tax advantages, too, and depending on the type of equipment and how well it holds its value, owners may be in to make a profit when they turn around and sell it.

10. Understanding Tier 4 processes

Many cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR) systems require regeneration. It’s important for operators to know how regeneration works, and how those systems indicate to the operator that regeneration is needed. If the operator bypasses regeneration, which is never recommended, then that machine may require a manual regeneration. This may require downtime and the attention of a dealer service technician.

Similarly, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems require the operator to know when it’s time to refill the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) reservoir. If operators remember to do this every time they refill diesel, then it has minimal impact on operating costs or downtime.

Take note

Identifying and curtailing rowdy or unsafe operating practices is important to reduce possible damage to the machine and the surrounding work area.

Brad Stemper is brand marketing manager, Case Construction Equipment.

Photo: Case Construction Equipment

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About the Author:

Allison Kral is the former senior digital media manager for North Coast Media (NCM). She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she received a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She works across a number of digital platforms, which include creating e-newsletters, writing articles and posting across social media sites. She also creates content for NCM's Portable Plants magazine, GPS World magazine and Geospatial Solutions. Her understanding of the ever-changing digital media world allows her to quickly grasp what a target audience desires and create content that is appealing and relevant for any client across any platform.

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