You work in an industry that features some impressive machines. Take the Bagger 293 Bucket Wheel Excavator, the largest land vehicle ever. It’s truly an impressive machine—but can you imagine how much it costs to maintain it?
Even for relatively normal construction equipment, you pay a lot to keep them running. One study estimated that it costs almost $75,000 to operate and maintain a backhoe loader for 10 years. That’s a lot of change, and even a small percentage of savings on that figure would net your firm thousands of dollars.
There are lots of hidden costs to not having proper maintenance. Construction equipment that is not properly maintained will break down in the middle of the project, so you must take steps—some involving construction software—in order to prevent a back-breaking project delay and the possibility of having to buy brand new equipment much sooner than if you had conducted proper maintenance.
Construction managers must implement the following checklist—including a daily maintenance review, a maintenance deal with a supplier and other related steps—in order to minimize maintenance costs and ensure their equipment is in optimal working condition.
Keep detailed records
If you aren’t storing extensive records on your equipment, now is the time to start, and fleet management software can help you here. You should be gathering information on the history of the machines—any repairs they’ve gone through in the past, for example—as well as component life, fluid levels, checkup dates, etc. Armed with these statistics, you can create a plan that will help your workers conduct preventative maintenance and avoid breakdowns.
Fleet Inventory Tracking dashboard from Fleet Maintenance Pro (Source)
Monitor fuel usage as well. Many construction managers don’t look at this as a part of maintenance, but this data will show you where you are spending money on fuel, allowing you to either spot potential problems that are causing your equipment to guzzle or help you identify opportunities to replace equipment with more fuel-efficient options.
BONUS TIP: With this database of information, implement a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to help your workers do maintenance in a much more efficient and effective manner. CMMS data could also help keep you in line with federal, state and local regulations.
Reward your workers for proactive maintenance
Rather than shell out money when the equipment breaks and you need your workers to work overtime to fix it, why not pay bonuses for employees who see an opportunity for preventative maintenance and take it? This will save you money not only on maintaining your equipment but also on overtime you pay to your workers.
The bonus doesn’t need to be huge, and you’ll have to use your own judgment here. You might offer tiers of rewards—a $10 gift card for a minor fix, and perhaps hundreds of dollars or more if they just prevented a significant delay. You should install some rules to prevent abuse of this system, like a written justification of why the maintenance was needed and what would have happened had it not been done.
Your workers are your eyes and ears on the job site, so you must make them a vital part of your maintenance plan if you want to be successful in driving down costs.
BONUS TIP: Offer an additional bonus for employees who are willing to step up and tutor their colleagues who use the same machine on some maintenance tips and techniques they’ve learned over time.
Have a team-wide meeting to brainstorm
Your workers have a far better idea of what your fleet of construction equipment needs than you do. They know when equipment is getting close to breaking down, and can probably tell you exactly what maintenance needs to be performed and when.
Call a team-wide meeting to brainstorm ideas for a daily maintenance checklist for each piece of equipment on the job site. Make sure everyone weighs in so you’re not missing anything. Then finalize that checklist and assign someone to have the responsibility of marking it off each day.
For example, one of your employees may have noticed that your backhoe goes through coolant at a faster rate than the manual indicates, and therefore it should be checked more often.
BONUS TIP: Compare the final maintenance checklists for each piece of equipment to each other. Note which items are on some lists but not on others, and see if it should be implemented on all equipment or if it specific to this particular piece of equipment. This is a good way to spot maintenance items that fall through the cracks.
Offer company-wide construction equipment maintenance training
Your workers know how to use your equipment, but can they maintain it? Can they spot problems that could be nipped in the bud early? Do they know what actions to take when they spot a potential problem? Do they know how to conduct routine, daily maintenance?
Offering company-wide training on your equipment may not seem like a priority and even an unnecessary expense and time sink, but your workers must be fully trained on the equipment they use. If not, you will pay later when they, say, miss a deadline on filling a certain type of fluid, resulting in damage to the engine.
BONUS TIP: Rather than hiring an outside consultant to do the training, create a mentorship program at your firm. This could benefit your workers and the company as a whole far beyond maintenance.
Keep parts handy
This is a relatively simple fix you could implement right away. Chances are, you could go through the data you have now and figure out which parts you replace the most and how often, and then you can order a six-month supply of those parts.
Having them on hand will allow you to immediately get a piece of equipment back up and running, rather than forcing your crew to wait for days before they can restart on a project, wasting valuable time and money.
Be sure to give yourself some cushion, as machines are likely to go through parts quicker as they age.
BONUS TIP: Before purchasing a machine, quiz the supplier on how quickly you would be able to get each part were it to break. Even a good machine’s effectiveness is ruined if you have a supplier who doesn’t have replacement parts immediately available.
Have your dealer monitor equipment
If you want an alternative to training your workers to maintain the equipment—perhaps you think it’s too expensive or too time-consuming, or both—consider working with your dealer.
Contact your dealer and work out a maintenance plan for them in which they will regularly check your fluids and parts to make sure everything is running smoothly. They will charge a fee, but most dealers would be happy to engage in this kind of mutually beneficial relationship with a client.
BONUS TIP: This is one area where you want to shop around for a supplier who will do this before you buy. It’s much easier to work out a maintenance deal before you buy than after.
Pay extra for quality machinery
This seems obvious, but small construction firms opt for the cheapest option all the time in order to stay within budget. This might save you money for the first couple of projects, but quality is of utmost importance for construction equipment because you need to own it for around a decade to make it worth the purchase.
Do your research to figure out if the backhoe you’re about to buy gets rave reviews from other construction managers, or if it has problems with maintenance. Equipment World, Opereviews.com and ConstructionEquipment.com are all good places to research different types of construction equipment.
BONUS TIP: Don’t look for reviews on the equipment itself, but on your dealer, too. Business review sites like Yelp.com are good for this. Have customers been unhappy at having to return for parts often? Or are they displeased that their customer service wasn’t responsive? These are red flags.
What to do today: Get your records in order now
First things first: you need to get your records and paperwork on your construction equipment in order now. All of these other tips generally flow from that. Without data, it’s virtually impossible to put together an effective maintenance plan. So take these steps right away:
- Create a list of each piece of construction equipment that you have.
- List each variable that you can possibly track with the equipment: fuel usage, component life, checkup dates, etc. The more data, the better.
- Assign someone at your firm—it can be yourself—to start tracking this data on a daily basis in a spreadsheet.
- Review this list after a month, and determine if there are any variables that should be added, or if different data should be compiled.
- After a couple months of gathering data, start taking action on the other items in this checklist using this data.