Boom Inspections Gaining Acceptance as Standard Maintenance

Most concrete pump owners consider boom inspections a voluntary part of maintaining their fleet. But insuring the safety of a pumping fleet is priceless for crews, operators and owners.

According to the Concrete Pump Manufacturers Association (CPMA) Safety Standards Section 27-2.1 a boom inspection falls under the “frequent inspections” category. This denotes that a qualified person conduct a boom inspection every few months, depending on the age of the boom: pumps from one to five years old should be inspected at least once a year; pumps five to ten years old should be inspected once every six months, and pumps above ten years old should be inspected every 500 operating hours.

Concrete Pump Repair (CPR), North Branch, MN provides boom inspections as a service to customers throughout North America. For 16 years, the company has employed four boom inspectors – two with CWI certification – and four welders to execute required repairs.

Steve Auers, certified welder and boom inspector with CPR, estimates he completed over 100 boom inspections in 2003. CPR provides the flexibility to conduct field inspections and on-site safety evaluations for customers all over the country.

According to Auers, the majority of the boom inspections for CPR customers are requested on top of already scheduled maintenance work. Cost of the service varies depending on the size of the boom.

The process consists of both visual and hands-on inspection. “We’re concerned with every structural component on the pump, from the outriggers to the boom tower to the boom itself.”

As a Schwing authorized parts and service center, CPR conducts examinations according to the Schwing-standardized boom inspection checklist. Every item on the 100-point checklist is assessed during the four- to six-hour process.

Hours of operation and actual age of the boom are two factors Auers considers when evaluating boom health. Auers recommends more frequent boom inspections as the pump gets older. “I can usually guess how much concrete’s been pumped out of the older models based on their year. But some of the new models are equipped with a computerized read out of that information.”

The checklist begins with an exam of structural parts of the concrete pump. General items on the checklist include handrails, remote box function and the hopper grate. Auers also assesses the front and rear outrigger tubes, pads, locks, pins and safety devices, and checks to make sure they are operational.

The tower’s upper and lower bearings are then measured for deflection and wear by placing the boom in a vertical configuration. Auers also recommends replacing tie-down bolts every three years, and makes sure to check their condition during inspection.

When it comes to the main column, or turret, a little more physical interaction with the pump is required. “Depending on the model, I often have to hop inside and take a look around,” said Auers.

Once these are completed and repairs or maintenance recommendations are made, inspectors move on to the boom itself. Each section’s pins, hydraulic lines, joints and guide levers are assessed for corrosion and structural damage. The mounting hardware, clamps and hose condition are also examined on the delivery pipeline.

When faced with an area on the pump that cannot be evaluated with a visual inspection, Auers utilizes a mag particle process. The detection process involves the use of a colored iron powder, which is applied to the suspicious area. A high-powered magnet applied from the opposite side is used to attract the powder. Indication of a crack or other structural damage is apparent when the powder is attracted to the crack. “It’s a simple process, and it allows us to evaluate anything that the naked eye can’t spot,” says Auers.

For tighter areas where the magnet cannot be applied, CPR inspectors utilize a dye penetrate to indicate structural deficiencies.

To make the reporting and recommendation process more efficient, CPR’s boom inspectors take digital photos of each defect to properly communicate what requires maintenance or replacement. “It works particularly well with our out-of-state customers. It always helps when I can illustrate my concerns, and it gives the customer piece of mind,” said Auers.

Once they’ve completed the checklist and properly documented trouble spots, CPR’s certified welders and mechanics provide estimates for the repair of the defects. “The recommended repairs are the owner’s responsibility,” said Auers. “All we can do is provide them a quote for the repairs we feel are necessary to ensure proper operation.”

To prevent costly repairs, Auers stresses proper maintenance. “Whether you grease by hand or use an auto greaser, you can prevent costly repairs. Grease is cheap. Keeping the entire machine clean is another important aspect of preventative maintenance. Allowing concrete to build up is never good for the boom.”

Along with the boom inspection service, CPR is an authorized Schwing repair and service center. Factory-trained professionals repair, restore and refurbish concrete pumps for a nation-wide clientele. The boom inspectors at CPR keep in close contact with the engineering department at Schwing America’s White Bear plant. “I’ve got a direct line to a couple of the guys in the department,” said Auers. “I’ll come across an issue every so often that I feel needs some attention. We communicate openly about areas of concern and possible improvements.”

CPR also powers concretepumps.com, the largest web site devoted to used concrete pumps. The site’s Pump Mall provides pump specs and full-color photos of pumps for sale, lease and lease-to-own.
Schwing America also provides boom inspections from their headquarters in White Bear. The manufacturer also fields seven factory-trained representatives who conduct boom inspections for customers across the nation. Schwing’s inspectors and service professionals are qualified through the American Welding Society as Certified Welding Inspectors. They are available for field inspections and travel throughout their assigned regions.
With the availability of qualified boom inspectors there are few reasons to avoid the process. Retiring a pump is the only valid excuse for neglecting a timely inspection. As the industry matures, buyers are becoming aware of the importance of this critical procedure. Consequently, sellers are increasingly requiring an extensive visual examination of pumps. More often than not, sellers are also stating they will not sell a pump without a proper boom inspection.