STRICT PM PROGRAMS INCREASE PERFORMANCE, LENGTHEN LIFE
More than just a catch phrase, preventative maintenance supplies pump owners with several benefits including safety, reliability on the job site, higher resale value, and priceless peace of mind. Pumping contractors across the country are recognizing the importance of installing rigorous programs to protect their livelihood.
Jeff Popa, Service Manager at Schwing America’s White Bear, MN headquarters, says several factors contribute to the growing importance and popularity of stringent preventative maintenance programs. “Advancing technology has prompted some pump owners to pay closer attention to their programs,” says Kline. “The technology is reliable but complicated, and all of the components require routine inspection. Contractors are also placing higher demands on their concrete pumps – tougher mixes, longer pours. The more wear and tear, the more often these practices should be implemented.”
Lou Murray, Concrete Placement Manager with Meyer Materials Co., Des Plaines, IL, and Randy Waterman, Phoenix Branch Manager for Brundage-Bone Concrete Pumping, oversee preventative maintenance programs for their companies. The two provided details on their regimented operations.
First and foremost, both agreed on the importance of the one-operator-per-machine rule. “You can’t put a value on assigning one specific operator to one specific pump,” says Murray. “Our operators are with their machine sometimes ten to 14 hours a day. They are familiar with all of the idiosyncrasies that accompany that particular pump. For instance, our operators are the most qualified to diagnose a particular noise as a serious problem, and they are familiar enough to know if it’s simply the way the pump performs.”
Both companies keep tabs on preventative maintenance programs through requiring extensive paperwork from their operators and maintenance crews. Meyer Materials has implemented a process for three categories; boom pipe thickness, truck tire maintenance, engine and pump service are all carefully documented according to Lou Murray’s guidelines. Major service and maintenance needs, particularly those outsourced, are also carefully documented.
“It’s almost like the military when I talk about it,” says Brundage-Bone’s Randy Waterman. “Their maintenance checklists aren’t just suggestions, they’re requirements. They have to turn in their punch-lists and pick up literature on safety and other policy notices before they receive their paychecks. For one thing, state law enforces daily DOT inspections. The pumps have to meet state standards before they even hit the job, and for the most part, the operator is responsible for the condition of the pump. It’s not only a company concern, it’s a matter of personal responsibility.” Brundage-Bone’s Phoenix Branch Maintenance Supervisor is responsible for collecting data and keeping updated records on each operator and each pump.
Both contractors require completed paperwork on specific areas on the boom pump and truck. Meyer Materials crews inspect all aspects of the hydraulic system once every month as part of their routine maintenance checklist. The company also requires regular use of filter carts, instruments used to filter new hydraulic fluid and condition fluid already in use. Murray explains why the company implements the use of filter carts once a year. “Clean hydraulic oil means a healthy hydraulic pump. Filtering new oil ensures there is no contamination right out of the drum. It’s peace of mind.”
Brundage-Bone’s Randy Waterman says the company’s routine maintenance program requires that crews replace the motor oil every three hundred operating hours. Crews utilize filter carts to filter hydraulic oil each time the oil is replaced. “I could never really qualify it with a number, but the filter carts have certainly provided an extended life for the hydraulic pumps.”
Jerry Anderson, General Manager of Concrete Pump Repair (CPR), runs a tight ship at the Schwing-certified parts and service center in North Branch, MN. Anderson says filtering or changing out the hydraulic fluid is one of the most important aspects of pump maintenance. “I’d recommend oil change-out, tank clean-out and filter use once a year at minimum.”
Anderson also says maintenance to the pumps electrical system is an important component to pump performance and life span. “When it comes the electrical system, there should be no quick fixes. A thorough inspection is absolutely vital – bypassing any type of potential problem poses serious threat to the pump’s performance.”
Boom pipe maintenance is another obvious consideration for both contractors. When it comes to inspecting the wear and tear on a pipe, Meyer Materials depends on ultrasonic technology.
“A while ago, you’d use the old-school system to inspect the boom pipe for deficiencies. Walk up, tap on the pipe. You might have heard something that indicated the pipe was thin, and you might switch it out. We invested in an ultrasonic gauge to inspect boom pipe wear. Now we’ve got the technology to thoroughly inspect the pipe on a regular basis without the guesswork,” says Murray.
Meyer’s operators are supplied with standardized sheets to ensure every feature of the boom is inspected for wear. As an extra precaution, Meyer changes out their fleet’s boom pipes based on yardage.
Brundage-Bone’s crews flip and rotate boom pipes at certain pre-determined points in the pipe’s life. “The main objective behind boom pipe maintenance is to utilize the pipe to its full life without getting greedy. We chart yardage and flip and rotate the boom pipe when it’s one-third and two-thirds into its typical life span. And we make sure we’re not being too optimistic about wear and tear,” says Waterman. Once it reaches the end of its pre-determined life cycle, crews replace the pipe.
Brundage-Bone also executes elbow rotation at the same time they inspect boom pipes for wear. “It’s an important step in PM,” says Waterman. “It has certainly allowed us a 20% elbow life increase.”
Meyer Materials also practices elbow rotation on a regular basis. “We use our ultrasonic gauge to inspect the elbows as well. We don’t let it get to a point where we’re throwing out a pipe prematurely, but we’re very careful. We keep the elbows marked and rotate them before there’s any extensive wear. We also inspect the gaskets and change them out routinely.”
“We’re regularly checking our Rock Valve wear parts. Particularly during our slow months in January and February, we make sure we do a thorough check of everything – seals, bushings, cuttings – and we make sure the rings are greased.”
Inspection of Rock Valve wear parts is on the weekly schedule for Brundage-Bone crews. “It’s part of being an operator,” said Waterman. “Wear part inspection is one of their top priorities.”
As part of their strict maintenance regimens, Meyer Materials and Brundage-Bone make sure boom inspections are executed regularly. While Meyer out-sources their boom inspection and repair services, Brundage-Bone boom pumps are sent to the company’s own rebuild facility in Seattle, WA. “We’ve got an in-house Schwing-certified serviceman and inspector who completes the inspections and repairs that he deems necessary,” says Waterman.
CPR’s Jerry Anderson says boom inspections should be executed based on age: 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. DOT inspections should be conducted once a year. “In the interest of safety, performance and pump life, any recommended repairs should be done immediately following these inspections.” CPR employs four boom inspectors and four welders to execute required repairs.
To prevent costly repairs for problems diagnosed during boom inspections, the contractors make sure that all moveable boom parts remain properly greased.
“We have autogreasers on all of our larger boom pumps, and those are checked regularly and maintained to a standard. Our operators make sure that the smaller booms stay manually greased,” says Meyer Material’s Lou Murray.
Waterman says that the newer boom pumps within Brundage-Bone’s fleet are equipped with autogreasers, and operators are responsible for maintaining their performance as well. Operators assigned older models execute strict weekly greasing schedules.
CPR’s Jerry Anderson says that auto-greasers are a viable addition to a standard concrete pump. “Ideally, the boom should be greased once a week, and the back end should be greased after each and every pour,” says Anderson. “Autogreasers have to be carefully maintained, and movable parts should be checked constantly to ensure proper greasing.”
Truck maintenance is also an important consideration in regular PM programs. “Our own mechanics practice the 300-hour rule for oil changes and filters. Larger, more extensive maintenance or service is outsourced. We’re very careful with our tire maintenance. Before Meyer implemented a monthly system, we were running into problems with the manufacturer. Now, we make sure to consistently check the air pressure and keep detailed monthly records of tire maintenance,” says Murray.
Brundage-Bone takes boom truck maintenance just as seriously. “Our entire company also operates by the 300-hour rule,” says Waterman. Tires are checked and rotated by the tire manufacturer every month, and Brundage-Bone follows their recommendations when it comes to replacement.
All 30 Brundage-Bone locations utilize the same vendors for consumables such as tires, filters, and hydraulic oil. “It makes sense from a financial standpoint,” says Waterman. “But it also allows all of us to communicate about the best way to handle PM practices and scheduling. Establishing a relationship with a vendor is also important – they have a vested interest in providing you with the best parts and the best advice for maintenance.”
Climate also has an effect on contractors’ PM programs. With headquarters in the northern Midwest, Meyer takes the winters seriously. “We keep the pumps in a heated shed year round to protect them from the elements. When it comes to the coldest of cold – and we’ve got it in Illinois – we follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to a tee to ensure we can keep up with production requirements without endangering the pump.”
Waterman discussed the necessity behind oil coolers in the southern states. “Our newer pump purchases are all equipped with oil coolers, and we’ve even retrofit some of our older models to incorporate them,” says Waterman. “By increasing the viscosity and lowering the operating temperature, we’ve increased the life of the hydraulic pumps.”
Regarding cleanliness, both contractors claim it’s nearly a non-issue. “I’ve never found it necessary to explain the importance of having a clean concrete pump, says Murray. “ Thank goodness we’ve got some neat freaks in here. We’re always complemented on how clean our pumps are – that motivates my operators and my maintenance team to make sure we’re representing the company appropriately.”
“Once again, it’s in the hands of our operators,” says Waterman. “They understand that Brundage-Bone has corporate standards and an industry-wide reputation. The majority of that, certainly in the general public’s eye, can be attributed to the appearance of our pumps.”
Meyer Material’s Lou Murray and Brundage-Bone’s Randy Waterman commented on the benefits of stringent PM programs.
“Before we implemented these standardized maintenance schedules we were essentially working by the honor system,” says Murray. “Some guys were more careful than others. We were having a lot of issues with our tires, and knew it would be beneficial for us to keep tabs on our maintenance. The manufacturers were blaming us for poor performance and we needed to document our practices. It simply expanded from there.”
“In terms of resale and trade-in value, I look at it the same way I do a used car,” says Murray. “If you the buyer or manufacturer doesn’t know what the pump’s been through, there’s no way they should accept it. I respect that and provide the appropriate documentation.”
“We have a vested interest in these pumps,” says Waterman. “Not only do some of these steps increase the life of the concrete pump, they increase the performance. We’re able to service our customers with peace of mind and a lot of pride. The time it takes to implement a program is well worth it in the long run.”
In terms of resale, Brundage-Bone has one of the best track records in the industry. “Our PM program has provided us a reputation, and there’s never a problem selling one of our used pumps.”