Use real-time data & wear parts measurements to forecast maintenance needs
by Brian Steketee
June 29, 2016

Optimizing and maintaining equipment are among the greatest challenges for fleet managers. On a commercial jobsite, the downtime costs are the most significant risks in the industry. Revenue loss from materials, idle operator salary, replacement unit rental, late penalties and intangibles like customer dissatisfaction and loss of goodwill, can have a significant and negative impact.

Downtime costs can be a deciding factor in the decision to invest in advanced technologies for a jobsite. However, by using the latest sensors and data analyzing software, business owners can turn equipment into smart, connected machines that predict maintenance needs, understand operator behavior and optimize uptime by coaching users on appropriate operation.

A machine's undercarriage can represent as much as half the maintenance costs of a machine over its lifetime. It is important to understand how the different components of the undercarriage can wear and how that will affect the machine's uptime. Instead of letting the undercarriage wear to the point of destruction, where it is unusable and needs immediate maintenance, proactively monitoring wear parts is the best way to ensure you can schedule your machine's downtime ahead of time. In the past, wear parts measuring was always done with manual tools, which took a rough measurement of the part to compare against previous measurements. With the new tools available now, business owners can measure wear parts with more accuracy and efficiency.

By utilizing web-based and mobile platforms, companies can take advantage of simplified processes that provide accurate, immediate access to useful, real-time data about how the machine is wearing and which parts will soon need maintenance. By taking this data to your dealer before your machines start showing signs of trouble, you could save thousands of dollars by proactively monitoring undercarriage wear rates and managing parts replacements to optimize parts performance. It's obvious how mobile and sensor technology is changing behaviors in the industry through advancements that capture everything that happens while the machine is running. Now, groundbreaking hardware and software also available on mobile devices can help business owners easily interact with dealers and plan ahead for maintenance and parts replacements. There are a few ways to determine a workable predictive maintenance schedule based on the number of machines and how often or heavily they are used.

New technology can help fleets secure critical data accurately and efficiently throughout a progression of jobs. Monitoring the health of a machine from the beginning to completion of these operations provides an optimal level of insight. Catching poor operating behaviors and suggesting improvements before the machine suffers allows for the management of those potential costs in real time.

In addition, sensors will make heavy equipment more efficient in the field in the near future. Sensors are the eyes and ears of the field network for owners, operators and technicians. The next phase is to use them to create the smartest, most connected equipment fleets possible.

Forecasting the needs of machines before they experience unplanned downtime gives fleet managers the ability to plan for the future. This allows for better maintenance planning around job requirements and better continued monitoring of those machines. Working closely with dealers to plan ahead also provides the ability to build a budget and stick to it as time passes, minimizing the prices associated with reactive maintenance. Predictive maintenance is especially important for larger operations, which can immediately start losing thousands of dollars per hour or more when a machine goes down unexpectedly. When a bulldozer goes down because the tracks weren't managed well, it could potentially slow or even stop the production of the jobsite, halting all work from other machines that rely on that one piece of equipment to lay the groundwork. Active access to maintenance data throughout the value chain provides multiple sets of eyes on equipment to ensure nothing is being overlooked. Having a clear picture of what machines are in a specific territory or region also allows for the dealers to better plan for their inventory needs. Understanding when those parts will be needed allows for the parts to arrive before the customer even picks up the phone.

The technology to forecast maintenance needs is being developed and tested in the field today. Its implementation will change the construction industry's tomorrow.