Science of Heavy Equipment Management – Part 3

In my last two blog posts, I discussed some of what I’ve learned over the years about equipment management, most notably from one of the industry’s leading experts in the field, Dr. Mike Vorster. I covered splitting data into owning and operating rates, then about re-combining that data to help optimize machine usage. This week I’ll wrap up by covering some of the issues surrounding data gathering for equipment management.

More is better

The more detailed and granular your data, the better your cost curves will reflect reality. I’ve seen contractors grouping costs into broad categories such as fuel, repair and preventive maintenance, and I’ve seen their ability to make good decisions improve when they broke out their costs into more detailed line items. Why? Because by being more detailed in the cost data they were looking for, they found a good deal of costs not being properly attributed to the right pieces of equipment (or even not being attributed to the cost of equipment at all).

So if you choose to adopt the methods of managing equipment usage that I touched on in my last two posts, I encourage you to capture detailed information to help ensure you have accurate representations of true cost. Track repair and replacement costs by assembly, sub-assembly, and even to the part level. Monitor and record usage of fuel, oil, and coolant. More is definitely better.

When micromanagement makes sense

Unlike your employees, your equipment is not going to be upset about micromanagement. Gathering detailed data on repair, maintenance, and operating costs for all your equipment does more than build better cost curves. It helps you identify opportunities for improved performance. Is one particular part on one machine wearing out sooner than it should? Are certain operators better at getting more out of certain equipment types than others? Are you going through more coolant than you should on a certain type of machine? Being able to take specific action to improve equipment costs begins with having specific data that is tracked over time.

Man and machine

The topic of how best to gather field data on equipment is a broad and deep one, but there is one point I want to emphasize. Even the best on-board telematics and automated data gathering systems are no replacement for hands-on inspection and data collection. This may sound odd coming from someone who provides software for field data collection, but one thing that has contributed to the evolution of this software is that the human operator or site manager does a better job if they are actively involved in the process. Nothing (at least yet) beats a human looking at belt wear or finding that suspicious puddle of liquid under an idle machine. Software and telematics can help make the process easier, but the process should still be centered around your people.

If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Mike Vorster’s equipment management methods, or if you’re like me and still have a few people on your holiday list to shop for, I encourage you to check out his book, Construction Equipment Economics.

What processes and technologies do you use to gather field data on your heavy equipment?

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