5 Maintenance Tips for Heavy Machinery

Barton Henderson, Statewide Bearings

Heavy-lifting and earthmoving machinery are the backbone of the mining, construction and agriculture industries around the world. These necessary and expensive pieces of equipment must be used to their most effective and efficient potential to perform such demanding labor. To ensure optimal performance of these costly pieces of industrial capital and the safety of their operators, regularly scheduled and preventive maintenance is a must. Following are some key tips to keep the gears grinding and pistons pumping in your own heavy-duty machines. 

1. Keep It Routine

Just like the annual check-up with your physician, a regular check-up on the overall functionality and condition of your heavy machinery helps keep the continuity of what is expected and the standard performance of your equipment. Any non-scheduled emergency maintenance and repair jobs done on heavy machinery are typically fraught with human error and performed in a time crunch.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that up to 20 percent of industrial accidents are related to maintenance operations, with 15 percent involving worker fatalities. By taking all the necessary preventative measures, not only are you ensuring the stated lifetime of your heavy machinery, but you're also keeping operators safe.

My grandfather always said, "If everything works on your truck, that's just an excuse for something to break." It's this philosophy of constantly checking and maintaining equipment, catching any minor problems before they evolve into bigger and more costly ones, that further drives the point to have regularly scheduled maintenance checks on your earthmoving machinery. 

2. Use the Right Tools for the Job

Matching your equipment with the exact task that it's intended to perform requires consideration of a number of variables, including terrain, material composition and elemental effects such as climate, etc. Likewise, it's important to make certain that all attachments and performance accessories such as buckets and ploughs are made specific to your machine. With the safety of the crew operating this heavy and potentially dangerous equipment in mind, you simply cannot afford any guesswork here.

Check and double-check all machinery and attachments before using them in the field. Your workers and your wallet will thank you. When replacing parts, don’t assume the first ones you come across are the right ones for your machinery. Bearings, roller chains, gaskets, seals, etc., must all be the right quality and size and have the correct load-bearing qualities for your machine.

3. Don't Overwork Your Machines

Never exceed your equipment's stated performance specifications and limitations as found in your owner/operator manual. As with any industry where heavy equipment is a staple of operation, effectiveness and efficiency are key to optimal performance and yielding the best results for your efforts. Knowing and abiding by weight limits for loads and inclines for transit are an easy way to keep your heavy machinery working.

Most modern heavy machines come programmed with multiple power modes. It's essential for operators to make sure their equipment is set to the correct power mode for the task at hand. Also, minimizing your machinery’s travel and idle time can add longevity to the life of your assets. 

4. Put Your Toys Away 

While performing regular maintenance checks is an active way of preventing damage to your equipment, properly storing your heavy machinery is another necessary, yet more passive method of ensuring optimal and safe performance. All large machinery should be kept in covered, moisture-free storage with environment control if necessary. This will help save your equipment safe from the dangers of water, which can lead to rust and corrosion, as well as from the harshness of direct sunlight. 

5. Knowledge is Power

Your machinery is only as useful as the men and women working with it. For upholding the highest standards of operations while minimizing risk, everyone in contact with the equipment should be trained and familiar with the proper use of each piece of machinery on the job. For some machines, simple hands-on instruction is sufficient, while others may require special certifications before operating the machinery. Follow your owner/ operator manual and any other official guidelines pertaining to your specific industry, job type and equipment model before letting just anyone take your backhoe for a spin.

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About the Author

Barton Henderson is the manager at Statewide Bearings, distributors of bearings and other parts for heavy-duty mining, construction and agricul...