Greasing the rails
By Del WilliamsFeatures Tech tips
Lube skids and trailers are key to delivering exceptional field service for any heavy equipment provider. When you make a service guarantee, it is a promise that can make or break the rental relationship.
If the customer’s equipment fails in the field, production stops and labour stands idle until repairs are made. A bad experience today can also affect potential future rentals.
For that reason, many rental stores offer service programs on long-term rentals that include regular lubrication and preventive maintenance to ensure equipment performs as expected, with maximum uptime. Given the size of the equipment and the logistics of moving it to another location, this work typically occurs at the construction site, off-hours, by trained field technicians. Here’s how Valley Industries, a provider of lube skids and lubrication trailers, was able to help Erb Equipment Company, a major equipment dealer in the U.S. Midwest, to smooth its field service for maximum effectiveness and profitability.
“As a full-line John Deere construction equipment dealer, when we sell equipment we are committed to keeping our customers up and running through our Erbvantage maintenance plan that allows us to handle the uptime while our customers keep working,” says Gregg Erb, president of Erb Equipment. “Regularly scheduled and documented maintenance including lubrication in the field not only helps our customers stay more productive and profitable, but also extends the life of their equipment and increases its resale value.”
However, the traditional field service model of hauling a variety of containers of grease, hydraulic fluid, oil and other lubricants that must be lifted in and out of trucks and then poured or pumped by hand is no longer adequate. This is not only a slow and inefficient way to complete such work, adding to the costs, but also increases the risk of injury to technicians, spills, and even the potential to accidentally ignite the highly flammable products.
“We prioritize safety and uptime for our customers’ equipment and our technicians,” says Erb. “Older maintenance methods, such as having technicians lift heavy five-gallon containers of oil and lubricants on and off trucks can be unsafe and inefficient. It can lead to injury when lifting or jumping in and out of the truck bed.”
According to Erb, containers that are not properly sealed can also lead to contamination of lubricant with water from rain or snow. Once introduced to the construction equipment, it can affect equipment performance and even cause damage.
A superior alternative now being utilized by heavy equipment dealers is to invest in properly designed lube skids mounted on trucks or lube trailers that can be used to quickly, safely and ergonomically dispense lubricants, such as oil and grease, as well as efficiently recover used oil. Some trailers can also safely dispense fuel. Although standard skids and trailers exist in the market, some manufacturers offer custom options designed to satisfy every field requirement. Such customization not only helps dealers honour their service guarantees more efficiently and at less cost, but also maximizes uptime for the customer.
To enhance safety, equipment uptime, and productivity, Erb Equipment has worked with Valley Industries to customize LubeMate lube skids for many years.
“We request just the features we require in our truck-mounted, custom lube skids,” says Erb. “Each of our service trucks is equipped with the essential oils, grease, and waste oil tanks needed.”
With the custom skids, dealers can select just what they need in terms of tank number and size for clean or waste oil, grease, anti-freeze, water, or washer fluid. By choosing options for pump, reel, hose, meter, and dispenser as well as layout, cabinet, drip pan, and containment they can further optimize their field service.
“Outfitting our service trucks with custom lube skids has increased our profitability since we’ve increased the number of field service calls we can perform per day, while enabling our technicians to be safer and more efficient,” says Erb. “That translates into greater customer satisfaction, which is our number one priority.”
Meeting Service Guarantees
“To maximize our customer’s uptime and meet any service guaranties, we will go to our customers’ job sites and schedule their maintenance after hours,” says Erb. “All of our service trucks are equipped with vehicle tracking so we can immediately dispatch one of our closest field service trucks to take care of our customers’ needs. It’s all about providing uptime to earn our customers business.”
Erb incorporated a number of features in the truck-mounted, custom lube skids to help his mobile technicians be as efficient as possible. With such custom skids and trailers, dealers can specify the location of the tanks, retractable reels, and equipment so workers can safely, efficiently dispense oil and fluids while standing on the ground.
“The use of ergonomically positioned retractable reels eliminates the slip-fall workers comp hazards related to climbing on or off a truck or moving heavy barrels to retrieve product,” says Erb.
Among the features that Erb expects on his Valley Industries’ LubeMate skids are digital metering, which tells the technician exactly how much is dispensed, as well as sight gauges that show the remaining fluid levels to ensure the technician does not accidently get caught short. According to Erb, another lube service area that can be prohibitively time consuming and labour intensive is recovering used oil, as the process cannot contaminate the job site and is monitored by the American Environmental Protection Agency. While typical used oil evacuation can be slow and messy, his skids all have “no spill” quick couplers for fast oil evacuation directly from the oil pan.
Preventing spills of oil and lubricants is serious business. For instance, any spill of fuel or lubricant that is being transported as cargo must be immediately reported to the Ministry of Environment and the local municipality under Ontario law. Reporting a spill triggers investigations and field visits by Ministry officers who can order clean-ups, or comission their own clean-up and send you the bill. If you are found to be violating regulations around transporting dangerous goods, big fines and even jail time can result.
Options for the future
Although Erb prefers to purchase skids, enclosed or open lubrication trailers are also available, as well as trailers designed to deliver diesel fuel. These trailers can also be configured to meet just about any requirements.
For rental operators looking to provide contractors with the custom lube or fuel service required, fast response and delivery can be vital to meet construction project deadlines. Lead times from order to delivery of a custom lube skid can range from less than a month to several months, depending on the manufacturer.
As field service continues to grow, Erb Equipment plans to continue investing in its fleet of mobile equipment. “We have been adding several new field service trucks to our fleet each year,” says Erb. “As we rotate the older units out, we are able to increase our resale value when the vehicle is equipped with LubeMate skids. Any heavy equipment dealers looking to profitably meet their service guarantees and better service their customers should look into lube skid customization, and will appreciate the fast turnaround. We received the custom lube skids we needed as soon as three weeks after ordering them.”
About the author – Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, Calif.
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