To gain a competitive edge and save tens of thousands of dollars on some construction projects, proactive contractors who own, operate, and service their own fleets are reducing downtime, labor, and operational costs by using custom lube skids and trailers to efficiently service their equipment in the field.
“With custom trailers, on a spread of six to eight pieces of equipment, we save about $500 per shift,” says Jeff Vivian, operations and maintenance coordinator at Independence Excavating, a Midwest construction company offering site development, heavy industrial, concrete construction, aggregate crushing, demolition, and environmental solutions.
“On a million-dollar project, we save at least $30,000,” adds Vivian. “That can be the edge we need to win a competitive bid, make a profit, or meet tight deadlines without extra workshifts or overtime.”
INEFFICIENT REFUELING AND SERVICE
Many contractors may not realize how much inefficient, traditional refueling and servicing of equipment in the field is eating into their profit margins. Yet, the downtime reduces productivity and unproductive operation accelerates equipment wear.
“We used to place a temporary fuel tank at smaller construction sites and have operators track their machines to it to refuel each evening,” says Vivian. “But we lost at least a half hour of production waiting to refuel, burned more fuel, and put extra wear on our undercarriages.”
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 spills, injury to technicians, and even the potential to accidentally ignite the highly flammable products.
FASTER SERVICE, MORE UPTIME
A superior alternative now being utilized by contractors is to invest in properly designed lube skids mounted on trucks or lube trailers. These 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 more efficiently at lower cost.
To enhance safety, equipment uptime, and productivity, Independence Excavating has worked with Valley Industries, a provider of custom and standard lube skids, trailers, and trucks, to customize LubeMate trailers for many years.
The contractor uses the custom trailers to dispense mainly fuel, grease, and diesel exhaust fluid. Operators also use oils and fluids kept in trailer storage to top off fluid levels of equipment in the field as needed.
“Our production crew no longer waits to refuel their heavy equipment at night,” says Vivian. “Instead, one man pulls a custom Valley trailer up to each machine and refuels and services it as needed. This eliminates at least half an hour of production downtime per machine each day.”
Vivian says that a custom trailer was particularly helpful on a recent Pittsburgh strip district redevelopment project.
“We were redeveloping a huge downtown parking facility, and our equipment was stretched 6-7 city blocks through a parking lot that stayed open,” says Vivian. “It would have been a nightmare to refuel our equipment without the custom trailer. On a job like that, a trailer can pay for itself within 3 months.”
Auto Truck Group, a leading work truck upfitter in North America that specializes in the design, manufacture, and installation of truck equipment for a range of customers, trades, and industries, also finds significant value in custom skids.
“With Valley’s custom LubeMate skids, contractors 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,” says Shawn Crawford, an account manager at Auto Truck Group. “By choosing options for pump, reel, hose, meter, and dispenser, as well as layout, cabinet, drip pan, and containment, they can further optimize field service.”
According to Crawford, customizing design can enhance maintenance safety and efficiency and lower equipment service cost.
“With the custom skids and trailers, contractors can locate the tanks, spring retract reels, and equipment so workers can safely, efficiently dispense oil and fluids while standing on the ground,” says Crawford. “This eliminates the slip-fall workers’ comp hazards related to climbing on or off a truck or moving heavy barrels to retrieve product.”
BETTER AT HANDLING OIL
One lube service area that can be prohibitively time consuming and labor intensive is recovering used oil, as the process cannot contaminate the jobsite and is monitored by the EPA.
For more efficient lube servicing of equipment in cold climates, where oil viscosity thickens, custom pumps and heaters can be helpful. For instance, while a 3:1 pump may be fine in typical climates, a 5:1 pump may be necessary in colder regions, and a 10:1 pump may be needed for heavier oil, such as gear oil.
“In northern regions, where oils can run like molasses in winter, custom pumps and heaters are almost mandatory,” says Crawford.
TIMELY DELIVERY FOR UPTIME
For contractors requiring custom lube or fuel service, fast response and delivery can be vital to meet construction project deadlines. While typical manufacturers may take several months to deliver a custom lube skid or trailer because they are not geared up to do so, some that focus on such work can deliver it in less than a month.
“When a contractor needed a custom skid for a technician in training, Valley got us the skid to mount on his truck within a month, so it was waiting for him when he finished training,” says Crawford. “Contractors looking to work more profitably need such customization.” ■
About The Author: Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California. For more information about Valley Industries, call 800.400.0124, or visit www.valley-industries.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions – February 2016
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