Technology is changing the way we work, enabling us to reach higher, lift more, and work faster. But with these changes comes the responsibility to understand the technology behind them—not only what it can do for us, but also what it requires of us in terms of training, maintenance, and safe operating procedures. This understanding equips us to take full advantage of the benefits technology offers as we work smarter, more efficiently, and safely.
TRAINING IS CRITICAL
As new technologies add a layer of complexity to aerial work platforms (AWPs) and telehandlers, training becomes more critical for the operators who pilot these machines and the technicians who service them. Identifying a quality training program begins with verifying that the program meets guidelines established by The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which writes the standards for AWP training programs, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA enforces ANSI standards and writes and enforces telehandler training standards.
During the search for a quality training program, remember to do the following:
- Evaluate the provider: Ask for references and if possible, observe a class to get a first-hand feel for the program.
- Examine the curriculum: Look for machine-specific courses, as well as classes that cover the tools required to service and operate a machine. Safety awareness should always be part of the curriculum.
- Look for a path of study: Does the curriculum take students from beginner to expert levels? Are prerequisites required? What about refresher courses that address changes in technology?
- Review the program format: Programs that combine online learning, classroom instruction, and hands-on-training are often best.
- Consider class size: The ideal technician training class should have a student-to-machine ratio of 1:1, with a maximum of 3:1, while operator training classes can vary in size, as long as each student has the opportunity to operate a machine sometime during the class.
TECHNOLOGIES IMPACT MAINTENANCE
Training should also include the impact that new technologies have on maintenance. For example, onboard electronics provide important data regarding engine, transmission, hydraulics, and fuel performance. Easy-to-read gauges make it possible to monitor day-to-day operations, providing information that can help identify potential problems or troubleshoot existing problems.
Telematics are also important to machine maintenance. In addition to providing constant visibility of equipment and enabling owners to monitor where and how a machine operates in real time 24/7, connected asset technology allows a machine to send fault notifications to a technician’s mobile device. These fault notifications equip technicians to remotely diagnose a problem, order the part, and make a single trip to the field to complete a repair, improving workplace efficiencies and limiting machine downtime. Telematics also provide a means to send email and/or text reminders for scheduled maintenance.
Another relatively new technology—hand-held mobile devices—further enhances the work of technicians in the field. Whether wired to equipment or available as an app for mobile devices, this technology allows technicians to program, troubleshoot, calibrate, or customize equipment performance. Technicians who use the app are not limited by cables connecting equipment to handheld devices, which gives them greater mobility around the equipment. Meanwhile, they can continue to receive and analyze data, which in some apps appears as full description read-outs that are easier to understand than abbreviated scrolling text.
Even parts and service manuals that are online can be downloaded to mobile devices, including laptops, tablets, and phones. In many cases, the online sources are regularly updated to ensure technicians are working with the latest product specifications.
NOTHING REPLACES VISUAL INSPECTION
As effective as these technologies are, helping technicians identify potential problems and diagnose existing problems, they are not a substitute for a walk-around or pre-start inspection. Before climbing into a machine, check operating and emergency controls, safety devices such as outriggers and guardrails, and personal protective equipment. Then, be sure to conduct an inspection that includes checking the hydraulic oils, battery, bearings and brushings, boom cables, and steering mechanism. Check the wear pads and also check for safety decals and placards, making sure all relevant information is available to the operator.
A function test is also important to ensure the AWP or telehandler functions safely and to detect any malfunctions that would prevent the machine from being put into service. Finally, make sure the machine has been regularly inspected, and consult the operations and safety manual for the specific lift to ensure that you know and follow all of its unique requirements.
Regardless of the lift you choose and the technologies it offers, the effectiveness of the machine, in terms of its efficient and safe performance, is only as good as the operator using it and the technician servicing it. Take time to study the machine, understand what makes it work, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operating and maintaining the lift. The end result is reduced downtime, increased jobsite efficiency, a safe operating environment, and extended machine life, all of which contribute to a more profitable bottom line. ■
About the Author: Gary Clark is the customer support manager, national accounts, with JLG Industries, Inc. www.jlg.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, September 2015
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