GBM refurb and checklist

Tech Forum: Preventative Maintenance Tips for Trenchless Equipment

Jason Holden

Every professional understands the value of selecting the right trenchless equipment to perform the job effectively.

We’ve all heard the idiom, “You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” Nobody wants to start a difficult project with a huge disadvantage because they’re not prepared or don’t have enough resources. Project teams spent countless hours reviewing documents, estimating, and scheduling projects with the anticipation of safe, successful, and profitable results. While preventative maintenance of trenchless equipment is a seemingly straightforward concept, it can easily fall by the wayside and quickly derail profitability.

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Properly maintained equipment makes equipment safer, optimizes performance, and boosts operator confidence. Below are some strategies to consider implementing into your preventative maintenance strategy.

1. Conduct a Post-Mortem

Jobsite activity ebbs and flows with personnel performing specific functions to keep the project moving efficiently. Once the project is completed, many contractors shift their attention to the next challenge. Successful contractors ensure that a project wrap-up is conducted to evaluate both successes and pitfalls.

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  • Invite the entire project team to participate in the review. Every employee on a project has roles and responsibilities that contribute to overall success.
  • Focus on areas of improvement, as well as accomplishments. If your team can gain knowledge from every angle, their value will become very significant.
  • Be sure to capture the minor details that can easily be overlooked. Oftentimes, the most efficient crews are led by someone with experience because they performed the “little things” in advance.
  • Create a replenishment list. Now is the time to document everything on the project while it is still fresh on everyone’s mind.

2. Budget for Spare Parts & Maintenance

Downtime in underground construction is costly. Equipment professionals need to ensure that they adequately budget for onsite spare parts and preventative maintenance. In trenchless construction, it is recommended to inventory a minimum of 5 percent of your maintained asset replacement value in spare parts. Specialized trenchless contractors often inventory 10 percent or more in spare parts.

  • Identify common wear parts across your equipment fleet and create an inventory system.
  • Identify equipment assets that are critical to your operation. Equipment integral to your services will benefit from a more comprehensive spare parts inventory.
  • Benchmark and monitor your replacement asset value (RAV). The RAV for trenchless equipment will be specific for your company.
  • Remember the phrase, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Spare parts are like an intermediate jacking station. It’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
conduct a post mortem

Clean and Flush the Trenchless Equipment

Trenchless equipment is exposed to some of the most rigorous operating conditions in utility construction. Drilling fluids can be highly corrosive to steel components and the soil structure may contain contaminants that can be detrimental to the equipment. Cleaning the equipment may appear tedious and arbitrary, but it is often overlooked.

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  • A technician will not be able to properly evaluate the current condition of your equipment.
  • Components exposed to the harsh environment will continue to degrade if not properly stored. Even if the equipment ran great when the project was completed, Mother Nature is still doing her best to form rust, degrade seals, stick valves, and clog tubes.

Update Safety Decals & Paint

As mentioned above, trenchless equipment is exposed to harsh environments. Trenchless equipment is some of the only equipment that is anticipated to ruin the paint job during the first use. Instructional and safety decals also take a beating over time. This is why many equipment manufacturers, such as Akkerman, will provide replacement safety decals for their equipment at no charge.

  • Review equipment manual for decal location and P/N numbers.
  • Consult with manufacturer for equipment paint codes.

Get Onboard with Checklists

If you haven’t already, it is time to get onboard with some form of checklist for your preventative maintenance schedule. The use of checklists is an effective strategy for ensuring accuracy and accountability that tasks are being accomplished. They shouldn’t be viewed as “just more paperwork.”

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  • Consult your equipment’s manual for existing minimum recommendations and continually update with your specific needs.
  • Be specific when identifying the task. Request specific results.
  • Be realistic about the task. Know how the employees perform the work and not how the work is prescribed to them.

Jason Holden is vice president/CRO at Akkerman Inc.

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