Speakers discuss maintenance, technology at Construction Symposium

During the 2004 Construction Symposium, sponsored by ChevronTexaco, experts from the equipment, technology and insurance sectors gave presentations on how you can extend the life of equipment through high-tech maintenance management, and how to lower insurance premiums. Approximately 50 construction industry professionals attended the two-day event.

At a presentation on preventive maintenance and engine oil trends, Gary Parsons, manager of engine oils at ChevronTexaco Global Lubricants, discussed how off-highway motor oil and coolant trends will be affected by new EPA engine emission regulations. By 2010, all distillate fuel has to be reduced to 15 parts per million sulfur, for on- and off-road vehicles and equipment. This raises the issue of lubricity, since sulfur is a lubricating agent. Parsons said the reduction of sulfur will force the industry to come up with some new technology to solve minor problems.

“Once we get the sulfur out I think that will open up some new technologies that we didn’t have in the past,” Parsons told attendees. “So embrace the change.”

During another presentation, Kevin Cunningham, president of Chicago-based Special Risk Services Group, led a discussion on risk management techniques to reduce insurance costs for contractors. Cunningham said liability rates are the highest they’ve been in five years. Construction companies could lower their premiums by paying more attention to their insurance coverage and providing more details about their equipment maintenance and safety programs.

When shopping for insurance, you should know what the hazards are for equipment. The top hazards are fire, collision, overturn, theft, vandalism and boom collapse. “In that order, that’s where the claims are coming from,” Cunningham said.

To reduce the claims costs, he suggested making sure debris is cleared from around equipment, fire extinguishers are placed on all equipment, operators are trained thoroughly and a strong theft prevention program is adopted.

“Your losses drive your (insurance) costs, so your (loss) reductions take out your cost,” Cunningham said.

Conference attendee Thad Pirtle, vice president and equipment manager of Evansville, Ind.-based Traylor Bros, said his company is very aggressive with equipment risk management. Pirtle said he spends time with the company’s insurance broker, bringing him on the jobsite to show how the maintenance and safety programs work and let him see that the company’s equipment is in good condition. Sometimes Pirtle even gives a PowerPoint presentation.

“It really demonstrates to them that we’re above average,” Pirtle said. “It’s a relationship business. We want them to know us and know we prevent losses.”

One way to help prevent losses was discussed at a presentation in which Dudley Fetzer, director of business development for Qualcomm, discussed how wireless technology can help with preventative maintenance. Fetzer says Qualcomm’s system isn’t giving customers information that’s new, but it is more timely and accurate. Qualcomm’s GlobalTRACS program, which is contained in a small black box installed inside construction equipment, collects critical operational data that can help reduce maintenance costs and decrease unauthorized use.

During an equipment lifecycle management presentation, Vito Minneci, an engineer for Caterpillar, talked about the importance of knowing when to perform maintenance and rebuilds. If you do a rebuild before it’s necessary, for example, you lose part of the machine’s lifecycle. If you gamble on a thousand extra hours, on the other hand, and have a failure, you lose money to unexpected downtime and to repairs because you’ve damaged the parts you were going to rebuild.

Manufacturers are now offering high-tech solutions to this problem. Caterpillar’s Site Operations and Maintenance Advisor lets you plug in information such as engine hours, gallons of fuel used, severity of application, maintenance level and oil and fluid monitoring results. After the data is entered, SOMA gives you an optimum range for the life of components. Another Caterpillar product, Equipment Manager, which you access through the websites of the company’s dealers, reports a wide array of information, including when machines are due for preventive maintenance and whether operators are abusing equipment.