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Published 10/27/2009

Most demolition, utility, or general contractors understand that while one hydraulic breaker can handle a given project, another may be needed for a different job. Usually what contractors are most interested to know is how hard a breaker hits — or, more scientifically, how much impact energy it can produce.

A typical breaker spec sheet includes impact rate, working tool diameter, operating specifications, and a weight range of appropriate carriers. But things can get complicated with power output claims that are often just based on estimates.

In 1991, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) developed a testing system that provided an objective standard for comparing hydraulic breaker power output. But today only a handful of companies still publish standardized impact energy ratings. This has left buyers with power specs from different manufacturers that appear to be based on the same measurement scale — foot-pounds — but that are actually like comparing apples and oranges.

In 1966, Krupp Berco Bautechnik produced the first hydraulic breaker series, and other players soon followed. Back then, breaker power output was categorized with a foot-pound number that roughly equated to a model’s service weight. Of course, weight is not a perfect measure, as it makes no distinction between other factors that influence performance. So as more companies produced breakers, they tried to separate themselves from the competition.

Manufacturers introduced breakers claiming to deliver more foot-pounds of impact energy than the unit’s weight in pounds. But measurement methods were unknown and at times it even seemed numbers were arbitrarily derived. Without knowledge of test procedures, neutral parties couldn’t replicate a breaker’s published power rating. Consumers were left to make decisions based on seemingly comparable measurements obtained from differing methods.

Several breaker manufacturers banded together through AEM to form the Mounted Breaker Manufacturers Bureau (MBMB) in 1990. The MBMB set out to establish a standard method for calculating breaker energy output that could be universally applied to all hydraulic breaker brands and sizes, while also providing meaningful data that could be replicated and confirmed.

The MBMB concluded the most appropriate method for rating breakers was measuring the energy created at the breaker’s working tool, to show the power the breaker was making available for actual breaking. The test itself involves test steel fitted with strain gauges that measure the shock waves produced through the tool. Each tested breaker is started and stopped 25 times for an accurate average. The strain gauge shock wave data is then converted into an impact energy rating measured in foot-pounds.

Because breakers use varying levels of hydraulic oil flow and pressure, the procedure requires that the tested pressure be within a small percentage of, and not greater than, the manufacturer’s published specification. The exact test conditions — blow frequency, oil flow, supply-line pressure and return-line pressure — are published alongside the AEM foot-pound rating so the test can be replicated. Tests must be certified by an independent AEM observer.

The AEM test gave the hydraulic breaker industry an accurate basis for comparing power output. But some manufacturers chose not to publish the numbers. Some objected that the test didn’t demonstrate job site performance. This is true, given that the breaker’s carrier, operator, operating conditions and material density are also key factors.

Although this objection is logical, it misses the point. The AEM Tool Energy Rating was not designed to “rank” breakers. It just put everyone on the same power output scale, like a tape measure does for length or a thermometer does for temperature. AEM ratings don’t answer every question, but they do answer one — how hard does the breaker hit?

With several manufacturers abandoning the system, many have reverted to old methods or pure estimates also measured in foot-pounds, recreating the potential for confusion. To make an apples-to-apples comparison, an AEM foot-pound measurement should only be compared to specifically designated AEM Certified Tool Energy Ratings. Even manufacturers who don’t publish their AEM numbers should have test results available upon request.

In a perfect world, a contractor could test-drive every breaker, but this isn’t usually a realistic option. If a contractor can’t observe a breaker firsthand, he must make an educated decision with available information. Whether it’s a power rating or other criteria, it’s vital to ensure the information you have is truthful and accurate. Be diligent and obtain facts to make a solid decision.

Published 2/3/2007

Recyclers of scrap metal have long used lifting magnets and grapples to unload and load scrap, as well as to move it within the yard and feed it to larger processing equipment. Magnets and grapples remain on the job in those capacities at scrap yards, but they have been joined by growing numbers of hydraulic shears (and on demolition sites, shear hybrids) that also process and prepare scrap to increase its value. The shear market has been hot for the last several years, as demolition scrap and other forms of obsolete scrap flow into scrap facilities where yard managers are eager to quickly turn this stream into marketable secondary commodities. 

ON ORDER. 
Equipment dealers who cater to the scrap market say the increasing interest in shear attachments has been clear to see in the past several years. “Scrap shears, both rotating and non-rotating, are very popular,” says Lee Gibson, president of Gibson Machinery LLC, Cleveland. By concentrating his dealership on the scrap and demolition industries, Gibson says he has become a leading dealer for Genesis Attachments, earning a No. 1 ranking from the shear maker in 2004 and No. 2 last year.

During that time, Gibson says rotating shears have gained favor. “Most of our customers buy rotating shears,” he remarks. “I think it’s kind of a necessity for the demolition contractors, and it has become preferred by the scrap contractors. We probably sell about 80 percent rotating shears, because they can be very efficient by saving the operator the need to move the scrap handler or excavator as much.” Brad Hutchinson, co-owner of Stanley LaBounty dealer Company Wrench, Carroll, Ohio, sees a similar pattern with his customers. “Most of the demolition contractors are looking for rotating shears, and using nonrotating models only if they are doing some straight scrap processing on the job site.” 

Allied-Gator Inc., a Youngstown-Ohio based maker of shears and processing attachments, also offers its attachments with 360-degree rotation to appeal to its demolition contractor and scrap recycling customer base. Hutchinson says the past two years have been critical in the growth of hydraulic attachments sales because smaller contractors and processors are starting to use the tools. “Although the large contractors have been using them for years, believe it or not a lot of smaller demo contractors are just now starting to use these types of tools,” he remarks. “Some of them had been using a wrecking ball up until the past 24 months or so.” 

The growth in popularity of shears and shear hybrids (variously known as multi-processors, multi-tools, concrete pulverizers or by other terms, depending on the brand) combined with an overheated scrap market has helped spur sales and, in some cases, created back order situations for the devices. As one of Stanley LaBounty’s largest dealers, Company Wrench is carrying more than a dozen models in inventory and has others on order. But from what Hutchinson hears, when he goes to replace those he can expect to wait four months or so to take delivery on future shears and pulverizers. 

HARD WORK. 
A loyal Gibson Machinery customer this decade has been Cleveland Scrap. The company was started by the Youngman family, owners of nonferrous processor Lakeside Metals, also in Cleveland. The new Cleveland Scrap location has been set up to process ferrous scrap at a different site that would not displace any of Lakeside’s traditional nonferrous activities. According to Cleveland Scrap President Jake Youngman, the company has enjoyed healthy flows of incoming ferrous metal since starting the business, but has retained the processing methods it set up initially. 

“We’ve been running mobile shears on hydraulic scrap handlers for about two-and-a-half years,” says Youngman. However, the number of scrap handlers and the number of shears the company operates has grown steadily. As it is now set up, Cleveland Scrap has an impressive fleet of hydraulic handlers deployed throughout its eight acres of land. “The loads come in from, say, a demolition site and are taken to one of eight cutting stations, where we have scrap handling machines outfitted with one of several types of shears,” says Youngman. Included in the shear collection are Genesis and LaBounty shears and two rebar shears, also made by Genesis. 

For now, Cleveland Scrap conducts all of its processing without any pieces of large shearing or baling equipment. It is possible that the company may choose to make such an investment in the future, Youngman concedes, but he also says, “We’re pretty happy with our arrangement right now.” Allied-Gator Inc. learned how one of its new devices performed at a recent Allied Erecting & Dismantling Co. Inc. demolition job at former steel mills in northwest Indiana, where obsolete equipment made of cast iron had to be downsized and prepared for shipment to a consumer. 

The contracting firm used an Allied-Gator MTR70 mounted on a Caterpillar machine to help recover and prepare some 63 tons of cast iron, including 25 tons that had once been a generator used to power a steam system. Allied Erecting & Dismantling machine operator Keith Finch says he was able to break apart the generator and separate the cast iron from the copper in just one half-hour using the automated equipment. 

MORE TO DO. 
With scrap markets remaining healthy and demolition contractors convinced that shears and shear-like devices are worth the investment, the boom in hydraulic attachments may still be underway. 

In mid-March, Hutchinson helped deliver a universal processor to a demolition contractor in Hawaii who is taking down buildings to make way for the future Trump Tower Waikiki. 

While a quick trip to Hawaii may not be the worst inconvenience a person can suffer, it shows to what lengths (and distances) attachment companies and their dealers will go to serve their growing customer base.

Published 2/1/2011

Published on Construction Equipment (http://www.constructionequipment.com) 

By Rod Sutton, Editorial Director Tue, 2011-02-01

 
The prolonged downturn has forced the nation into an economic reset as
government, businesses and citizens adjust to what many are calling the
new financial realities. The construction industry has struggled even more
with these new realities. Organizations are emphasizing the financial
management of their equipment assets, and equipment executives find
themselves with more responsibility for and involvement in tasks that

directly affect the bottom line.

This is not a recent development, although the recession has clarified and

intensified it. Equipment management has been moving in this direction
for nearly 15 years. The new realities of asset management, however, are

forcing a management reset for fleets and managers. 

Mike Vorster, who consults in the area of fleet management and organizational development, has defined the scope of equipment management as a hexagon, divided into six triangles with each denoting an area of responsibility. The six: acquisition and disposal; compliance and risk management; production interface and logistics; field maintenance operations; shop and yard operations; and fleet and asset management. These six areas must be “competently performed,” Vorster says in his book, “Construction Equipment Economics.”

“Equipment management is a complex and difficult task that affects almost every aspect of a company’s operations,” he writes. “The skills required vary from those of the master mechanic to finance, accounting and organizational behavior.” Vorster has been performing, researching or teaching equipment management for 50 years and says these tasks aren’t new. What has shifted is the emphasis and responsibility. Fleet and asset management has become more important, and organizations have put that responsibility on the equipment executive. 

The economic downturn has intensified that focus, according to Stan Orr, CAE, executive director of the Association of Equipment Management Professionals. “Asset managers are increasingly relied on by ownership to help them make their purchasing, disposal, maintenance-management decisions for the biggest asset that a company owner has,” he says. 

Equipment managers are moving into the board room, too, providing input into the decisions that guide the organization as well as the fleet. Thad Pirtle, vice president and equipment manager for Traylor Bros., has a seat at the management table, contributing to the decisions made by this multinational construction company. 

Pirtle is also unique in that he is one of the rare breed who reached the pinnacle after starting as a mechanic more than 35 years ago. He credits his development to early management training and his experiences as he assumed more responsibilities as positions opened up within Traylor. Today, Pirtle travels the world overseeing Traylor’s fleet. 

Management shift 
This model of management evolution will not serve much longer as today’s managers retire. The shift is on from a maintenance and machine focus to a financial and asset focus. The equipment division is more a business unit than a collection of shops and yards. 

“Now there are more folks demanding more out of the position,” says Greg Kittle, CEM, vice president of corporate purchasing at William Charles. “They’re asking those folks to participate in financial matters and balance sheet issues, and all those sorts of things they weren’t involved in before. You see some larger companies pulling talent from other areas than what the traditional path for equipment manager was. Now, a lot of these folks are finance majors or [degreed] professionals.” 

Andy Agoos, who co-teaches with Vorster in the Construction Equipment Management Program, agrees. “He’s a different guy,” he says. “He’s computer literate, he excels in Excel. There’s a lot more information that he has to collect. You have huge amounts of data to digest and manage. He spends more time doing analysis than deciding what oil to buy.” 

Compliance and risk management have “become huge,” Agoos says, but each of the six functions has become more complicated over the past 15 years. Agoos has managed some of the nation’s largest fleets, and most recently managed fleet assets for Neff Rental before retiring in 2009. Emissions compliance is the most obvious task assigned to equipment managers, but safety and safety regulation also have expanded their responsibilities. 

“When you have millions of dollars of equipment that are your primary asset, [owners] are becoming more and more aware of things that they need to stay up on,” Orr says. “They are relying more on the equipment professional to get things done and to know these things. The equipment manager may not know chapter and verse on environmental issues, but they’re trained to know who to call. 

“It all boils down to everything being so bottom-line, profit driven [that] you have to have a professional managing your fleet. The bottom line: There is more managing the risk.” 

Agoos agrees. “Everyday, today’s equipment manager has to document new things or change something for the sake of compliance. It’s added hours, maybe a 10-percent increase over the past seven years or so. Today, the equipment manager is an administrator. He’s probably 25 percent administration now compared to 5 percent.” 

Emissions regulation and compliance has become the biggest contributor to this increase in responsibility. Agoos calls it “massive, bigger than we think.” 

Orr calls it “a hornet’s nest. It’s too much for an owner to have to take on. He needs somebody who’s guiding that and keeping up with the latest regulations.” 

The equipment profession is at a pivotal point. Owners recognize their need, and the equipment manager is in the position to meet it. Development and attainment of the skills and organization of the department are the challenge facing managers today. 

The new breed of manager will require excellent communication and interpersonal skills. “You’re a salesperson to a certain extent,” Pirtle says. “You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t get them communicated in a fashion that accomplishes what your goals are, then it’s all for naught.” 
Kittle defines it as a need for marketing skills. 

“One of the things that is important to being successful is your relationships with your suppliers,” he says. “You’re continuously marketing your company to everyone. How you present your company is really important. Why is it important for that manufacturer or dealer to want to do business with you? There’s more to a relationship than a financial transaction.” 

Equipment and the team that keeps it functioning is a cost because it’s a support organization, Vorster says. Equipment managers will succeed only “through their service and influence and not their ability to make money,” he says. “That makes the interpersonal communication skills terribly important.” 

Yet the mechanical side of fleet management cannot be ignored or even de-emphasized. And communication with the technical side of the hexagon is as important a challenge, Vorster says. 

“Managers have to be able to interface with the folks whose lives revolve around the wrenches and the oil and the grease,” he says. “Then they have to have the skills so they can interface with the folks whose lives revolve around capital and procurement.” 

These skills help define the organizational structure, and as the triangles within the hexagon continue to grow in importance, the function will eventually outgrow the ability for one person to perform all the tasks at levels expected by owners.

“One person doesn’t do everything,” Vorster says. “I think there are certain skills that occur in people together; it’s very seldom that you find high levels of mechanical skills occurring with high levels of finance and accounting skills. 

“You can go to the very best and most respected of our equipment management professionals, and they’ll all be missing some piece,” he says. Many organizations split up the financial and mechanical functions, with the equipment manager handling one and a deputy responsible for the other. 

“Public companies are more apt to have it split up because they have more detail in decision-making processes,” Pirtle says. “In a privately owned company, you have the owners and they make the decision. ‘We’re going to buy the iron, go do it.’ In the public companies, it has to go through a process of review and authorization.” 

Managing the financial component is critical and primary, Kittle says. “The structure I’ve employed before would be to have someone who concentrates on the financial aspects of the fleet,” he says. “Then employ a fleet-maintenance manager and perhaps a reliability manager that provides the technical, on-the-ground technical skill sets that you need to execute your work day to day.” 

The financial side will drive the profession from here on. 

“The business acumen is going to challenge what we think of as the equipment manager,” Orr says. “It’s a double-edged sword. As the profession has grown in stature and evolved, the companies who want to get the best are going to require and demand the very best. They’re going to start writing job descriptions that say you have to have an MBA and years of experience, like any emerging profession. 

“In 10 years, he’s going to look significantly different from what he does now,” he says. “We’re not far away from degreed programs in asset management.” 

As equipment professionals become more involved in asset management, organizations must determine how best to manage other important fleet-management functions.

Published 6/17/2011 — Written by Chris Sleight

Visitors to construction equipment exhibitions like Samoter, Smopyc and
ConExpo earlier this year would have seen the first in a new range of 
excavators from many of the sector’s leading players. These have been 
launched in response to the new US Interim Tier 4 regulations on exhaust 
emissions, and the equivalent European legislation, Stage IIIB.

The key change from the previous laws (Tier 3/Stage IIIA) is that manuf-
acturers have had to make a massive cut in the amount of particulate 
matter (PM) emissions – the visible black soot that comes out of a 
machine’s exhaust pipe. To achieve this, manufacturers have added 
to emissions reductions systems they already had in place, with after-
treatment modules into the exhaust system – devices like diesel 
particulate filters (DPFs) that physically trap and burn-off the soot.

But the on-board technology is only part of the story. In order to work 
properly, engines must be fuelled with ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD), which means around 15 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur or less. The amount of PM formed is directly linked to the fuel’s sulphur content, and if anything other than USLD is used in a Stage IIIB/ Interim Tier 4 engine, it will clog the filter, leading to an increase in backpressure on the engine and causing it to break down.

Unfortunately, ULSD is not widely available for off-highway vehicles outside the US and Europe, and this means that, even if they wanted to use low emission machines, contractors and rental companies outside these regions would be ill-advised to buy an Interim Tier 4/Stage IIIB excavator.

At the moment, the legislation only affects larger machines. The first wave of laws that came into force at the start of the year applied to 130 kW to 560 kW engines, which translates to excavators from about 25 to 100 tonnes operating weight. However, subsequent introductions over the next two years will see engines as small as 37 kW affected, which will cover anything larger than about a 5 tonne mini excavator.

Two markets
One of the effects of these laws is that they have divided the global excavator market in two, with highly regulated markets like Europe, Japan and the US requiring machines with low emission engines, and the rest of the world requiring less exacting technology. In fact some manufacturers say there are three markets – the highly regulated countries, the lesser regulated countries (including China) and the countries with no emission laws at all.

A question that no-one is prepared to answer at the moment is what happens to Interim Tier 4/Stage IIIB machines when they are sold by their original owners after a few years. The used equipment market is an international one, particularly when it comes to popular machines like excavators. So will it affect a machine’s residual value if it cannot be sold from Europe, Japan or the US to a less regulated country, because it will break down due to poorer fuel? Some manufacturers say they have a technical solution to ‘de-tier’ engines and remove these sensitive aftertreatment systems, but that it is not clear how this would fit in with legislation around the world. For example, if an engine were de-tiered for a lesser regulated market, would it then have to go through a costly re-certification procedure to prove it met the standards in this new country?

Chris Rees, president of European operations at Volvo Construction Equipment said, “We have a technical solution, because we realize Stage IIIB machines could be sold outside Europe. Now we need a legislative solution to find agreement with European authorities and the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] in the US to de-tier machines. It’s a work in progress.”

With Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 machines only just coming onto the market, this problem is a few years away. However, it is something to consider for buyers in Europe, Japan and the US if they have traditionally sold their used excavators outside those regions.

But in terms of new machines, manufacturers have been forced into the position of building at least two different models of each machine for different markets around the world. According to Off-Highway Research, 195375 crawler excavators were sold in the major markets of China, Europe, India, Japan and the US last year – 75% of them in China.

What’s more, with 11450 excavators sold in India, this market edged ahead of the US as the world’s third biggest market, and looks poised to take the no. 2 spot from Japan over the next year or two. Brazilian trade association Sobratema meanwhile said some 5500 excavators were sold in the country last year, making it probably the world’s fifth largest excavator market, below the US, but well ahead of Germany.
This all goes to show the importance of the various developing markets around the world. It also explains why manufacturers are putting in such effort to target these countries with machines that are designed for their specific needs. One of the more interesting approaches is from Volvo. The Swedish manufacturer has a majority stake in Chinese manufacturer Lingong, which produces excavators and other machines under the SDLG brand.

Speaking at last year’s Bauma China exhibition, the then-president & CEO of Volvo Construction Equipment, Olof Persson, said the company will use machines manufactured by Lingong to appeal to what it describes as the “mass market”. “We have set a strategic target to be number one, two or three in the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries. If you look at revenues, the BRIC countries account for about half of what we achieved this year.” 

“Volvo is a premium international brand and SDLG is a strong Chinese brand for the mass customer market. This is not a contradiction. It is a logical way to address a very large market with different customer needs. The dual brand gives us a unique opportunity,” said Mr Persson.

New machines
But despite the importance of emerging markets, most major manufacturers are putting a strong emphasis on the new Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 machines they need to introduce in the US and Europe to stay in the game. These were certainly the major launches at the various industry exhibitions in these territories in the first quarter of the year. Caterpillar has been perhaps the most ambitious in its new launches, with its stand at the ConExpo featuring six new tracked excavators. Caterpillar hydraulic excavator product and application specialist Kent Pellegrini described it as, “One of the most comprehensive excavator launches for Europe and North America in Caterpillar history.” 

The new equipment on display included a pre-production version of the 16 tonne class 316E, the 20 tonne 320E, the 36 tonne 336E, the 50 tonne class 349E, the 74 tonne 374D and the 90 tonne 390E, which will replace the 385D. The new, more efficient Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 engines have been combined with higher pressure hydraulics and a regeneration valve on the boom hydraulics to increase both performance and fuel efficiency. The 336E for example is said to burn -6% less fuel than its predecessor. 

Volvo’s first Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 machines are the EC380D and EC480D, which between them cover the 38 to 50 tonne classes. Features include an automatic idling system that cuts engine revs to save fuel and reduce noise when the machine’s controls aren’t being used. There are also five different work modes – idle, fine, heavy, general and power-max – and the ability to customize the machines’ performance for up to 18 different attachments. Volvo describes both the undercarriage and booms on the machines as “heavy duty”, and there is also a boom float option, which lowers the boom by gravity, freeing up hydraulic flow for other functions.

Komatsu meanwhile used ConExpo to take the wraps off the PC240LC-10, a 25 tonne machine, and the company’s first Interim Tier 4/Stage IIIB machine. Operators will notice the new high resolution 7 in (178 mm) display, which is used to select one of five working modes, as well as provide information on operating parameters. The monitor can also display features from the rear-view camera, which is a standard piece of equipment. Komatsu also highlights the machine’s new load sensing hydraulic system, which it says has taken hydraulic efficiency to a new level. This is based on a new system called variable speed matching, which adjusts the engine speed based on the loads from the hydraulic system. Komatsu says that this, combined with other improvements, reduces losses in the hydraulic system, makes for better efficiency and lowers fuel consumption. 

Case’s first Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 excavator offering comprises four machines, the CX250C, CX300C, CX350C and CX370C, which cover the 25 to 37 tonne weight classes. Case says the new engines make the C series machines as much as +10% more fuel efficient than the B series they replace, while the company’s intelligent hydraulic system has improved performance. This hydraulics system has various energy saving features, including an engine idle function, which cuts revs when the boom is not in use. However, Case has also increased performance, with the C series offering +5% faster cycle times than the previous generation and about +7% more lifting capacity, depending on the model.

A new cab, +5% larger than on the B-series is a feature many operators will appreciate, as is the new 7” (178 mm) in-cab LCD display. Case’s excavator partner is Sumitomo, based in Japan. In the US Sumitomo excavators are sold under the Link-Belt brand, and unsurprisingly, similar enhancements to Case’s are apparent in the company’s new X3 series of excavators. 

Launched at ConExpo, the 250 X3, 300 X3 and 350 X3 from Link-Belt cover the 25 to 37 tonne classes, and feature the same improvements in operator comfort, performance and fuel efficiency as Case’s machines. Link-Belt says it will also be adding a 47 tonne class model this year as well as a variant of the 250 X3 with a longer boom and stick package. Parent company Sumitomo meanwhile is investing in its Chinese excavator plant. This year will see its factory in Tangshan, Hebei province increase in capacity from 3000 units per year to 5000, and a 36 tonne machine will be added to the company’s current 20 and 24 tonne excavator offering in China.

Meanwhile, Case’s sister company within the CNH group, New Holland, has unveiled the first of two Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 excavators in its C series. Unlike most other excavators, new Holland is using a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system to reduce emissions. 

This relies on a high combustion temperature in the engine to limit the formation of PM, and the SCR handles the high levels of nitrous oxide (NOx) – the other main pollutant covered by emissions legislation – that is created as a result of this hot combustion. The downside to this technology is that it works by injecting a stream of urea into the exhaust gasses, which means another fluid for excavator operators to monitor and keep topped-up. However, many manufacturers will have to move to this system to meet the forthcoming Stage IV/Tier 4 final legislation, so it is something the industry will have to get used to. 

New Holland’s new machines are the 27.9 tonne E265C and 31.6 tonne E305C. The company says a complete re-design of the hydraulic system, encompassing the main pumps, spool, solenoid and return valves, has significantly increased the machines’ controllability and hydraulic efficiency. The cab meanwhile features a new color monitor and more responsive joysticks than on the previous model. The vibration experienced by the operator has also been reduced thanks to new dampers. These machines are marketed under the Kobelco brand in the US.

John Deere’s first Interim Tier 4 excavators are the 250G, 290G and 350G, spanning the 25 to 35 tonne weight classes. “We’ve increased power and hydraulic flow while also adding the IT4 engine,” said Mark Wall, John Deere’s excavator product marketing manager. “The end result is +8% more productivity for our customers.” The new G-Series also retains a number of key features from the previous D-Series, such as the Powerwise III management system that balances engine and hydraulic performance. The next models to be launched in the range will be the larger 470G, 670G and 870G, from 47 to 87 tonnes.

More to come

Like John Deere, all of the manufacturers in the excavator sector will be rolling out additional models over the coming months to meet the new emissions laws in Europe and the US. As these machines come out, it will be crucial that manufacturers and law makers find a way of addressing the issues that will arise if these excavators are sold as used equipment to regions where ULSD is not available. Once used Stage IIIB/Interim Tier 4 excavators start going up for sale, there are going to be plenty of buyers in developing countries that will need to ‘de-tier’ them.

Published 6/6/2007 

All hydraulic breakers, regardless of design or manufacturer, have the task 
of shattering, cracking or splitting material. The assignment isn’t exactly 
gentle on the equipment. Wear and tear is an outright certainty, so 
maintaining the breaker is vital to keeping it running at peak efficiency.

Little can be done to prevent a breaker from eventually meeting its demise 
years down the road. But the life cycle and performance of a given unit 
can be greatly enhanced through proper maintenance, which can be 
viewed from three separate perspectives: routine maintenance by the 
contractor, periodic rebuilds by the manufacturer and preventative 
maintenance features within the breaker itself.

The Routine Stuff 
When talking about routine breaker maintenance, it would be irresponsible to do so without mentioning lubrication. Without lubrication, metal-to-metal contact between the breaker’s tool and bushing would cause the bushing to wear out quickly, subsequently exposing the breaker’s major components to serious damage. Although it’s highly unlikely that a contractor would ever completely forget about lubrication, a few key points on proper greasing are worth discussion.

The lubrication process begins by applying down pressure on the tool to ensure that it is pushed all the way into the breaker, eliminating the possibility of grease filling into a chamber between the piston and the top of the tool. Lubricant should be applied until it comes out of the lower bushing area, which indicates that the breaker cavity is full and ready to go to work. A paste or grease film should always appear on the tool at the lower bushing while the breaker is operational. The absence of grease is a good visual indication that it’s time to apply more lubricant.

Several breaker manufacturers offer their own chisel paste or other lubricant designed specifically for breakers. Standard grease is inferior to specially designed chisel pastes because the heat and pressure from the working tool will cause the grease to melt and run, which increases the frequency of lubrication applications. Although the cost for a tube of chisel paste or special shank grease is higher than the price of regular grease, manual lubrication with paste is only required once every two hours on average, compared with one hour or less intervals using standard grease.

Having the operator stop work to apply grease twice as often can cost a contractor far more in downtime than can be saved using the cheaper lubricant. Additionally, using cheap grease may save nickels and dimes in the short term but could eventually add up to thousands of dollars in tool steel replacement costs.

Even with the very best lubrication techniques, the bushing will wear out and need to be replaced at some point. Measuring the bushing diameter to see how much it has worn often requires that the tool be removed. A simple measurement trick that can be performed without disassembly is to take a 3/16-inch drill bit and try to slide it between the tool and bushing. Typically, at most about 1/4-inch of space is the allowed wear limit, so if the drill bit fits between the tool and the bushing, the tool should be taken out so the bushing can be properly measured to see if it has reached the designated wear specification.

While most understand the importance of lubrication and wear items, not all contractors may be aware that many hydraulic breakers feature a nitrogen gas assist that should also be maintained in the field as necessary. Expansion and contraction due to heating and cooling will lower the gas pressure in the breaker’s piston accumulator, much like the way that car tires will gradually lose air.

Unlike frequent greasing, gas pressure checks don’t need to be done on a daily basis. And unlike car tires, there’s nothing visual to suggest when the pressure should be checked. Instead, simply monitor the breaker’s performance. If there is a noticeable drop in the breaker’s power output, it could be an indication of low gas pressure. Manufacturers recommend using a special kit and following the operator’s manual while performing this check.

Guidelines pertaining to operation may not immediately be thought of as maintenance-related, but they are just as critical as lubrication to the physical condition of the breaker. A breaker that is lubricated properly but operated incorrectly could suffer the exact same wear and tear on the bushings and tool as if there had been no lubrication at all.

One specific aspect of proper operation involves the hydraulic flow going from a carrier to the breaker. Although machine specifications may indicate a good match, a carrier should be tested at least once a year — more often in heavy-duty applications — to ensure that it is delivering the correct fluid levels to the breaker. Unfortunately, many contractors fail to have their carriers tested, either due to a lack of awareness or to avoid the expense. It’s important to realize that flow problems can pose just as much risk of damage to an excavator or other carrier as they would to the breaker. Improper machine setup is a problem from which no breaker can hide.

Just Like New 
Although often classified as an attachment, a hydraulic breaker is a specialized piece of machinery. Like most products, many maintenance and operation issues can be handled correctly in the field. But even with proper care, a hydraulic breaker will require a periodic overhaul to replace all of its wear components.
The terminology for such a job varies. Rebuild, refurbishment and recondition are a few of the phrases out there. There is no set timetable for a breaker rebuild, as it largely depends on the application and size of the breaker. The type of repair that is actually done will differ as well, depending on who is doing the repair and on customer preferences.

Common practice with a recondition is to replace every single wear item on a breaker, as well as to perform a complete and thorough inspection of the unit. Bushings, tools and retainer bars are replaced, while the piston, cylinder and pressure accumulator are inspected. The repair work is usually topped off with a paint job.

Occasionally a breaker that hasn’t been heavily used will be brought in for a recondition. Such a machine may not have experienced much wear and tear, so the customer may be given the option of replacing some parts while trying to get more life out of others.

A more frequent occurrence is for a breaker to have certain wear items that only have a few months of use left in them. The customer still has the option of leaving these parts in, but doing so would mean a return trip to replace the parts just weeks or months later once they have run their course. In addition to being more convenient, another upside of immediately replacing all the items is that the manufacturer may offer a renewed warranty since the breaker has essentially been refurbished up to near-new condition. The same guarantees may not apply if some parts are not replaced and something goes wrong before the next repair.

It’s generally recommended to take a breaker to the manufacturer, distributor or another qualified professional for a rebuild or recondition. However, many hydraulic breakers, especially the smaller varieties, are designed so that they can be more easily maintained. Therefore, end users with the appropriate training or experience can certainly take on the task of refurbishing their own breaker.

Automatic Maintenance 
For the most part, contractors aren’t going to rebuild a breaker on their own because of the enjoyment they get from it. Usually it’s done as a cost-cutting measure. By the same token, having a breaker that can handle some aspects of maintenance on its own can create a more profitable situation.

“Automatic” is a big-time buzzword for today’s equipment. Anything the equipment can do by itself to take another task out of the operator’s hands should minimize downtime and increase overall productivity. Incorporating a number of automatic technological features, hydraulic breakers are no different.

Not surprisingly, nearly every breaker manufacturer has some technique for automatic lubrication. Different methods are employed on various breaker sizes and brands. A number of systems utilize a hose that runs from the carrier to apply consistent lubrication to the breaker. Some manufacturers produce breakers that come standard with a lubrication cartridge mounted directly onto the breaker itself. With this system, literally all that is required of the operator is to change the tube when it’s empty. Even with the “automatic” lubrication system the operator still needs to periodically check for grease film on the tool to ensure the system is operational and properly adjusted.

More lubrication than normal is needed for particularly dusty applications. Some breakers feature an optional system to protect the breaker from dust penetration by providing an additional seal that prevents debris from entering the unit. This system also keeps chisel paste where it belongs to allow the breaker to run longer without risking wear and tear from a lack of chisel paste.

Another feature that assists in preventing potentially serious harm to a breaker is a power management system. Found on some larger breakers, this system is a tremendous preventative maintenance asset in jobs where lighter material is being broken. Rather than unleashing a full-power blow, a breaker equipped with power management can limit itself to 50-percent power until it hits against hard material that dictates a need for full impact energy. If full power is used in light material, the breaker’s working tool will literally fire out through the material, and only a metal-to-metal stop against the breaker’s retainer bars will keep the breaker intact. Obviously, such a situation would cause unnecessary strain on the machine without power management in place to intervene.

Conversely, in applications where extremely hard material must be broken, damaging shock waves can be reflected from the material into the breaker’s tool and piston. One unique system allows this rebounded energy to be collected in a high-pressure accumulator, which effectively protects the internal components from the shock waves. As an added bonus, the breaker can then deliver the accumulated energy in the next blow.

Treat It Right 
Breakers are charged with the unforgiving task of pounding apart hard material without falling apart themselves. Some contractors take the approach of using a breaker when they need it and throwing it to the side when they don’t because “it’s just a hammer.” In actuality, hydraulic breakers are specialized machines that require maintenance just like any backhoe, carrier or other piece of machinery on the job site. Through new design and technology, manufacturers have simplified breaker maintenance to make it a user-friendly task. Give a breaker the time and attention it deserves, and it will return the favor with productive and impressive results.

Published 10/1/2006 

Considering all the tough jobs that mounted hydraulic breakers can take 
on, it’s no wonder why these powerful tools are so popular. Chores range 
from demolishing buildings, to removing cracked sidewalks; from 
trenching in rock, to breaking frozen ground for utility repairs; and from 
secondary reduction of blasted material in quarries, to selectively 
uncovering pockets of ore in large mines.

Unofficial estimates place North America’s current annual mounted-breaker 
market between 10,000 and 15,000 units — a market shared by a multitude 
of brand names. Many of the familiar names, however, are the result of 
private-labeling agreements in which, for example, an excavator or 
skid-steer-loader manufacturer places its own brand on products 
purchased from a breaker manufacturer.

Peter Bigwood, president of Atlas Copco Construction Tools, sees smaller breakers as becoming increasingly private-label commodities. And in North America, he says, smaller breakers also are beginning to supplant hand-held tools, but not yet to the extent that this trend has taken hold in Europe and Asia.

Other trends Bigwood observes include the expanded use of quieter breaker models, especially for reclaiming demolition debris on site; the use of larger models in quarries as the use of explosives becomes more regulated; and, overall, a move toward breaker designs aimed at protecting these tools from on-site hazards, including the inexperienced operator.
Basic design considerations

Mounted hydraulic breakers reflect two basic exterior designs — “side-plate” and “boxed” — the latter sometimes also identified as “enclosed” or “full-cradle.” The side-plate design essentially uses two slabs of steel that typically are secured to the sides of the breaker with threaded fasteners, an arrangement that usually leaves the front and back of the breaker open.

According to Al Springer, national sales manager for Allied Construction Products, advantages for side-plate breakers include a simpler, often-less-expensive design, cooler operation and reduced operating weight. On the minus side, says Springer, these breakers are louder (than their boxed counterparts), side bolts can loosen or break, and the plates do not afford as much protection as do boxed designs.

Boxed breakers use an outer housing that completely surrounds the breaker mechanism, which normally is positioned in the housing with blocks of resilient material that buffer the breaker from the housing and create a shock-absorbing barrier at the top, where the breaker mounts to the carrier. Advantages for the boxed design, says Springer, include more protection from jobsite debris, quieter operation, reduction of shock and vibration transmitted to the carrier (thanks to the resilient upper mounting), and no problems with plate-mounting bolts.

Powering the piston

Mounted hydraulic breakers also can be classified by the principal means they use to “fire” (force down) the piston, which strikes the breaker’s working tool that actually engages the material to be broken. In today’s market, you’ll find three basic piston-firing systems: nitrogen-gas only, hydraulic-oil only, and a combination of nitrogen gas and hydraulic oil. All three designs, however, use hydraulic oil from the carrier to raise the piston to its firing position.

As the piston in a nitrogen-fired breaker is forced upward, it compresses the gas charge above it. When hydraulic pressure below the piston is released, the compressed nitrogen forces the piston down. A major advantage of the gas-only breaker, says Chuck Stevens, senior vice president of sales for NPK, is the capacity of the nitrogen charge “to keep up with the velocity of the piston.” According to Stevens, the gas-only design is simple, easy to service, and requires little maintenance, other than periodically checking the nitrogen charge.

Oil-fired breakers, on the other hand, rely principally on pressurized hydraulic oil from the carrier to force down the piston. This design, however, typically also employs an enclosed nitrogen charge that serves as a shock absorber for the hydraulics, according to Tom Pinchuk, attachments marketing manager for Ingersoll Rand. This “energy chamber,” as Ingersoll Rand calls the area containing the nitrogen charge, accepts oil displaced from the top of the piston as it moves upward to its firing position.

When the piston fires, pressurized oil from the carrier forces the piston down. Near the end of its stroke, however, the piston is moving so fast that flow from the carrier may not keep pace. To avoid cavitation, the energy chamber releases additional oil to supplement flow from the carrier. According to Pinchuk, since the “fully hydraulic” breaker does not principally nor directly rely on compressed nitrogen gas to generate blow energy, the breaker strikes with constant maximum force, regardless of nitrogen pressure.

The oil/gas-combination breaker uses both nitrogen and hydraulic oil as principal firing means. Nitrogen in a sealed chamber at the top of the piston is compressed as the piston is lifted. When the compressed nitrogen fires and forces the piston down, the nitrogen’s effort is assisted by the carrier’s pressurized hydraulic oil, which typically is forced into an annular space around the piston and adds energy to the descending piston. Some combination breakers can derive as much as 75 percent of their piston-firing power from the nitrogen charge.

Allied’s Springer brings a sense of perspective to the various designs:

“Manufacturers frequently are asked what breaker design is best,” says Springer. “We as manufacturers have our biases, of course, but all three designs have plus and minus points. All three are good, or they wouldn’t persist in the marketplace.”

Technology enhancements

Among the most potentially damaging events in a breaker’s life is “blank firing,” that is, when the piston slams down to the bottom of its stroke without contacting the tool, thus forcing the breaker to absorb tremendous energy. To lessen the effect of blank firing, some breaker designs incorporate a hydraulic cushion at the end of the piston’s stroke. Other designs prevent the breaker from firing if insufficient resistance (or preload) is sensed at the working surface.

Yet other designs, such as that reflected in the Allied Rammer m-Series and in certain larger Atlas Copco models, allow the breaker, in the hands of an experienced operator, to be adjusted to suit the application. The breaker can be made either to shut off automatically when preload diminishes to an undesirable degree or, conversely, to begin operating with no preload to facilitate working in difficult horizontal or overhead positions.

A number of today’s breakers also feature the capability to automatically adjust the ratio of impact energy to impact rate to suit the material being broken. Breakers typically are more efficient in hard materials, for example, when working at maximum blow energy, but at reduced blow frequency. In softer materials, reversing this ratio normally results in the greatest efficiency. The potential benefits of being able to adjust these parameters, says Ingersoll Rand’s Pinchuk, include improved production, reduced fuel consumption and less carrier wear.

To complement the piston’s percussive force when working in particularly tough material, some larger breakers can recover recoil energy by using it to force hydraulic oil into an accumulator, which then adds the force of this oil to the next blow. Some manufacturers claim energy boosts of up to 25 percent.

Jobsite conditions that can quickly shorten breaker life are insufficient lubrication of the working tool and abrasive dust that works its way into the lower portion of the breaker. Thus, more breaker models are being fitted with automatic lubrication systems. And for breakers at work in extremely dusty and abrasive applications, a sealing system (usually an option) often can be installed at the tool/housing interface to prevent intrusion of damaging debris.

Also high on the list of technical advances is easier maintenance and overhaul. Increasingly, more breakers are being designed to allow easier changes of the lower bushing and working-tool — sometimes even in the field and without removing the breaker from the carrier. And in a growing number of instances, easier routine maintenance is complemented by new designs that require far less time to overhaul, compared to predecessor models.

And in all of this, as Tom Pinchuk reminds us, advances in metallurgy also have greatly enhanced the overall performance and durability of the mounted hydraulic breaker.

Published 06/11/2007

Rock has literally been around forever. Breaking rock is still a work in 
progress, but the evolution of breaker technology over the years has 
made the task considerably easier. New and improved features of 
hydraulic breaker attachments have even allowed some breakers to 
work in applications where they otherwise could not. These features 
directly influence performance and can also have a tremendous 
impact on the longevity of a breaker.

The different environments in which breakers must work present a 
variety of challenges, almost all of which can be overcome with the 
right technology. Noise level regulations and the density of the 
material to be broken are just two of many potential issues. While 
almost any breaker on the market can accomplish the basic task 
of breaking material, not every breaker will have the same service life or perform up to the requirements of a specific job.

Advances in technology have fundamentally set some breakers apart from the rest. The latest available features not only contribute to more efficient production on the job site, but they could also mean the difference between accomplishing the desired result and literally destroying the breaker itself. With so much at stake in demanding breaking applications, it is essential to consider the available technology that today’s breakers have to offer.

Easy on the Ears 
Breakers are used in many different locations and applications, and therefore varying features of a breaker will be more or less important depending on the site. In many situations, the noise level of the breaker is a major concern. It isn’t hard to imagine the noise generated by the constant hammering of a breaker against rock, concrete or any other hard material. There is no mute button to press when it comes to breaking. However, many breakers do have sound suppression systems that will lower sound emissions.

The design of the breaker housing will significantly affect noise output. For example, a box completely wrapped around the breaker’s percussion mechanism will essentially act as a muffler. Since openings must remain in the box for maintenance purposes, noise can be reduced further by adding rubber plugs or covers to these openings to seal off sound coming from inside. Other available features are polyurethane wear components, which prevent metal-to-metal contact between the breaker’s power cell and box, greatly reducing the vibrations inside the breaker.

When a large breaker is hammering away at rock, perhaps, in a quarry miles from civilization, the noise level may not always matter. But breaking applications also often occur in public places, such as near schools and hospitals. In these situations there may be restrictions on when the work can be performed based on the decibel rating or sound power level of the breaker.

At distances as far as 75 yards, a breaker without sound suppression can still register a volume of at least 85 decibels (about the same as a loud vacuum cleaner or noisy restaurant). With advanced versions of sound suppression, the exact same noise level may be registered only 10 yards away, getting much quieter as the distance from the breaker increases. Having this ability to limit noise allows a breaker to work longer hours in more applications.

Even in cases where no noise restrictions exist, the reduced vibrations from the breaker add to the service life of the machine by reducing wear and tear. The lower volume and diminished vibration going back to the carrier eases the stress on the operator as well.

Holding Power in Check 
Not only can breakers produce a lot of noise, but they can also generate an incredible amount of power. While many applications require a breaker’s full available force, often situations will arise where only a fraction of that power is needed. Fortunately, technology that automatically manages the power output of the breaker is available.

Many contractors may feel that having more power is always the best policy. But using too much power can cause serious wear and damage to a breaker’s components. Breakers are designed so that the tool steel will stay pushed up inside the breaker as a shock wave is delivered through the tool and into the material being broken. If the full power of a heavy-duty breaker is delivered when it far exceeds what’s needed in lighter material, the tool can actually fire out from the bottom of the breaker with every blow as it tries to penetrate deep into the material. This causes severe abuse to the tension bolts that hold sections of the breaker together as well as the tool retaining components.

This type of situation can also lead to a blank fire. A blank fire occurs when there is little or no resistance against the tool, but the breaker’s internal mechanism still delivers a power blow. The result is that the tool actually has to reach a metal-to-metal stop to prevent it from coming out of the breaker, causing excessive wear.

Power control technology prevents these problems by monitoring the density of the material being broken. For harder materials, it will allow 100 percent of the energy the breaker is capable of producing to be delivered. For lighter material, the system will regulate the breaker’s output performance, limiting the machine to half power to reduce or eliminate the chance of a blank fire. The system simply saves a great deal of wear and tear on a breaker.

Starting Off Right 
As important as power management is in preventing unnecessary abuse to the breaker, it can also potentially impede the breaker from getting started in some applications. Therefore, start sequence options have been developed to complement power control. This option allows a breaker operator to control whether or not down pressure needs to be applied before the breaker will begin to operate. This feature usually comes with two startup modes from which to choose.

One mode is intended primarily for jobs on firm ground involving breakers capable of producing a lot of force. This mode automatically prevents the breaker from blank firing by requiring that the breaker’s tool steel be in contact with solid material before it will start to run. This can be especially helpful in conditions where visibility is poor or nonexistent, such as while breaking underwater. In these cases the operator may not know exactly where contact is being made with the material.

The ability to avoid a blank fire is ideal for a breaker from the standpoint that it prevents unnecessary stress on the breaker’s components. On the flip side, however, there are some situations where unstable material must be broken. Because there isn’t full contact pressure against the tool, the breaker will not begin to run in the first start sequence mode. However, a second mode in some start sequence systems will allow the breaker to operate and start breaking lighter material without down pressure against the tool.
A breaker’s power control system comes back into play in this situation by limiting the breaker’s output power to half of its potential. The power continues to be managed until there is enough contact pressure from the material to warrant the use of full power.

Keeping Out the Dirt 
Finding a balance between breaking in firm or soft material is certainly a key factor in keeping a breaker in good condition. Another cause for concern arises when a breaker is used in applications with particularly high dust loads. These situations usually require additional protection to keep debris from being ingested into the breaker. This can easily happen when breaking in a horizontal or overhead position, such as during tunneling work.

A lot of the material that is being knocked loose may fly onto the breaker and get ingested through the lower bushing. This is problematic because the debris particles will stick to the grease that is lubricating the tool in that area. The combination of lubricant and aggregate forms an abrasive paste that can greatly accelerate wear.

An advancement in breaker design that counteracts this problem is a sealing system that prevents debris from entering the breaker. Not only does this stop the entry of abrasive and damaging material into the breaker, but it also allows clean lubricant to remain in the lower bushing area longer. Without a system to protect against debris ingestion, lubricant is consumed more quickly and wear bushing life is reduced. The same bushings can last twice as long or more if debris is sealed out.

Furthermore, the percussion piston may experience a shorter life cycle without protection in dusty environments. In fact, if enough abrasive material gets into the breaker, the piston’s life may be dramatically shortened.

Grease Is the Word 
While outside elements pose the greatest risk to a breaker’s durability, the internal mechanisms must be protected as well. The very nature of the components of hydraulic breakers and what they do dictates that most breakers on the planet need consistent lubrication to function properly and avoid breakdowns. However, the method of greasing a breaker can vary.

Some breakers require manual lubrication at set time intervals, usually every two to four hours. The primary disadvantage of manual lubrication is that a breaker may wind up running without lubricant for a short time until it’s refilled, which can be very hard on the breaker’s components. And because there are so many lubrication points on a breaker, stopping to apply grease also contributes to dreaded downtime.

Taking these drawbacks into account, technology was created to automatically lubricate breakers as they work. Automatic lubrication systems are sometimes mounted to the breaker’s carrier. Lubricant is applied through a hose that runs down to the breaker attachment. A carrier-mounted system is certainly more efficient than manual lubrication. The downside is that if a breaker is frequently moved from one carrier to another, it would require a separate system for each machine to which the breaker is mounted.

A more recent development in automatic lubrication technology involves a system that is actually mounted to the breaker, a design that allows the system to go wherever the breaker goes. In addition to taking the responsibility for greasing the breaker out of the operator’s hands, a breaker-mounted automatic lubrication system provides a constant and uniform supply of lubrication at the proper intervals, further extending the life of the wear components.

Making the Best of a Bad Break 
As a machine is used for more and more hours over its life cycle, it is almost inevitable that at some point a given breaker will encounter a hard section of material that it isn’t able to handle with its normal energy output. What happens in this instance is that the energy wave that goes through the tool steel is not powerful enough to split or chip the material to be broken. Instead, the shock wave bounces off of the material and the energy is reflected back up into the breaker. The breaker’s piston then changes direction, causing it to back feed hydraulic oil in the breaker and create a spike in the system.

If the piston moves down to deliver a “double hit” at the same time as a recoil wave is moving up the tool steel, the resulting collision can amount to a far greater impact than the breaker’s components were designed to withstand. Tools and pistons could conceivably break in this situation.

This type of problem has been addressed through technology that monitors the movement of the piston and thus prevents it from bouncing or double hitting. While this does help prevent damage to the breaker, it doesn’t necessarily help the operator finish the job of breaking the hard material.

Another feature implemented on some breakers is energy recovery. This feature takes advantage of the high-pressure accumulator, which is essentially a storage cell that momentarily collects the reflected energy coming back into the breaker. This energy, which is basically a volume of hydraulic oil, is then released during the next blow delivered by the breaker. Furthermore, the energy is released in addition to the breaker’s normal power output. The combined energy effort can create performance increases of up to 25 percent in some cases. This boost in impact power may be enough to help break through the tough section of material that created the issue in the first place.

Because the breaker is recycling the energy from the initial bounce-back, it doesn’t require any additional effort from the carrier. The adjustment requires no operator input. It occurs automatically as needed but otherwise is turned off. The system effectively takes a potentially devastating situation and instead uses it to the breaker’s advantage.

Staying Alive 
Breakers need every advantage they can get in a world of breaking applications that is loaded with variables. Technology that will maximize a breaker’s productivity and keep problems to a minimum is not a figment of an idealist’s imagination. It does exist. Breakers lacking this technology simply run a heavy risk of failure, from excessive downtime to not even being able to work on the job in the first place. Meanwhile, in the demanding world of mining, tunneling, trenching, and demolition, the right technology is helping the fittest breakers to not only survive, but to continue to thrive for years to come.

Published 4/1/2011

The care and maintenance of each piece of heavy iron in a fleet directly affects 
the balance sheet of all departments in the organization. Fleet management is 
more and more about asset management, and whether equipment professionals 
choose to build a team to keep maintenance operations in-house or turn 
maintenance and repair tasks over to their dealers, they are still looking for an 
ownership experience built on reasonable costs, maximum equipment uptime, 
and reliability.

To meet the challenges of more complicated machines, new data-collection 
technologies, new diagnostic tools, and ever-changing environmental and 
economic rules, the “shop and yard” segment of Mike Vorster’s management 
hexagon needs dedicated attention. Some organizations are putting 
maintenance under secondary leadership; others are looking for outside 
expertise. These changes are driving the features and benefits of equipment-
management business models.

Fleet executives can choose from three models. They can build an in-house equipment-management team, outsource repairs and maintenance needs to an OEM dealer or third-party, or create a hybrid form of the two business models. 

The in-house team model gives the contractor total control over all costs; allows for custom-tailored service procedures for specialized, one-of-a kind equipment; and works for companies that can handle their own field repairs. The team approach is labor-intensive and requires a commitment to ongoing training to keep technicians and support personnel current with new technologies and regulations in the industry. Keeping equipment data collection in-house, whether collected by clipboard or telematics, gives the company unrestricted access and use of information that can be used with aftermarket management programs to assist in budgeting, equipment utilization, and life cycle forecasting. 

Outsourcing to an OEM dealer such as Flagler Construction Equipment, a Volvo dealer in Orlando, Fla., provides fleets with OEM-trained technicians knowledgeable in the latest diagnostic and service procedures, which is an attractive benefit for customers purchasing the latest Tier 4-Interim engines currently coming on the market. 

“Dealers can offer fixed-cost agreements that allow customers to plan standard equipment expenses,” says Howard McNeal, vice president of product support for Flagler. “Authorized dealer servicing helps to ensure work is done within warranty specifications and with OEM parts.” McNeal says his company’s contracts are flexible, and three-year lease/three-year maintenance contracts are common this year. Because of the economic uncertainty, contractors may opt out of their contact with Flagler after 12 months. 

McNeal also points out that the dealer technician has an OEM checklist for each maintenance procedure and will note or adjust items that may be overlooked by an in-house mechanic. 

The team approach 
Barth Burgett, CEM, vice president equipment and support for Kokosing Construction Co., a regional highway/heavy and industrial contractor headquartered in Fredericktown, Ohio, manages 1,700 pieces of heavy equipment with the help of six regional field support supervisors. Burgett says keeping his equipment’s repair and maintenance in-house works because it gives him more control over the quality of each machine’s servicing.

“If you do it yourself, you’re going to just naturally take a look at other things on the vehicle that may need repair and fix those issues before they become problems,” Burgett says. He says that staying pro-active and keeping ahead of potential repairs allows him to keep his costs in line, which directly trends down to how much his department charges operations for each machine’s division-to-division rental. Kokosing project managers do have the option to rent equipment outside of Kokosing Construction, but Burgett says they usually find that the in-house rates are far superior to those charged by a rental house. “My responsibility is to provide the lowest cost to the operations department so that job can go out at a premium price.”

Burgett keeps paperwork simple to lessen confusion at all division levels. He prefers general work orders to line-item orders. For example, his parts planners support multiple mechanics who give the planners their parts requests. The parts planner is already versed in what parts a machine may require according to the type of project on which the equipment is being used and has prepared his inventory to handle the demand. This allows the mechanic to obtain the correct parts quickly and keeps the invoice numbers and paper trails to an orderly minimum. “You want your people doing what they are good at, not pushing paper,” Burgett says.

Burgett’s procedures are based on 20 years of experience, detailed and compiled in a folder he refers to as the bible. “We’ve taken everything we’ve learned over the past 20 years, such as how to write a purchase order to what we need to tell suppliers in order for us to set a machine up correctly, and put it into this folder,” he says. 

An example of a procedure in Burgett’s folder is how Kokosing inventories every part of every model machine the company owns. Burgett has designed this supplementary database based on similar equipment-management models used in the military. Before Burgett even accepts delivery of a new piece of equipment, he requires his vendors to supply the machine’s manual, from which his department inventories the names and model numbers of each part on that piece of equipment. This database allows the service department to quickly identify and requisition the correct parts without paging through multiple manuals. His inventory database system is especially effective for frequently ordered parts such as tires, filters and batteries that, although staples in the shop, often have numerous model types and serial numbers that must match a given machine’s specifications.

“The supplementary database saves us a lot of time,” Burgett says, and has also proven very useful when looking for replacement items that are not usually thought of as repair parts, like when he needs to replace a machine’s seat. 

When Kokosing acquires a previously owned piece of equipment, his department does the machine’s parts inventory list and adds those specs to the supplementary database. Burgett requires the same inventory listing from vendors supplying pre-assembled components. Compliance from the vendors is part of his company’s purchase contract, and vendors understand that Burgett will not release payment for an order until the inventory listing is completed.

The supplementary database provides Burgett with data that allows his department to work with operations to maximize equipment utilization and uptime. “We as a team look at project forecasts of equipment utilization,” he says. “With this information we are able to better allocate assets.” It also serves as a notice of potential operator or manufacturer errors if a part consistently comes up for reorder on a specific model machine or type of job. 

Burgett’s team approach to equipment management meshes well with the financial side of the Kokosing house. When the construction slowdown began, Burgett was able to bring reliable data to the table detailing what each machine would require to keep it running efficiently and lengthen its life span—parts, labor and applications. His cost and asset forecasts leant support and guidance to Kokosing’s decision to keep purchasing to a minimum, without adversely affecting the quality of service his equipment division provided.

Burgett’s advice to contractors setting up an in-house team is to first know actual costs and where they are generated. Burgett uses a rental model where each piece of equipment is attached to a cost code for each project. 

“Understand the cost of running your equipment and put those costs where they occur,” he says. “Generalizing costs will not allow you to accurately forecast future expenditures of labor and money.”

Managing expectations from all the company’s divisions is based on communication. “Everyone here understands that this division does more than maintain and repair equipment,” says Burgett. “We participate in each project’s weekly meetings and attend quarterly budget meetings. We have quarterly meetings with operations and support staff to discuss safety, maintenance and communications to make sure we are delivering a consistent message within the company.” When asked what would persuade him to outsource his equipment management, Burgett said, “They’d have to have better people than I do.”

Outsourced but hands-on
Greg Kittle, CEM, vice president of corporate purchasing at William Charles Construction in Rockford, Ill., advocates outsourcing but adds this caution: “I like outsourcing tasks, but I don’t believe in outsourcing management.

“Each contractor has unique equipment needs, and it is very difficult for a dealer to respond to those individual, specialized needs in totality,” Kittle says. “By managing and directing your long-term relationships with your preferred vendors, you are able to manage the value you are getting for what you are spending and communicate your equipment needs properly. Ultimately, the equipment manager is responsible for his profit and loss, and that is something you can’t outsource.”

Outsourcing makes better use of a contractor’s core competencies, Kittle says. “If your core competency is mass excavation or highway/heavy work, devoting large amounts of your resources to something you’re not particularly good at doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he says. “Add to that exponentially exploding changes in the industry and you’ll find there is no way to keep up.”

Kittle’s methodology has led to development of his preferred-vendor program that “creates structure around the relationships we already have,” he says. “The preferred-vendor program, along with our national-accounts program, formalizes the entire relationship between us and our suppliers, including who has liability, how we pay, what we expect.” 

Ben Tucker in Metairie, La., reduced Barriere Construction’s in-house shop from 40 people to just one technician by utilizing his Total Reliability Process and outsourcing almost all of Barriere’s repair and maintenance to Louisiana Machinery, a Caterpillar dealer with a dozen locations throughout the state. Like Kittle, Tucker is hands-on and aggressively measures his dealer’s performance. Tucker has clearly spelled out his expectations in his master service agreement and holds the dealer accountable.

“We work with percentages and measure our Cat dealer’s weekly scheduled maintenance rate, their emergency rate, and their breakdown rate,” says Tucker. He says his emergency rate should be less than 5 percent of his man-hours.

Tucker closely analyzes the lifecycle of each Barriere machine, with an eye toward replacing a piece of equipment before it requires major repairs. The slow economy made Tucker re-evaluate his fleet, and he decided to extend the lifecycle of some equipment by 20 percent, going from a fleet average age of three years to four-and-a-half years. To accomplish this, he asked Louisiana Machinery to give him another technician. This increased his maintenance budget and brought his emergency rate up to 6 percent, but it saved $3.5 million on his new-equipment budget by extending the life of his fleet. “It’s a balancing game,” says Tucker.

Fleet value and fleet equity are other lifecycle factors for the William Charles equipment-management program. “We’ve developed asset class-based lifecycles,” says Kittle. “Each asset class has its cost and value profile. For example, an excavator acts differently than an articulated truck, which acts differently from a scraper. We have a different lifecycle strategy for each asset class and plan our servicing accordingly.”

Outsourcing to a dealer gives contractors the services of well-trained technicians without assuming the fixed internal costs of continuous training, parts inventories, and employment expenses. “This has helped put us in an advantageous position with our operations costs per hour, which have been staying flat or declining,” says Kittle. 

“This is a cyclical business and having the ability to change fixed costs into variable costs is very important to our approach. Overhead is a contractor’s killer.”

In-house specialties
Thad Pirtle, vice president/equipment manager for Traylor Brothers, Evansville, Ind., oversees a global fleet of 5,000 pieces of heavy equipment. Traylor Brothers has five yards serving its marine, tunnel and heavy construction divisions and is a good example of a contractor whose business benefits from the hybrid service/repair model using an in-house team for their specialty equipment and dealer support for their general equipment.

“Our business is a niche model because we do specialty work that we have to engineer our way in and out of, such as marine projects, blast tunnels, bridges, and mining structures,” says Pirtle. “We can’t just take an off-the-shelf crane for those jobs. Our specialty-equipment department works with our in-house engineers to build or modify equipment that will perform for each job.”

Traylor Brothers’ specialty-equipment department employs five expressly trained mechanics who retrofit and modify existing equipment because Pirtle says there are no dealers who can support the type of projects and equipment Traylor Brothers runs.

“We still rely heavily on dealers for maintenance and repair of our general construction equipment,” he says. “Even then, our project managers call our in-house people before they call a dealer because the in-house charges are usually a little less than what the dealer charges.” 

Another reason Pirtle keeps many tasks in house is the rigorous adherence to safety and environmental regulations most government projects demand. 

“We provide our customers, our other divisions, with the reliability factor, too,” he says. “We do a full-fledged audit every few years to get feedback on our service from our project-management people. We also do regular rental rate checks to see where we are in comparison to outside rentals. Our machines are less costly to maintain than renting equipment and are safer for our people. This is a business within the business.”
Pirtle says not many vendors have the distribution network his company requires. “I need to see their distribution footprint. Only three or so in the U.S. have well-integrated distribution networks that carry the broad lines of products we need in the widespread areas we cover.” 

Pirtle says that contractors seeking to build an in-house team for their specialty equipment need to make a long-term commitment to training their people. “It takes six or seven years to train our people so they can work on their own.”

Equipment executives are being asked to bring more financial-management expertise to the organization without decreasing the effectiveness of the machine side of the business. Both team-based and outsourced equipment management approaches can help them manage those challenges. In doing so, equipment managers must maintain strong relationships with the other departments within the organization, as well as with outside vendors and distributors. “He needs to be capable of abstract thinking and communicate effectively with operations, service and financial,” Kittle says.

Second in a series, this installment of The Management Challenge investigates how fleets can best manage the “shop and yard” segment of the management hexagon.

Published 12/27/2008 

They give a beating and they take one. They leave a job site 
much different than when they arrived. They are destructive,
which is why contractors like them so much.

Hydraulic breakers turn compact loaders and excavators 

into powerful demolition machines, breaking concrete, 
asphalt, rock and other materials. Often, these materials 
need to be removed before replacement or new cons-
truction can begin. That means contractors who use 
hydraulic breakers are under deadline. Like any piece of 
equipment, keeping a hydraulic breaker maintained is the 
key to keeping it running productively so contractors can 
stay on schedule. Running a hydraulic breaker correctly 
makes it easier to maintain.

  1. Sizing hydraulic breakers to the carrier

Because there are many types of compact loaders – skid-steer, compact track, all-wheel steer, and mini track – and there are many sizes of compact excavators, contractors need to make sure that the hydraulic breaker is the right size for the carrier.

Greg Rostberg, marketing manager for Bobcat Company, says that the first thing contractors need to check is the rated operating capacity of the compact loader or the lift capacity of the excavator to make sure that the hydraulic breaker can be used on the machine.

Second, the auxiliary hydraulic flow rate and pressure on the compact loader or excavator needs to be in the correct range for the hydraulic breaker to function efficiently. Both of these capacities will help determine the breaker that is the best size for use on a compact loader or excavator.

“A good resource for any contractor using hydraulic breakers is their local dealer,” says Rostberg. “Dealers have experience and knowledge with hydraulic breakers and will know which hydraulic breakers will properly fit on a compact loader or excavator.”

  1. Maintaining a hydraulic breaker

The point and bushings are the most important parts of a hydraulic breaker to maintain, and keeping these components lubricated is critical to keeping the hydraulic breaker functioning. “It is easy to tell if lubrication on the point and bushings is required because a film of lubricant should always be visible on the point,” says Rostberg.

As a general rule, the point and bushings should be lubricated with grease once every two to four hours of operation. However, jobsite conditions will determine how often lubrication is required. A dusty job site or one where the hydraulic breaker must work in a horizontal or inverted position calls for more frequent lubrication of the point and bushings.

Every piece of equipment on a job site requires daily, weekly and yearly maintenance checks. Hydraulic breakers are no different. Rostberg suggests that contractors perform maintenance checks on a hydraulic breaker at the same time the checks are done on the compact loader or excavator carrying the attachment.

Daily Inspection: Before operating a hydraulic breaker, the operator should make sure the unit is in proper condition to be operated. This includes checking the following components to make sure they are not loose or damaged: attachment pins, retainers and locks; bracket cap bolts and nuts; tool retainers and locks; and hoses, connectors and ball valves.

If these components are loose or damaged, they should be replaced before the breaker is operated. If any nuts, bolts or retaining hardware are missing, they should be replaced before working with the breaker.

Hydraulic breakers work with material that is abrasive and becomes jagged during the demolition process. This material may cut small holes in hoses. Before beginning work each day, all hoses, connectors and ball valves on the breaker and the loader or excavator should be inspected for any sign of leaks. If a leak is found, the equipment should be repaired before it is used.

Jobsite conditions will cause wear on a breaker, and operators should look for cracks or other signs of excessive wear on the cradle, bracket cap or side plates. Cracks or excessive wear on the breaker require immediate attention.

The lower bushing is another area that will show wear. Each manufacturer has a different method to check the lower bushings. Rostberg says that Bobcat® hydraulic breakers come with a tool that operators can use to check the bushing and the retainer pin for wear. The tool shows whether there is too much wear for the breaker to be used.

Weekly Inspection: Weekly maintenance also involves looking for cracks and excessive wear, this time on the surface of the point, on the retainers and retainer bores, and on the piston strike face. Cracks or wear on these components should be addressed if found.

Bolts and nuts also need to be inspected each week. Rostberg suggests contractors use a torque wrench to check the tightness of the bolts and nuts each week.

Every 100 hours of operation, inspect the couplers on the hydraulic breaker side. Constant pounding of hydraulic oil on the accumulator and back pressure wears out the couplers. “Sometimes contractors say they can’t unhook their hydraulic breaker,” says Rostberg. “The reason is that they have never changed their coupler.”

Annual Inspection: At least once a year, Rostberg recommends that contractors check the hydraulic system flow and pressure on the breaker to make sure they are operating normally.

  1. Maintaining hydraulic breaker carriers

Performing daily, weekly and yearly maintenance on the compact loader or excavator carrying a hydraulic breaker is important to keep the attachment working properly. A loader or excavator that is not maintained can damage the breaker.

Most important is the hydraulic system on the loader or excavator because the system powers the breaker. Hydraulic breakers are demanding on compact loader and excavator hydraulic systems, which is why some manufacturers recommend that routine hydraulic system maintenance is cut in half when breakers are used on these carriers.

Systems that support a compact loader or excavator hydraulic system, such as cooling equipment, also need to be maintained. “Efficient cooling of the hydraulic system will prevent heat-related damage and failures to the carrier and the breaker,” says Rostberg.

  1. Operating a hydraulic breaker

No matter how well a hydraulic breaker and the compact loader or excavator carrying the attachment is maintained, the attachment won’t last long if improperly used.

An important operating tip for any hydraulic attachment is to make sure that the hydraulic oil on the carrier is warm before it enters the attachment. “It’s crucial that warm oil goes into a cold hydraulic breaker,” says Rostberg. “If cold oil goes into a hydraulic breaker, the seals will hammer out quickly.”

Once a breaker is ready to be used, the operator should follow some best practices in breaking material. A breaker that is improperly operated will need more maintenance than would otherwise be necessary.

The first step is to make sure that the breaker is large enough to handle the job. When material is extremely hard, thick or if there is little time to complete the work, a larger hydraulic breaker is a better option than a smaller model because it will have the power to handle the material and will be able to break large areas more quickly.

Where the hydraulic breaker works on the material is important. “When the breaker operates closer to the edge of the material, there is higher production because the material will fracture more quickly,” says Rostberg.

Rostberg says that operators should not force the breaker to increase production. “Let the breaker do the work,” says Rostberg. “Operators who try to get a breaker to work faster than it should can end up damaging their machines.”

  1. Storing a hydraulic breaker

Many contractors may not consider storage of the hydraulic breaker a maintenance item, but it is just as important as daily, weekly and annual maintenance checks. When a breaker is not stored properly, the attachment could be damaged internally.

Storing the breaker correctly will extend the lifespan of the attachment. Rostberg says that contractors need to check the manufacturer’s recommended storage procedures because some breakers need to be stored upright while other models can be stored horizontally.

A majority of horizontal breakers need to be stored upright. If these breakers are stored horizontally for an extended period of time, they will not work properly. If the breaker needs to be stored upright, Rostberg says that contractors should make sure the weight of the machine rests on the frame and not on the point.

Rostberg says that when a contractor is going to store a hydraulic breaker, the attachment should be kept full of oil to protect the internal components. Keeping the hydraulic breaker full of oil will prevent internal contamination or oxidation. “Cap the hoses as soon as they are disconnected from the compact loader or excavator to prevent contaminants from getting into the hydraulic breaker,” says Rostberg.

Before storing the breaker, Rostberg recommends contractors lubricate the point and bushings to protect these areas.

Contractors expect their equipment to be ready when work needs to be done. Making sure that the equipment will be ready is the responsibility of the contractor and his or her crew. Using the right size of hydraulic breaker; following a manufacturer’s recommended daily, weekly and annual maintenance guidelines for the hydraulic breaker and its compact loader or excavator carrier; and operating and storing the hydraulic breaker properly will keep this valuable attachment working at its destructive best.

Published 06/11/2007

Published on Construction Equipment 
(http://www.constructionequipment.com)

As tough as hydraulic breakers are, they still demand a crack 
maintenance program to keep them hammering away. All 
hydraulic breakers, regardless of design or manufacturer, 
have the task of shattering, cracking or splitting material. The 
assignment isn’t exactly gentle on the equipment. Wear and 
tear is an outright certainty, so maintaining the breaker is vital 
to keeping it running at peak efficiency.

Breakers will eventually fail after years of service, but the life 
cycle and performance of a given unit can be greatly enhanced 
through proper maintenance, which can be viewed from three 
separate perspectives: routine maintenance by the contractor, 
periodic rebuilds by the manufacturer, and preventative maintenance features within the breaker itself.

Lubrication is the first line of breaker maintenance. Without lubrication, metal-to-metal contact between the breaker’s tool and bushing cause the bushing to wear out quickly, subsequently exposing the breaker’s major components to serious damage.

The lubrication process begins by applying down pressure on the tool to ensure that it is pushed all the way into the breaker, eliminating the possibility of grease filling a chamber between the piston and the top of the tool. Lubricant should be applied until it comes out of the lower bushing area, which indicates that the breaker cavity is full and ready to go to work. A paste or grease film should always appear on the tool at the lower bushing while the breaker is operational. The absence of grease is a good visual indication that it’s time to apply more lubricant.

Several breaker manufacturers offer their own chisel paste or other lubricant designed specifically for breakers. Standard grease is inferior to specially designed chisel pastes because the heat and pressure from the working tool will cause the grease to melt and run, which increases the frequency of lubrication applications. Although the cost for a tube of chisel paste or special shank grease is higher than the price of regular grease, manual lubrication with paste is only required once every two hours on average, compared with one hour or less intervals using standard grease.

Having the operator stop work to apply grease twice as often can cost a contractor far more in downtime than can be saved using the cheaper lubricant. Additionally, using cheap grease may save nickels and dimes in the short term but could eventually add up to thousands of dollars in tool steel replacement costs.

Even with the very best lubrication techniques, the bushing will wear out and need to be replaced at some point. Measuring the bushing diameter to see how much it has worn often requires that the tool be removed. A simple measurement trick that can be performed without disassembly is to take a 3/16-inch drill bit and try to slide it between the tool and bushing. Typically, at most about 1/4-inch of space is the allowed wear limit, so if the drill bit fits between the tool and the bushing, the tool should be taken out so the bushing can be properly measured to see if it has reached the designated wear specification.

Many hydraulic breakers feature a nitrogen gas assist that should also be maintained in the field as necessary. Expansion and contraction due to heating and cooling will lower the gas pressure in the breaker’s piston accumulator, much like car tires will gradually lose air.

Gas pressure checks don’t need to be done on a daily basis. And unlike car tires, there’s nothing visual to suggest when the pressure should be checked. Instead, simply monitor the breaker’s performance. If there is a noticeable drop in the breaker’s power output, it could be an indication of low gas pressure. Manufacturers recommend using a special kit and following the operator’s manual while performing this check.

Breakers that are lubricated properly but operated incorrectly can suffer the exact same wear and tear on the bushings and tool as if there had been no lubrication at all.

One specific aspect of proper operation involves the hydraulic flow going from a carrier to the breaker. Although machine specifications may indicate a good match, a carrier should be tested at least once a year, and more often in heavy-duty applications, to ensure that it is delivering the correct fluid levels to the breaker. Unfortunately, many contractors fail to have their carriers tested, either due to a lack of awareness or to avoid the expense. It’s important to realize that flow problems can pose just as much risk of damage to an excavator or other carrier as they would to the breaker. Improper machine setup is a problem from which no breaker can hide.

Although often classified as an attachment, a hydraulic breaker is a specialized piece of machinery. Like most products, many maintenance and operation issues can be handled correctly in the field. But even with proper care, a hydraulic breaker will require a periodic overhaul to replace all of its wear components.

The terminology for such a job varies. Rebuild, refurbishment and recondition are a few of the phrases out there. There is no set timetable for a breaker rebuild, as it largely depends on the application and size of the breaker. The type of repair that is actually done will differ as well, depending on who is doing the repair and on customer preferences.

Common practice with a recondition is to replace every single wear item on a breaker, as well as to perform a complete and thorough inspection of the unit. Bushings, tools and retainer bars are replaced, while the piston, cylinder and pressure accumulator are inspected. The repair work is usually topped off with a paint job.

Occasionally a breaker that hasn’t been heavily used will be brought in for a recondition. Such a machine may not have experienced much wear and tear, so the customer may be given the option of replacing some parts while trying to get more life out of others.

A more frequent occurrence is for a breaker to have certain wear items that only have a few months of use left in them. The customer still has the option of leaving these parts in, but doing so would mean a return trip to replace the parts just weeks or months later. In addition to being more convenient, another upside of immediately replacing all the items is that the manufacturer may offer a renewed warranty since the breaker has essentially been refurbished up to near-new condition. The same guarantees may not apply if some parts are not replaced and something goes wrong before the next repair.

It’s generally recommended to take a breaker to the manufacturer, distributor or another qualified professional for a rebuild or recondition. However, many hydraulic breakers, especially the smaller varieties, are designed so that they can be more easily maintained by end users with the appropriate training and experience.

“Automatic” is a big-time buzzword for today’s equipment. Anything the equipment can do by itself to take another task out of the operator’s hands should minimize downtime and increase overall productivity. Incorporating a number of automatic technological features, hydraulic breakers are no different.

Not surprisingly, nearly every breaker manufacturer has some technique for automatic lubrication. 
Different methods are employed on various breaker sizes and brands. A number of systems utilize a hose that runs from the carrier to apply consistent lubrication to the breaker. Some manufacturers produce breakers that come standard with a lubrication cartridge mounted directly onto the breaker itself. With this system, literally all that is required of the operator is to change the tube when it’s empty. Even with the “automatic” lubrication system the operator still needs to periodically check for grease film on the tool to ensure the system is operational and properly adjusted.

More lubrication than normal is needed for particularly dusty applications. Some breakers feature an optional system to protect the breaker from dust penetration by providing an additional seal that prevents debris from entering the unit. This system also keeps chisel paste where it belongs to allow the breaker to run longer without risking wear and tear from a lack of chisel paste.

Another feature that assists in preventing potentially serious harm to a breaker is a power management system. Found on some larger breakers, this system is a tremendous preventative maintenance asset in jobs where lighter material is being broken. Rather than unleashing a full-power blow, a breaker equipped with power management can limit itself to 50-percent power until it hits against hard material that dictates a need for full impact energy. If full power is used in light material, the breaker’s working tool will literally fire out through the material, and only a metal-to-metal stop against the breaker’s retainer bars will keep the breaker intact, causing unnecessary strain on the machine.

Conversely, in applications where extremely hard material must be broken, damaging shock waves can be reflected from the material into the breaker’s tool and piston. One unique system allows this rebounded energy to be collected in a high-pressure accumulator, which effectively protects the internal components from the shock waves. As an added bonus, the breaker can then deliver the accumulated energy in the next blow.

Breakers are charged with the unforgiving task of pounding apart hard material without falling apart themselves. Some contractors take the approach of using a breaker when they need it and throwing it to the side when they don’t because “it’s just a hammer.” In actuality, hydraulic breakers are specialized machines that require maintenance just like any backhoe, carrier or other piece of machinery on the job site. Through new design and technology, manufacturers have simplified breaker maintenance to make it a user-friendly task. Give a breaker the time and attention it deserves, and it will return the favor with productive and impressive results.

By Georgia Krause, Contributing Editor
Fri, 2011-04-01 (All day)

Published 6/1/2011 — Written by Lindsay Gale

The last two years have been challenging for attachment suppliers, 
with demand reported to be as low as 50% of that experienced 
during ‘the good times’ experienced up to 2007. Since 2008, 
contractors have not been buying and making the most of what 
they already had. However, there are signs that market conditions 
for suppliers in this sector are beginning to improve at last, even 
if recovery seems patchy in geographical terms. 

Stanley Hydraulic Tools is one company that is more optimistic 
than in past months. At the National Demolition Association con-
vention in Las Vegas, Lou Maggio told D&Ri: “Europe is reboun-
ding, with stronger growth to be seen in the UK and Germany, 
although in Spain conditions are still challenging. In the US, it is 
the scrap sector that is fuelling demand, with the demolition 
sector still slow. Scrap prices are strong following their sharp 
dip last year, driven by a lack of supply.” He went on to say that: “providing oil prices do not get of hand, we are positive about the potential for sales in 2011.”

This is echoed by Atlas Copco Construction Tools marketing director Peter Lauwers, who told D&Ri: “Market conditions in general are improving steadily. However, the market level is still quite below where it once was. And regionally, we see big differences in the recovery, with southern Europe, for example, still depressed. Nevertheless, we still predict steady growth in other areas.”

This optimism was shared by Bigbits’ Marcus Clay: “We believe market conditions have improved since 2009, although the latter part of 2010 was marred by the early and severe onset of winter in the UK. Export markets are certainly remaining busy – probably aided by the exchange rate – and we see a continued, if steady improvement continuing through 2011.”

Others are less optimistic, however. Italian manufacturer Promove’s Antonio Canaò, for example, said that despite seeing “a good start to 2011, with an increase in demand for demolition equipment, after the Samoter show we saw a slowdown in the European market. Personally, I do not believe that European demand will increase significantly in the near future. I see all the problems which caused the 2008-2009 collapse still there: a number of unsold and unoccupied buildings, huge sovereign debt for many European countries which refrain from financing new infrastructure as well as a very slow economic recovery.”

One reported trend is that there, in fact, appears to be a move away from the use of multi processors towards dedicated tools for specific applications arising from the use of hydraulic tool connection/coupling systems that allow quick tool changes from the cab of carriers. As an example, Stanley’s European sales manager Heinz Groppe told D&Ri: “we are increasingly seeing contractors using three dedicated tools [crusher, pulveriser and shear] instead of multi processors. Hydraulic quick couplers allow quick and easy tool changes – why use a tool that can only supply 70% performance across three applications when they can use a dedicated tool for each that can deliver 100% performance?”

R&D focus
The recent challenging economic conditions have had one positive benefit, according to several manufacturers. With demand reported as being down as much as 50% on 2006-2007 levels, they have been able to free up resources to allow an intensification of their R&D activities, the results of which to be seen in these pages. Without question, it is the scrap side of the business, especially in the USA, that is fuelling the gradual upturn as scrap metal prices recover, encouraging many of the attachment providers to develop or extend their ranges of scrap shears, as shown by the number of such attachments featured in this article.

Italian manufacturer Mantovanibenne, quite apart from forming a Chinese joint venture as reported in the Jan-Feb issue of this magazine, has refreshed its range of scrap shears with the introduction of the Eagle II series of attachments that supersedes the earlier Eagle range. But the company has also been looking at smaller tools. MBI used the recent Samoter show to introduce two new such attachments at the smaller end of its ranges in the shape of the CRH440 crusher and the MCP300 pulveriser. Weighing in at 290 kg (638 lb) and 150 kg (330 lb) respectively, the former can be mounted on machines weighing form 2 to 4 tonnes and the latter on 1.5 to 4 tonne machines. They form part of the new Micro Machine product line.

Stanley has introduced a number of new products in recent months – the MP20R discussed in more detail in this article, a three model line of four tined orange peel grapples (the 2,100 kg OPG 4T 1.25, 2,275 kg OPG 4T 1.5 and 2,450 kg OPG 4T 2.0) and the Stanley-branded Finmac F16 demolition robot. Where demolition tools are concerned, Lou said that the MP20R will be followed by a larger model in the next four to six months. A smaller MP10R multiprocessor has also been developed as part of Stanley’s response to demands for smaller but more powerful tools. In addition, the company’s UP line of universal processors will be revised and redesigned, with availability due during 2012.

Despite a less than optimistic take on market conditions, Promove also has introduced attachments, specifically at Samoter. These consisted of two multi processors, the CP 300 for 3 to 9 tonne carriers and the CP2510 for 23 to 38 tonne machines. The third, the 3,400 kg (7,480 lb) CF350 XL for 30-50 tonne machines, was developed specifically to meet a demand from one of Promove’s dealers for a tool specifically for secondary demolition and recycling applications. It presents a larger breaking section than traditional jaws and delivers extraordinary crushing capacity, said Antonio. He went on: “The business lines are well defined. The plan is to introduce two new hydraulic breakers, a 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) unit and a totally renewed 100 kg (220 lb) model. In addition, the CP crusher line will see some changes, with the CP1800 being replaced by a CP2000. These should appear at the next Intermat show in Paris in 2012.

Atlas Copco will also see some fruits from its R&D effort. In addition to the CC4400 CombiCutter discussed in this article, Peter said: “During the course of this year we will add new products to our CombiCutter range. And our range of bulk pulverisers will actually get a facelift and will come with a new wear system. There will also be a new range of compactor attachments.”

According to Peter, cost is a major driver for his customers: “We still see a need to reduce the total cost of ownership. It is important to build an awareness of the cost drivers after purchasing an attachment. The initial investment is not the biggest cost driver when you consider the total cost during a product’s entire lifetime.” He went on: “Atlas Copco clearly sees a need to reduce cost by reducing weight and increasing performance. A smaller attachment which delivers the same performance requires a smaller carrier, less fuel consumption. And also maintenance is a key topic. Less and easy maintenance bring more uptime of the machine.”

Cost is the driver also in Antonio’s mind. He said: “In this negative outlook, pricing looks to be the key factor in purchasing decisions. We see even premium brands introducing “cheap” brands or second lines and when this is not a decision of the manufacturers, dealers tend to choose a second line in order not to loose any potential deals”.

Cat, meanwhile, has updated its four model multi-processor line (MP15, MP20, MP30 and MP40) with a new shear jaw design and with modifications to the housing to make the tools easier to service and maintain.

The new jaw has been designed to provide faster and more efficient metal cutting – the jaw now features a piercing tip and a wear blade in the upper jaw and a cross blade with addition guiding blade in the lower. 
The straight lower jaw works with the apex of the upper, compressing and flattening steel before the cut is made. The straight lower jaw also minimizes shear force and creates a more efficient cut.

Where the housing is concerned, a new cover design allows easier access to the inner parts of the tool, and the pins, trunnions and bearings have been adjusted to speed jaw change outs. The hydraulic cylinder is now protected by a cover, and the tool features a number of parts that are common to all Cat work tools.

Established technology
One thing is certain – despite substantial investments in R&D still being made, the basic attachment technologies are set to remain the same. Peter’s response was typical: “Even if we at Atlas Copco have a lot of interesting projects ongoing, we don’t expect any radical changes.”

Published 4/1/2011

The companies that seriously manage their spare parts are likely to 
be the ones that survive in the long run. Parts costs for most const-
ruction equipment, especially dirt fleets, run about two-thirds (yes, 
67 percent) of all repair costs. That’s way too important to mis-
manage or manage casually. All the equipment supervision and 
managers in the company should be on the same page for these 
three parts questions:

  1. Do we use OEM-supplied or aftermarket parts?
  2. At what levels should the organization stock parts?
  3. Will we use remanufactured parts?

Some dealer salesmen like to refer to non-OEM as “spurious” or 
“will fit parts,” but these are negative descriptions that I don’t 
accept. Non-OEM or aftermarket parts have a real place in any fleet that closely manages its operating costs. Aftermarket parts generally run anywhere from 25 to 50 percent less than OEM parts. This is even more important for fleets than run equipment to its full economic life because those fleets will use more parts. 

I believe a fleet should use OEM parts for anything that directly affects safety. For example, on aerial work platforms, that would include things such as instruments and controls. For all other parts, use OEM parts for all items inside any oil-wetted housing. That would include such things as engine components, transmission components, differentials, and most final drives. These are parts that generally cannot be visually inspected. 

All other parts are candidates for aftermarket manufacturers. These would include all wear parts and ground engaging tools, undercarriage, most hoses, bearings, most electrical components, batteries, etc. Since aftermarket parts may vary widely in quality and availability, evaluate them carefully, but the cost savings benefits are worth the effort. 

For stocking levels, I favor stocking as little as possible to avoid pilferage, damage, obsolescence, and the cost of investing in and managing an inventory. A company’s tradeoff cost to stocking is the increased need for parts delivery and the cost of a delay to retrieve those parts. A typical North American construction equipment dealer might turn his inventory five times. A contractor should be able to turn his inventory 15 to 20 times. Some things, such as batteries or fasteners, may be consigned (owned, stocked and managed by a dealer or manufacturer at the fleet’s facility) to lower stocking costs. I required my OEM parts suppliers to stock levels that met or exceeded the following parameters:

• Must supply parts to my fleet so that at least 85 percent of my demands are met from their
servicing branch stock inventory.

• For the remaining 15 percent, 98 percent of those backordered parts must be delivered by 10
a.m. the next working day.

• Dealer freight or special-delivery transportation costs cannot exceed 1 percent of the
year-to-date parts cost from any supplier.

My dealers reported to me monthly on these three parameters by brand. Once we gained some experience with the process, every dealer we used was able to exceed these 85/98/1 parameters. Obviously, if a company standardizes on a limited number of brands and models, parts stocking is simplified.

The use of remanufactured parts is a win-win process for the OEM/dealer and the contractor. The end-user usually pays 40 to 50 percent less for a reman piece and the OEM/dealer makes a good profit margin on the sale as he has less invested in the reman piece than a comparable new piece. If you assume that most reman parts will be purchased in the second half of a machine’s life, then most reman parts will last to or well beyond the expected end of the machine’s full economic life.

So think through your parts needs and parts practices. Decide what approach works for you, write it down, and communicate it to all of your key people. Involve your dealers in your decision. Your operating cost per hour will go down. 

Think about it.

Parts account for two-thirds of repair costs, so settling some strategic questions will ensure the financial integrity of the fleet.

Parts account for two-thirds of repair costs, so settling some strategic questions will ensure the financial integrity of the fleet.

By Andy Agoos, Contributing Editor Fri, 2011-04-01 (All day)

Equipment Executive: Three Decisions for Parts Management http://www.constructionequipment.com/print/89498
© Copyright 2011 Construction Equipment. All Rights Reserved.
Source URL: http://www.constructionequipment.com/article/equipment-executive-three-decisions-parts-management

Published 02/3/2007

Using a hydraulic hammer instead of explosives to free rock from the 
quarry face occasionally has been reported in some European 
operations but is virtually unheard of in North America. However, 
as hammers and carriers increase in size and durability, sound 
attenuation is improved, and residential and business developments 
encroach upon urban quarries, there may be a few applications where 
hammers work. According to Krupp Bautechnik (now Atlas Copco), 
a German manufacturer of hammers, field results reveal five advantages 
to using a hammer for primary breaking.

  1. Selective extraction Quarrying methods using explosives typically

mix together varying mineral grades within a deposit. This can reduce 
quality or make the stone unsuitable for some applications. Hydraulic 
hammers allow selective quarrying of individual rock layers, possibly 
providing higher-priced products.

2. Higher quality standards Blasting can cause microcracks in quarried rock, Krupp said, which may decrease rock quality and selling price. Blasting also produces a certain volume of unsalable fines. By reducing fines, the saleable production volume in the required grain sizes can be increased as much as 5%, according to the company.

3. Continuous production before blasting, the danger zone near the quarry face must be cleared of people and machinery, often interrupting production. Primary and secondary breaking using hydraulic hammers allows continuous production and decreases movement of mobile crushers and conveyor systems. Processing and conveying equipment can consistently remain close to the working face.

4. Fewer, smaller crushers Hammer operators can determine the fragmentation of the rock before initial crushing. This can eliminate the need for a large primary crusher, Krupp said. Material can be fed directly to downstream crushers, saving on investment and maintenance costs.

5. Environmental aspects Quarries facing severe restrictions on noise and vibration from blasting may find hydraulic hammers an effective alternative. New sound-attenuated (“silenced”) hammers can operate at noise levels as low as 85 dBa at a distance of 10 meters Krupp said. Another environmental advantage of hydraulic hammers is the resulting lower bench heights, which can reduce reclamation costs.

But is it cost effective? Although using a hydraulic hammer for primary breaking intuitively seems like a slow, costly proposition, under some conditions it may be worth consideration. If you are facing fierce public opposition to blasting, and rock- formation characteristics-such as bedding, compressive strength and fractures-are amenable to breaking with a hammer, it may be an attractive alternative to a prolonged public battle or to shut down of the operation.

Nevertheless, potential production rates, hammer and carrier capital and operating costs, and operator costs are limiting factors that could make the cost-per-ton too high in most North American quarries.
Facing underutilization of a new drilling rig at its Cooma Road Quarry in New South Wales, Australia, CSR established a system of internal contracting to spread the costs-and savings-among six quarries in the region. According to Tamrock News, CSR was able to dispose of the six old air track drills used at the quarries and replace them with one piece of equipment and one operator.

Cooma Road Quarry charges the other five operations $140 (Australian) per hour, including relocation, drill steel and bits, operating and maintenance costs and depreciation. That is about 71% of the price charged by local drilling contractors. CSR expects to decrease the hourly rate as efficiency increases. The rig averages 29 drilled meters per hour. Drill rig utilization is about 97%.

HAMMERDOCTOR.COM is now offering the new HTL 429 Lubricator Pump for 
hydraulic tools. Designed to deliver precise lubrication each time a hammer or 
other hydraulically driven tool cycles, the pump is ideal for construction OEMs, 
hydraulic hammer retrofits, demolition attachments and medium to large 
breakers/hammers. 

The pump is manufactured by Lincoln of St. Louis, Missouri, a world leader in 
the manufacture and sale of lubrication and pumping equipment for use in 
vehicle service and industry. 

The unique HTL 429 Pump protects your Critical Breakers / Hammers with 
precise, consistent lubrication, allowing your operator to lubricate the hammer 
without leaving the cab. The pump attaches directly to the hammer and is 
connected to the hydraulic power supplier of the carrier. When the operator 
pushes the pedal to activate the hammer, the grease pump is activated, 
automatically sending a single shot of grease to lubricate the bearing points.

When the operator’s foot comes off the pedal and hydraulic fluid pressure is removed from the hammer, the drop in pressure releases the spring in the pump and recharges it so it is ready to lubricate again the next time the device is activated. This fully automatic system reduces machine repairs and replacement costs, and no work interruption means increased productivity.

Installed directly on the hammer, the pump travels with your hammer, not your machine, making it perfect for rental equipment or hammers used on multiple machines. The HTL 429 is easy to use and maintain. It has a visual low-level indicator and utilizes standard 14.5-ounce grease cartridges for convenient refilling. An attached grease fitting allows for manual filling and fast priming of the pump. Optional metering plugs offer four basic delivery rates per stroke of the lubricator. The ability to pump either chisel paste or standard grease and to adjust the delivery rate allows you to utilize the HTL 429 pump on several sizes and types of hydraulically driven tools.