Piling Canada

Prepping Heavy Equipment for Remote Jobs

Lost time can be prevented by properly planning the project, having the recommended parts on site, and scheduling sufficient time for inspections and maintenance on the equipment
Written by Lisa Kopochinski
September 2016

Lost time can be prevented by properly planning the project, having the recommended parts on site, and scheduling sufficient time for inspections and maintenance on the equipment

One needs only to watch the television show Ice Road Truckers – which features drivers who operate trucks across frozen lakes, rivers and tundra in both Alaska and Canada’s north – to get an idea of the challenges involved when transporting equipment and supplies to remote locations in extreme and often treacherous conditions. These conditions also spotlight the importance of diligent planning to help ensure that heavy equipment will perform at peak capacity once they reach these locations. Machines must not only be prepped and maintained prior to transport, but inspected and maintained regularly on site.

“The key to cold weather success is having a piece of equipment that is specifically designed for the cold,” said Bruce Patterson, owner of Canadian Pile Driving Equipment Inc., located in Lacombe, Alta. (with a service office in Montreal), an authorized dealer of Junttan equipment in Canada that also provides a full line of service and parts that complement pile driving equipment.

“The Junttan product that we sell is built and tested in northern Finland – north of the 60th parallel – which has proved to have great success in the coldest regions of the world,” said Patterson. “The biggest part to success is to be able to get the machine to easily start and get the engine and hydraulics up to operating temperature as quickly as possible.”

And while Junttan equipment is used on many remote jobs and often equipped with an Arctic kit that heats up the engine, batteries, hydraulics, cabin and fuel without running the engine all night, Patterson cautions that “there is no piece of equipment that is absolute bulletproof. However, if a company has followed all of the scheduled maintenance and has a good heating system in place, the best way to prevent breakdowns is in personnel training.”

Colin Grindle, Canadian regional manager and business development executive for American Piledriving Equipment (APE), a global provider in research and development, production and sales of foundation construction equipment, says when the company rents equipment to clients, “We ask a series of questions so we can set our equipment up according to the environment and climate that the job is on.”

Working out of APE’s Edmonton office, he says a perfect example of this was when the company’s excavators and helical drills were working on a job in Northern Manitoba.

“The weather was extremely cold – minus 50 degrees cold,” said Grindle. “We implemented a cold weather application into our fleet that will be resistant to these severe low temperatures, but I was there and can attest that our equipment did function and did warm up (and stay warm) in a timely fashion. So, from the questions we ask our client, this will help us determine what type of oils, heaters and equipment would best suit the needs to perform optimally.”

APE sets up equipment in its state-of-the art shops before shipping them to the job site. The company also makes available to clients its highly trained technicians, who can travel to sites and assist with set up, maintenance and warranty work, if needed.

“On every rental, we supply our customers with operator manuals and instructions on daily maintenance checks that must be performed,” said Grindle. “If these guidelines and procedures are followed precisely, the client will minimize breakdowns by a huge factor. We also have a seven-day-a- week technical support number, and find that nine times out of 10, we can walk them through a fix if needed. And, if there is a need, have our service technicians head to the site and get the equipment serviced, repaired or adjusted in a timely fashion.”

Paul Sandberg, divisional leader with Liebherr Canada Ltd. in Burlington, Ont., says it is imperative that contractors follow the operations manual in order to determine the operating temperatures and the use of appropriate oils and greases for their equipment. Liebherr specifies the viscosity and type of grease to be used for extreme cold climates to minimize wear and downtime.

A family owned business operating through 130 companies on all continents, Liebherr is among the world’s largest manufacturers of construction machinery, and an acknowledged supplier of technically advanced, user-orientated products and services in many other fields of activity, as well.

With respect to the special maintenance and preparation required if a piece of equipment is going to be working in extremely cold temperatures or other severe weather conditions, Sandberg says Liebherr builds equipment that can achieve operating temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius or more.

“Standard equipment can often be modified to achieve lower operating temperatures, depending on the type of equipment and model,” said Sandberg. “Most importantly, the maintenance inspections must be performed – as recommended – and only OEM parts should be used. Using non-OEM parts can severely impact the performance of the equipment and could result in dangerous conditions, especially in cold climates.”

On the job site
Patterson adds that once the equipment on the site, it is imperative that preventative maintenance be a continuous process.

“We have set guidelines for inspection and maintenance; some are every four hours, daily or weekly,” he said. “But the really good crews always have a keen eye out for anything that could possibly cause issues. I have a customer that is so keen on how his machine performs that he can tell by the shaking of his water bottle, just how smooth the machine is performing. This is why maintenance, along with proper operation, is very crucial. We have seen both sides of this; one customer can get 6,000 hours of life out of a hammer cushion, and the next can’t get through a single day.”

Patterson says the most common failures that he has seen in cold weather are with hydraulic hoses, largely caused by not allowing the oil to heat up fully before operating at full pressure.

Grindle concurs.

“Anyone in the heavy duty equipment industry knows that hoses are not immortal,” he said. “We have implemented into our equipment ‘safeguard features’ to protect the hose bundles and lines as much as we can. We provide spare hoses in our spare parts box that go out with every rental, and what is in the spare parts box is always indicative of the specific job that the equipment is going to be doing – such as spare sheet clamp jaws, caisson clamp jaws, wedges for caisson clamps, pop-off valves, site glass, fuel pump kits, etc. Having this spare parts box sent with our units provides our client with a rest assurance of ‘as little downtime’ as possible.”

Patterson adds that in the extreme cold, the steel just becomes brittle and the fittings cannot take the same abuse at -40 degrees as they can at -20 degrees Celsius.

“This I why we recommend the use of a high-quality OEM fitting instead of cheaper imitation,” he said. “The fuel that often ends up in remote locations can cause a lot of issues in the cold as well. Water in the fuel is often a cause of headaches. On Junttan piling rigs, there is a fuel water separator, along with a duel-filtration system. We recommend having a spare filter on hand along with fuel additives to reduce the amount of water in the fuel.”

Preventing lost time
To help prevent lost time on projects, Patterson says a second piece of equipment would be wishful thinking, but not necessarily a fiscally responsible decision.

“Instead of having a backup piece of equipment, just bring in quality equipment!” he said. “A properly trained operator with a decent inventory of spare parts can easily keep the Junttan working through most conditions.”

Sandberg says lost time can be prevented by properly planning the project, having the recommended parts on site and scheduling sufficient time for inspections and maintenance on the equipment. Liebherr Canada supports the customers with complete maintenance and repair programs, which include inspections and complete service and parts supplied and installed on site at regular intervals. This provides the customers with a complete and worry-free solution, maximizing uptime and performance of the equipment over its full lifetime.

“Working directly with the manufacturer allows direct access to our research and development teams that are continually striving to enhance and improve products operating in extreme environments across the globe,” said Sandberg. “For major projects, the selection of the appropriate machinery is essential and we will assist with application reviews to ensure the right machines are deployed.”

Grindle adds that with the right planning, anything can be possible.

“Usually the biggest obstacle of transporting is not so much the isolation of the site, but the road bans. It [can] take a lot of permits and road diversions to get large equipment to the target location. And – as far as a challenge to get to isolated job sites – well, everything is achievable if you make a plan.”

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Category: Business

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