When it comes to machine management, you need assurance you’re leveraging every possible opportunity to increase jobsite efficiency and security for your equipment assets. After all, poor machine or attachment productivity directly impacts your bottom line and—depending on your reserves—theft has the potential to shut down your business completely. Taking advantage of innovative skid-steer and compact loader control technologies can give you the ability to monitor accurate data on security and performance rates, and manage several other important operational metrics.
“On today’s jobsites, owners and fleet managers want to understand their costs to make better business decisions. Loader technologies can help identify opportunities to improve machine and operator efficiencies and protect their investments,” says Chris Knipfer, marketing manager with Bobcat.
The most common machine management technologies monitor and display standard gauges, such as battery condition, fuel levels, engine oil pressure, and hydraulic oil temperature and pressure, as well as digital tachometers and job clocks. While those indicators are critical to operators, the introduction of new tools that create user visibility represents one of the most significant developments in machine management. With their ability to track user-specific data, owners can evaluate the root of inefficiencies and calculate resource allocations on projects.
Loaders have continued to evolve with the incorporation of simple, yet sophisticated, electronic systems that provide multiple levels of password-protected access to more in-depth machine and operator performance. Systems equipped with tools to capture user statistics allow job productivity and resources to be precisely gauged to the respective operators.
According to Knipfer, customers frequently want to know their annual or hourly fuel consumption. It’s been a difficult parameter to pinpoint due to jobsite variables, such as different operators, attachments, and jobsite conditions. By incorporating customer feedback, upgrades to the deluxe instrumentation panel on the Bobcat M-Series loaders now include the functionality to capture individual fuel usage and real-time fuel consumption, as well as idle time data.
“Owners can understand fuel consumption per hour by the job they’re performing and then evaluate by operator. They can see which operator is using more fuel and determine if it’s their style or whether they’re operating the machine more than everybody else,” Knipfer says.
With that data, owners can assess a particular type of job and more accurately estimate fuel usage, but they can also see real-time fuel consumption to better understand what aspect of a job requires more fuel. Moving dirt typically translates into lower fuel consumption compared to planing, which demands more work from the machine and, therefore, more fuel. Owners can also manage labor discrepancies as a user may have logged 8 hours of time on a machine; however, the data indicates it sat idle for 3 of those hours.
Another advantage of owner-level observation for tracking multiple users is the ability to program control settings, such as high-flow hydraulics or two-speed travel, to prevent poor performance. “If you have an operator who’s kind of a cowboy, and you don’t want him running the machine really fast, you can lock out his password from the loader’s two-speed function and still keep the function available to others,” Knipfer says.
Machine management tools can be integrated into instrumentation systems to intelligently monitor attachment productivity. For instance, these systems allow operators to consult their display panels from the loader’s cab to see which blade or gate is active on tree spades and modify settings to adjust dig timing. Job clocks and cumulative hour meters compute usage on high-output attachments, such as planers and wheel saws. Owners can also track parameters like bit life, maintenance, and total life of an attachment.
Justin Odegaard, attachment product specialist with Bobcat, says smart technologies can also protect attachments that aren’t designed for certain hydraulic capacities, which can help contractors prepare more precise job bids and avoid maintenance costs for better cost of ownership. “With these tools, an owner or supervisor can lock out high-flow capabilities to reduce or eliminate the possibility of over-flowing attachments,” Odegaard says.
Another category of attachments that are compatible with loader control technologies are grading systems, such as lasers and sonic/slope products. The housings of most laser receivers are engineered with indicator lights to inform the operator if the blade is too high, too low, or right on grade. Odegaard says operators can use instrumentation switches to adjust the on-grade mark on laser receivers. “This increases efficiency because the operator does not need to exit the cab of the machine to raise or lower either the laser receivers or the laser transmitter,” Odegaard says.
Sonic tracer/slope sensor kits provide an alternative method of automatic grade control on hilly jobsites not suited to lasers. These systems require a control box to make adjustments. “We incorporated all visual indicators and adjustability into our loader’s panel. Not only does this ensure all controls are completely integrated into the host machine, but it doesn’t encroach into the valuable cab space of the loader,” Odegaard says.
Theft protection is a leading concern on jobsites nationwide. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, $3 million in compact equipment is lost each day to thieves. Security features of many loader control technologies include the use of a numeric keyless pad. Only operators with preassigned codes that correspond to passwords can start and run the machine. Knipfer points out that some insurance companies recognize the installation of reputable security devices for compact equipment and may provide discounted premiums on certain coverage plans.
“These types of options are a small investment when you consider the amount of downtime that can occur when a machine is stolen. Even if you get it back, it’s going to take a while to find it, you don’t know what kind of condition it will be in, and you may have an increase on your insurance,” Knipfer says. ■
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Article supplied by Bobcat Company headquartered in West Fargo, North Dakota. For more information, visit www.bobcat.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, May 2013
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