The 25% solution to repair costs

By: Agriculture.com Staff 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am

One of the toughest but most cost-effective parts of a machinery maintenance program has nothing to do with wrenches and greasy hands, says Vern Hofman, North Dakota State University agricultural engineer.

"Good record keeping is a must," says Hofman. "A machinery service program needs to be based on good record keeping, not just the operator's memory or feeling that a machine needs attention."

With this season's field work finished, now is a good time to review your method of keeping records on machinery maintenance, Hofman says. The maintenance program should be based on fact, as determined by an accurate record of service for each piece of equipment as recommended in the operator's manual and adjusted to individual situations.

A Midwest study found that many farmers can reduce machinery repair costs by 25 percent by improving routine maintenance procedures, Hofman notes. As an example, a $75,000 tractor getting average maintenance will incur about $22,500 in total repairs during 5,000 hours of operation. But good service management can cut the cost by more than $6,000 to a little more than $16,000.

"With a yard full of machinery, savings like this can be significant," he says. "To handle record keeping, it is recommended to mount a service record chart for each vehicle on the wall of the farm shop, with 10-, 50-, 100-, 250- and 500-hour maintenance intervals indicated so they can be performed regularly and the hours marked down." Recommended maintenance operations listed in the operator's manual should be attached to the chart to help operators do all required maintenance procedures.

Also useful is a large planning calendar with machine operating manuals stuck in pockets or hung in a vertical row on the left and columns for each of the months of the year to the right.

Use this calendar for noting major repair and service operations to be carried out on each piece of machinery in the months ahead. "This system is more effective than depending on memory, especially if more than one operator uses the machine," Hofman says.

It may be convenient to cover each chart with Plexiglas so all maintenance jobs can be marked with a grease pencil. At the end of the year, the Plexiglas can be erased and the chart reused.

"The service record may not solve all machinery maintenance problems, and the system will require some work if it is to be kept up to date. But extending machinery life is important in tough economic times, and good maintenance is the best way to do it," Hofman says.

"As a rule of thumb, it usually pays to spend one to two days in the slack season servicing equipment to avoid a one-hour loss when the machine is needed," he notes. "A well-equipped, insulated and heated shop provides a comfortable environment for slack season maintenance work."

With an increasing need for larger-capacity equipment, every effort should be made to keep machines in top shape, Hofman says. "An excellent maintenance program is a good investment because it will keep long-term maintenance costs down and avoid down-time when equipment is needed most."

You can contact Vern Hofman 701/231-7240 or vhofman@ndsuext.nodak.edu.

One of the toughest but most cost-effective parts of a machinery maintenance program has nothing to do with wrenches and greasy hands, says Vern Hofman, North Dakota State University agricultural engineer.