In our previous article Construction Equipment Productivity we discussed how we can improve the productivity of construction equipment on our construction projects. We talked about selecting the right size machines, the importance of using skilled operators, balancing equipment that is working in teams and how one item can drag down the productivity of the other equipment working in the team, and then we discussed how faulty and old equipment can disrupt the project and impact productivity.
In this article we discuss other ways to improve construction equipment productivity.
Positioning Construction Equipment
The loading times of the excavator is also impacted by the hardness of the ground. Soft ground is easily scooped up, while hard ground takes additional effort. A more powerful excavator will dig harder ground quicker.
The position of the excavator relative to where it scoops the ground and to where it dumps it on the truck will impact the loading time. Every time the excavator must rotate from the scoop location to the load location involves time. The most efficient loading position is where the excavator can scoop ground and tip it straight into the truck. When the truck is parked behind the excavator then the excavator must continuously rotate through 180 degrees from the scoop to load position. Carefully consider where trucks will stand when they’re loaded, and how easily they can move in and out of that position. Correctly positioning the truck and planning the excavation operation could easily cut one or two minutes off every loading cycle, which could increase efficiencies by 20%, possibly even meaning the operation can be done with one less truck. Just think how much money can be saved in a day with one less truck.
Servicing and Refuelling Equipment
Another problem occurs when equipment has to be refuelled or serviced. Refuelling or servicing an excavator in the middle of a shift means that the machine must be stopped. Again this means that all the equipment working with the excavator stops. So 15 minutes stopping the excavator is usually 15 minutes when the other equipment doesn’t work. Servicing and refuelling key equipment, like excavators, after hours may result in additional cost for the service team, but it could result in better productivity. Just consider, I said in the previous article Construction Equipment Productivity that equipment might only work 7 hours in a day. So losing 15 minutes reduces productivity by another 4%.
Compacting ground/soil requires water. If there’s insufficient water then the compaction will happen slower and all the equipment will operate less efficiently. We had a project where the client had to supply the water, but they couldn’t supply the required quantities and nor was the water available at the location specified in the contract. This not only reduced the productivity of our equipment, but it also delayed the project resulting in us lodging a claim for millions of dollars against our client.
But, it’s not just about the productivity of earthmoving equipment. It includes planning the size of cranes, deciding the best position for the crane, carefully thinking how the crane will pick up materials and where they’ll be placed in position.
Again using skilled operators will make the operations safer and faster.
Cranes have their lifting cables running through reeve blocks. This allows the crane to lift a heavier load. If the lifting cable passes twice through the lifting block the crane cable is in effect doubled and can lift double the load of a single cable. The problem is that the crane cable must travel double the distance when lifting the load than if it was a single cable, so it slows the lifting operation, which is not normally a problem when lifting a heavy load. Sometimes the crane lifting cable passes through the lifting reeve blocks several times and there’s 4 or 6 lifting lines connecting the crane hook to the crane. This is required when lifting heavy loads and it’s essential when loads must be precisely fitted into position and slow manoeuvring is required. But, it slows the lifting of repetitive and light items. Changing the number of reeves or lifting loops connecting the crane to the lifting hook can dramatically increase the speed the crane lifts objects – of course this should be done with the permission of the crane operator or an expert that understands the lifting capacity of the crane’s lifting cable and it will have to be changed back for heavy loads.
Good Planning and Instructions
Often moving equipment from one location and setting it up in another location is time consuming and results in zero production in that time. Planning these moves so that they happen quickly will improve productivity. So always ensure that the work areas are ready and clear of obstructions ahead of the time. Give operators clear instructions as to what must be done and the best position for the equipment to maximise productivity.
Improving Productivity of Construction Equipment
Equipment used badly can be dangerous and expensive, but the right item used by a good operator makes construction easy and efficient.
Often construction equipment on projects is unproductive, machines stand idle and equipment is not used efficiently. Equipment costs can make up a large portion of the costs on a construction project - particularly earthmoving and road projects where equipment costs could account for 30 to 50% of the costs. So even improving productivity by 5% could add an extra 2.5% of profits. But improved equipment productivity brings other benefits, such as operators are more productive, less fuel is consumed by the machines, the project can be completed sooner, and other operations become more efficient and productive.
It is worth spending the time to analyse how the construction equipment is being used on your construction equipment. See how productivity can be improved. Often it takes only a few small adjustments to make significant improvements.
Other Useful articles:
How to improve construction productivity
Is your construction project losing money? Do you want to find out why?
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