As reported in Construction Equipment Guide — Full Article Here
Gregory Poole Equipment Company in Raleigh, N.C., celebrated the milestone of obtaining ISO 9001:2008 certification of its S•O•S Fluid Analysis Lab program.
“Gregory Poole wanted to make sure that there was a consistency in its program that would transcend their dealership and transfer to the Caterpillar network as a whole,” said Bill Wolf, S•O•S fluid analysis laboratory manager of the company.
He said that many customers have machines that are in different areas and they travel around. With this new development, they can compare the data that they get from one dealership to another dealership.
“ISO certification would allow us to obtain that,” Wolf said. “It’s an international certification — it took about 18 months to generate the documentation and define the purpose of what we’re actually doing to develop our quality management system.”
Gregory Poole currently has more than half a million dollars’ worth of equipment to analyze and interpret an average of 500 samples each day, most completed within 24 hours of receipt.
“The fluid analysis program was designed as a preventive maintenance program,” Wolf said. “It’s designed to be used consistently throughout the lifetime of the machine, and it helps us to determine and identify any issues that the oil itself is telling us about the operation of the machine. The operator may think that everything is running fine, but the oil is telling us something different, and if we have a good baseline of what the oil analysis is showing us when everything is running normally, when there’s a deviation from that — the slightest deviation — we can detect that and then try to determine what’s causing that deviation.
Hopefully, if we find something that is major, we catch it early on so that the repair is before failure, so the repair cost should be significantly less. Once we find something, we can just inform them that there’s an issue, so they can bring in another machine to take over that workload while they pull this one off line to do whatever repair is necessary. So it gives them that heads-up to allow for continued production, reduces the cost of the repair because we caught it early, and it will extend the lifetime of the machine.
“The numbers don’t mean a whole lot to the customers,” Wolf said. “We tell them what the numbers mean, why they would be what they are and what we recommend as the next step. Ultimately, we want them to take this information and add it to what they know about the machine, and then make the ultimate decision. We just provide a recommendation based on the analysis.”
The analysis sampling interval varies with the compartment. For engines, Gregory Poole recommends that customers pull a sample at every oil change interval. For the transmissions or hydraulics of the gear compartments where the oil change interval is longer than the engine, they recommend a sample every 500 hours. These interval recommendations are the same for all pieces of equipment. Available services include oil, coolant and diesel fuel analysis.
Wolf said that most contractors in the area now know the value of having their oil analyzed and that dirt entry is one of the major issues they face.
“These machines work in nasty, nasty environments,” he said. “They are designed to be sealed and protected and the air filtered, but there’s just so much dirt involved, and a lot of it is very fine. If there’s any kind of crack, any kind of loose connection on a hose, or a clamp is loose, dirt can be sucked inside, and that’s the worst enemy in any of the compartments. Other contaminants can include coolant, diesel fuel or water leaking into the crank case.”
Wolf said that customers have come to know the importance of the analysis.
“They’re aware it’s a good insurance policy to keep their equipment healthy and operating,” Wolf said. “It’s not an expensive program, considering that you catch one failure before it happens and you’re saving tens of thousands of dollars, and that will pay for your oil analysis program for the next four years.”
One example, according to Wolf, involved a small off-road truck with a good history and normal tests for eight samples and 1,000 hours of work or more.
“All of the sudden, the silicate, which is dirt, jumped up,” Wolf said. “We brought it to their attention. It wasn’t a big increase, but we told them to pull an early sample — don’t wait for 250 hours, pull the sample at 100 hours — and see if what we’re seeing that we think is dirt is going to increase or just stay constant. Well, it tripled in the next 100 hours, and the iron and chrome went up too, which tells us that it’s on the intake side, because you’re getting ring wear and you’re getting cylinder wear. We called and told them, and they pulled it out of service, and it turned out that one of the clamps had worked loose and fallen off. The hose was still connected, but the clamp had fallen off, and it was just sucking in dirt. Had they waited to the full 250 hours, they probably would have wiped a bearing, and it would have been a $15,000 repair as opposed to an $8.50 clamp.”
Wolf noted that a new program customers can take advantage of is Equipment Management Solutions. EMSolutions is a condition monitoring program, bringing in all of the data fields that are available on customer’s equipment. This includes site inspection, preventive maintenance, S•O•S analysis, and the data from Product Link (electronic machine monitoring). The report goes to both Gregory Poole and the customer.
“They’re out there, busy making money and doing their work, so it’s good that they don’t have to keep track of the information themselves,” Wolf said. “We use all of those data streams to help interpret what’s going on with the customer’s machines. The goal is to utilize all the information to help them better maintain and utilize the whole fleet — not only from a maintenance standpoint from S•O•S when we find a problem going on, but they also get some information on the production. It shows the idle time vs. run time over a period of time, which shows the efficiency of their fleet, and can help them make a business decision of how efficiently they’re utilizing their fleet and helps them manage the cost of their whole operation.”