Who Should Perform Your Compact Machine Maintenance: You or Your Dealer?

Evaluate Time, Expertise, Opportunity Costs To Make Best Decision
August 2013, Vol. 68 No. 8

The pace of business is picking up with the summer construction season. Combined with an improving economy, you may already be stretched thin to stay ahead of the curve with routine maintenance. Plus, any new compact machines you’ve purchased in the past three years typically have more sophisticated service needs than their predecessors.

These are factors that directly impact your uptime when business is good. That’s why it’s important to re-evaluate who can most cost-effectively maintain your compact excavators and loaders -- you or your dealer? Perhaps your business is large enough to justify dedicated technicians, up-to-date tools and ample shop space. If you’re a smaller operation, you may be tasked with doing most of your own work after hours out of a shop trailer with hand tools.

For example, machines in use four hours a day or more will typically need a 250-hour service interval every three months, or four times annually. “You need to analyze and decide whether the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance intervals can be accomplished efficiently at your location, or if the work should be done by trained dealership technicians who have the time, tools and know-how,” says Mike Fitzgerald, loader product specialist with Bobcat Company.

Fitzgerald and other industry experts say it’s important to weigh your productivity against factors such as your company’s capabilities, your dealership’s capabilities and your opportunity costs. Evaluating these core competencies can help you make the right decision about the type of maintenance that you can manage versus what you might need a dealership’s assistance to complete.

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Assess capabilities, efficiencies
One of your first tasks is to review a machine’s operator and service manuals and then evaluate your company’s technical skill sets and efficiencies. Fitzgerald says fewer companies are doing more than daily maintenance and visual checks if they don’t have a staff technician.

The other aspect to consider is the ability to match technical aptitude to the age of the fleet, says Tom Sams, service director for Bobcat Enterprises, an Ohio-based equipment dealership. There’s more to servicing today’s machines than changing filters and fluids. “It makes a difference whether a knowledge base is needed to maintain an older-generation machine or a new machine with more complex procedures for advanced electronic systems, diagnostic packages and EPA-compliant emissions controls that require specialized -- and sometimes proprietary -- electronic testing equipment,” Sams says.

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