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6 Tips to Keep Your Roadbuilding Project on Schedule

Most regions experience a short roadbuilding season, and staying on schedule is a bit like running a marathon. To get to the finish line, you need to keep your equipment moving steadily, shift after shift, until the season is over. Maximizing your investment requires careful planning, maintenance, and a keen eye for trouble signs that could sideline your operation. 

In this edition of Experts Corner, two of SMS Equipment's road construction veterans, Service Supervisor Thierry Wilson and Technical Support Specialist Chaunce Edwards, share their best tips for keeping your equipment in top form for the entire season.
Late completion and cost overruns have no place in the road construction business. Instead, build your position in the industry with supportive and thoughtful solutions backed by decades of experience.

Short roadbuilding seasons give contractors little leeway if a job falls behind schedule. The key to getting through unscathed is anticipating failure before taking your equipment out of service. 

Thierry: In my experience, paving season is so short that any downtime, even a 15-minute one, can affect the complete season. With barely six months of paving and jobs scheduled one after the other, if one gets delayed, everything gets delayed. 

Chaunce: We maintain an ongoing dialogue with our customers. We look at the wear condition of their major components and their upcoming workload to ensure that the parts will be available once they are nearing end of life. In addition, current supply chain issues have exemplified the importance of parts planning. 

Major equipment failures don't just occur out of the blue. Often it's the minor components people take for granted - pumps, batteries, switches - that get overlooked. Cleaning is another basic item that gets missed.

Thierry: People often make sure that the equipment starts up, but they often skip the general maintenance like changing the oil, checking the scrapers, checking the lights, or checking the water pump. Leaks are a common problem that can shut you down if not noticed in time. But you don't want a season or job site to fail just because you didn't inspect a water pump or a minor system that usually doesn't require as much attention. 

Chaunce: We encourage our customers to buy maintenance kits to prevent component failures. Our 500-hour kits and 1000-hour kit include a variety of filters and wear-type items that cover areas some might not ordinarily inspect. Maintenance kits can prompt service technicians to check things out more thoroughly. We always encourage this behaviour and offer the kits at a discounted price. 

For major components, keeping machines clean is critical. When daily cleaning procedures go unaddressed, there is potential for vast buildups of material that hide issues. And then, all of a sudden, a problem that would be relatively minor can turn into a significant breakdown scenario. We want companies to understand that keeping machines free of asphalt or other debris lets you physically see if you have a potential problem developing. 

Adjust the scraper bar on a compactor to ensure no clogs and maximize penetration depth.

Maintenance is an ongoing investment in your equipment, but the temptation to cut corners is ever-present when meeting a busy schedule. Leaving out even routine maintenance, however, is not a sustainable strategy.

Thierry: Skipping a little one-hour inspection may result in multiple days of lost production because the machine was down for a defective water pump or a hydraulic leak. 

Chaunce: We've seen situations where underbid jobs and expedited timelines have resulted in highly packed work schedules with no consideration for planned maintenance or budget forecasting. In these cases, the bad news is that the equipment will be highly run down within a year or two and not worth nearly as one would expect. The lesson is that if you don't invest in your equipment on an ongoing basis, you're not going to get the full value of your purchase.  

A simple task like checking the hydraulic pressure on your compactor before road construction starts can make an enormous difference in ensuring a smooth and steady season. 

User manuals have gone out of fashion in some industries, such as consumer electronics, not in road construction. Bomag, for example, provides top-quality manuals, guides and checklists, and reading the manual is one of the best ways to get to know the equipment. 

Thierry: The Bomag manuals provide a tonne of information. They even give you troubleshooting instructions in some operator user manuals that come with the machine, so you don't need a service manual. For example, you can't remove and repair the drum assembly on a roller, but the book guides them on what to check and where they might need our help for more complicated troubleshooting or a significant repair. 

Daily inspection and routine care are your first defence against developing equipment problems. Below, Chaunce and Thierry share their recommendations for procedures to complete at the end of every single working day to lower the total cost of ownership.

Milling machine:
  • Clean the extracted material from all moving parts.
  • Use wash down system to maintain a clean machine.
  • Make sure to change and clean the teeth while the drum is warm.
  • Check for leaks, even if there weren't any in the morning.
  • Check for leaks. 
  • Make sure moving parts are clear of material - asphalt will stick.
  • Make sure you put covers on your controls because weather and rain can affect them.
  • Make sure you handle it correctly if you transport it. For example, if the screed drops down because you forgot to put in your lock pins, that can cause significant damage.
  • Check for leaks.
  • Drain the water system, especially if you filled it from a pond. 
  • Clean your water filter because there may be algae in it. 
  • Water is needed to cool the drum and lubricate it.
  • Check the scraper every day. If you've switched to a different kind of asphalt that's more abrasive, that will mean it wears more quickly. 

Many roadbuilding customers maintain excellent service shops, where experienced mechanics maintain diverse fleets of excavators, dozers, trucks, and other equipment in addition to milling machines, pavers, and rollers. SMS Equipment complements the skills of these service teams by providing the specialized skills to handle many of the scenarios that arise with roadbuilding equipment.

Chaunce: Some of the wear signs on pavers are easy to miss. For example, just looking at the floor plates, you can't always tell your wear factor. So our Product Support Reps utilize an ultrasonic tool to measure the remaining material and compare it to the brand new spec. Based on findings, we can fill out a report that tells the customer how much wear is left. 

Thierry: If you maintain a paver, it's easy to change a blade on the screed. But ensuring accuracy in adjusting till it's perfectly flat so that you won't have bumps on the road requires specialized training and service expertise. That's where the difference comes in. Our service technicians receive 80 to 100 hours of OEM factory training every year.  

Our Product Support Sales Representatives and Service teams use an ultrasonic tool that measures wear items' thickness and provide customers with an accurate percent value of life that enables better maintenance planning decisions. 

The Bottom Line

Getting through the short roadbuilding season without a major incident calls for a team effort involving operators, supervisors and in-house maintenance resources. SMS Equipment augments your team with specialized technical expertise, OEM parts, and manufacturers' technical support resources. Together we can protect your investment in equipment and ensure that it delivers its full value without interruption.  
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Q&A: SMS Equipment’s Ray Tremblay talks preparation for the paving season →

Article from Heavy Equipment Guide's original release, Q&A: SMS Equipment's Ray Tremblay talks preparation for the paving season, on February 22, 2021.

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