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Preparing for the 2024 roadbuilding season

April 10, 2024
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With the 2024 roadbuilding season only weeks away, now is the time for roadbuilders to review their plans and start getting their equipment ready. To help you get the most out of the season, we’ve consolidated season prep advice from three SMS Equipment experts: Supervisor, Technical Product Specialist Thierry Wilson, veteran employee but newly appointed Product Manager for BOMAG, Chaunce Edwards, and now retired Ray Tremblay, Manager, Road Construction Technical Support Specialist.

Go for the big win

Go for the big win

While nobody is perfect, setting aspirational goals for equipment availability is critical. The stated objective, therefore, should be no unscheduled downtime, period. This sounds like a stretch, but it is not unreasonable – uninterrupted operation is what your equipment is designed for, and if you carefully follow all of the recommended preparation, operation, and maintenance procedures, you should be able to come close to that perfect score.

Remember that Canada’s roadbuilding season is barely six months long, so if you fall behind, there’s not much opportunity to catch up. Even a 15-minute equipment glitch can lead to not finishing a job on the scheduled day and having to plan maintenance and repair for the machines. Breakdowns also keep other machines waiting – if a paver goes down, you might have your trucks and plant sitting idle.

Look at the wear and tear

One of the key factors that can shut you down is the deterioration of wear parts. On a paver, it might be auger flights, auger bearings, supports, screed plates, floor plates, or slat chains. You also want to check anything that transmits power to the process, including auger motors, gearboxes, and drive chains.

Often, signs of wear aren’t obvious. For example, a visual inspection of a floor plate might not tell you what the wear factor is. Our SMS Equipment support reps use an ultrasonic tool that gives an accurate reading of the wear state of a surface in comparison with what a brand-new component would look like. That way, you have a relatively accurate reading of how much life remains in that component and whether it will last the season.

When you replace a wear component, ensure it is adjusted and aligned correctly. An improperly installed blade on a screed could result in the paver creating uneven surfaces. And any wear component that’s not properly aligned will wear out more quickly.

Look for the little things

Nothing frustrates people more than getting shut down by a seemingly trivial misfunction. But make no mistake – a leaky pump can shut down a job as quickly as a final drive failure. Unfortunately, components like pumps, filters, batteries, tubing, and switches get overlooked because there are so many of them, and they’re not what people pay the most attention to.

The only way to stay on top of these potential show-stoppers is with a regular maintenance and support program supplemented by daily operator inspections. Every piece of equipment is different, but here are some guidelines for building your checklist:

  • Clean: Roadbuilding equipment should be cleaned daily of debris and grime every day. Rollers and pavers need to be cleaned of asphalt. Water in rollers should be drained daily, and the filters should be checked, especially if the roller was filled from a pond. Operators should be supplied with cleaning tools such as water guns.
  • Inspect: Examine all wear components daily, especially if your job involves a type of asphalt that’s more abrasive. Inspect all lines and components involving fluids for leaks. Check warning indicator lights and system diagnostics. Use your phone to photograph any condition you want to report to your maintenance department.
  • Replenish: Make sure your shop is stocked with all the fluids, filters, and minor spare parts you’ll need for the season. Not having some small item in stock can be as disruptive as not uncovering the problem in the first place.
  • Document: Recordkeeping is the secret sauce behind successful maintenance. Whether the information is recorded on a phone, tablet, or paper notebook, those records not only help you stay on top of a particular piece of equipment but can provide valuable insights for your overall maintenance program.

Downloadable Checklist

Educate your operators.

The beginning of the season is the best time to review operating procedures, create checklists, and study the equipment manuals. While manuals are out of fashion in many industries, companies like BOMAG have created manuals that are excellent training tools and provide practical guides such as maintenance checklists and troubleshooting guides. An operator who knows the manual well will know how to operate the equipment for maximum life and be prepared for any adverse events.

Work with your vendor.

At SMS Equipment, we are set up to be your maintenance partner, which works on several levels. With minor replaceable components such as filters, we provide kits for 500 and 1000 equipment hours, discounted at up to 30%.

For major wear components, we maintain stock of the most common items. We recommend that companies work closely with us on their parts needs so that we can plan ahead to avoid supply chain-related delays.

Finally, SMS Equipment maintains service teams Canada-wide who deploy years of industry experience and hundreds of hours of manufacturer-provided training to ensure your equipment gets cared for according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

The Bottom Line:

Roadbuilding in Canada is a rugged business that has only a short season. Companies should aim for a perfect record regarding equipment availability and engage their operators in that campaign. SMS Equipment is set up to complement roadbuilders’ maintenance teams across Canada.

This article is part of the April 2024 edition of our Expert's Corner Monthly Newsletter. Stay in the know with the latest insights, trends, and exclusive features directly delivered to your inbox. Subscribe now to receive our upcoming newsletters and stay connected with industry expertise and innovations.

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