The more you spend, the less you make. It’s a pretty simple concept, but one you should focus on from time to time to evaluate how your business is performing. Is your site optimized to eliminate unnecessary waste? Are your operators using machines in the most efficient ways? Answering these types of questions can save you quite a bit of money that allows you to explore new opportunities for work.
Here are 4 ways to lower operating costs in earthmoving and mining applications:
The best way to reduce tire wear is to ensure you have the right tires for the application — don’t simply run the tires initially speced on the machine if you plan to use it in a wide range of applications. Use thicker tires with added tread for harsh jobs, and lighter-weight tires for your long, speedier hauls. Typically, the higher the tire rating, the more rubber it has — but that added protection also means it builds up heat faster. Matching tires to the application will help you keep the temperatures in your tires down.
Never run equipment with excessive temperatures in the tires. Monitoring tire pressure is critical as well — both can be monitored through tire pressure monitoring systems. Volvo wheel loaders, for example, have sensors on each tire to monitor both pressure and temperature — if either falls outside of the parameters set by the tire manufacturer for your specific application, the operator is notified to address the issue. Volvo articulated haulers are set to utilize this technology in Q2 of this year.
If your OEM includes advanced features that help reduce tire wear, take advantage of them. Volvo wheel loaders use a rimpull control system that allows operators to minimize wheel spin and optimize the balance between rimpull and hydraulic functions. This helps reduce tire wear and fuel consumption for more efficient bucket filling. Volvo haulers have a similar feature to reduce tire wear called Automatic Traction Control.
Well-maintained work areas and haul roads will also prolong tire life. Keeping blasted rocks and other debris away from the tires is an easy way to get more out of them, and keeping a well maintained haul road allows you to go the maximum potential speed of your vehicles.
If you purchase a piece of equipment to maximize your productivity, it’s important to have a well-trained operator running it. Putting a new or untrained operator in a haul truck can cause unnecessary damage or present safety issues. Remember, a lot of damage can be done at 40 miles an hour.
A great way to ensure operators are well trained and confident behind the wheel is by using simulators. Simulators help operators understand all the different features and give them a good feel for how the machine works. Volvo simulators — available at select Volvo dealerships across North America — track productivity, fuel consumption based on throttle and more — they also track operator improvement over time.
Simulators are also great tools for the hiring process. They can help ensure you’re hiring competent new operators, and for your current staff, help you determine which ones are best for certain types of equipment. Long-term, proactive telematics systems can help you continually train your operators to correct potential machine misuses and improve efficiency.
How you set up your site is everything. The most efficient machines in the world won’t matter if they’re constantly waiting on other machines, traveling further than necessary, constantly switching between forward and reverse, and so on.
Operator performance matters too. Executing Y cycles for your wheel loaders, for example, is a great way to save on fuel and cut down on unnecessary wear and tear. Your site should also be optimized to reduce wait times. Cutting down cycle times boosts efficiency — it may seem like a small amount of money you’re saving each day, but over the course of a year, it can add up to thousands of dollars.
Another thing to look at is keeping grades, hair-pin turns and switchbacks to a minimum — optimize your site for fewer turn arounds and blind spots, and less backing up. These all make for a smoother flow and increased efficiency. For grades specifically, anything over 10% to 12% can slow vehicles down and burn excessive fuel. This is especially true for rigid trucks. While articulated haulers are equipped to handle up to 33% grades, with rigids, you want to keep your grades under 10% coming out of the pit.
We say it a lot, but proper maintenance is one of the biggest factors to keeping your machines up and running efficiently and safely. The time spent keeping up with your machines is worth it to cut down on costly downtime.
Advanced telematics programs like ActiveCare Direct can also help ensure your machines are serviced timely and correctly to avoid potential downtime scenarios.
Minimizing operating costs is a big focus for us — and it starts with service and support. Check out our full range of equipment services built to keep your machines running their best to reduce what you spend to run your business.