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By Nate Zambon, Director of Filter Minder at Donaldson
If you own, manage or maintain a fleet of vehicles and equipment, you already know how vital it is to perform routine maintenance to maximize uptime. But even if you emphasize the "routine" in routine maintenance, there’s no way to completely avoid unexpected downtime on a job site. Conditions are harsh and machinery is fickle, and there’s often limited intel as to what’s really going on in your engines or other systems.
But what if those systems could talk to you in real time?
Modern technology has raised the game in our everyday lives. With the supercomputer in your pocket, you can know the status of your home security, the temperature in your living room and even what your pets are up to, no matter where you are in the world. We’re connected to everything in our personal lives via the cloud, so it stands to reason that we should be able to harness that technology to make our on-the-job lives more efficient. And now we can.
Engine filtration has never been more important. Tolerances in modern construction equipment — especially engines and hydraulic systems — can be so tight that even a tiny bit of debris passing through an air, hydraulic or fuel filter can cause unexpected downtime at best or catastrophic failure at worst. It may no longer be enough to change your filters or fluids at preset intervals, especially if the working conditions vary from job to job.
For instance, for engine oil, the best time to change an oil filter is when you change the engine oil at its standard interval. But that might not always be true for hydraulic filters and fluid. Hydraulic oil might need to be changed, but there might be plenty of life left in the filter. Or the filter might be doing its job and catching plenty of contamination, thus keeping the oil in pristine condition, but might need swapped out before the scheduled maintenance interval because of it.
It’s “traditional” to change your filters at a predetermined time of year or at a set interval. But if there is sufficient life remaining to hit the next interval, you can maximize filter consumption and get more productivity out of your fleet.
Using advanced telematics and sensors integrated into the fluid and filtration systems, we’re now able to generate real-time data to create more efficient service scheduling, including optimal filter replacement timing. This wireless sensing capability sends filter and fluid performance data to the cloud, while predictive analytics help users make more efficient filtration maintenance decisions.
These are advancements that every fleet manager can benefit from, because they eliminate a lot of the guesswork when it comes to filtration and fluid performance. By continually monitoring the fluid and the filter, you can answer a lot of questions and improve your equipment’s efficiency. Should the fluid be changed? Does the condition of the fluid indicate a larger problem in the engine? Using existing fleet monitoring software, these sensors send messages in real time that can prevent a minor issue from turning into a major repair.
Fluid condition and filtration monitoring in construction equipment is akin to blood testing in people. Conducting a blood test lets you know how your body is performing and can raise red flags if something is off. Monitoring everything from fluid quality to air intake in every piece of equipment in your fleet at the same time can give you a bird’s-eye view of the health of the entire operation. By optimizing filtration maintenance and fluid conditioning, fleet managers can save on maintenance downtime and expenses.
The more downtime in your fleet, the more money you hemorrhage in both practical costs and time costs. Whether it’s a truck, a crane or even a skid steer, uptime is critical because your time is money. If you knew that you could deliver greater uptime on your equipment by being proactive and “listening” to the equipment, wouldn’t you do so? You can avoid a lot of surprises that can bring the work to a screeching halt.
It’s now possible to listen to your entire fleet at once. Telematics have advanced so much that we can connect multiple monitoring solutions into one intuitive system. It’s the next stage of wireless filtration and fluid monitoring technology.
Donaldson uses technology that allows integrated data from all onboard systems — air, fuel, oil and hydraulics — into the Geotab fleet management platform no matter the fleet or engine. This means it’s now easy to put what could otherwise be an overwhelming amount of information into action. It also means more informed maintenance decisions, which means more uptime and more productivity. And more productivity is the ultimate goal.