Operators: Your Frontline for Equipment Inspections and Maintenance

equipment inspection checklistEquipment inspections are an essential part of machine health and successful operation. By inspecting equipment daily, operators can decrease downtime, improve machine health and performance, extend equipment life expectancy, enhance safety and boost productivity.

Inspecting machinery at the start of a shift can lead to identifying potential machine problems before starting the work day. This gives you more time in the day to solve the problem and offers the potential to solve the problem prior to commencing work.

Too often, individuals and companies suffer from a division of duties: operations run the machines, maintenance looks over their health, however by making operators your first line of defense, you will improve equipment reliability and operator engagement and knowledge.

Equipment inspection checklists should be standardized and documented. Standardizing machinery inspections will lead to more consistent machine information. Documenting it gives a record that can influence the machine’s maintenance schedule and, if there are machine issues that arise, it can help determine which operators are performing thorough and accurate equipment checks. The document should include all the check points, as well as date, time and name of person filling out the form.

Examine your work station

Before you climb into the machine, ensure all components that help you get into the cab are clean and damage-free. From inside the cab, start the machine’s engine and let it idle while you perform the inspection. This provides more accurate fluid readings and warming the engine for several minutes prior to operation improves machine operation and health.

Next, ensure all instruments are set how you want them and check all the gauges to ensure they are presenting the desired information. Check the operating controls. If your equipment has an in-cab display that runs diagnostics and provides machine health information, use it to check fluid levels and any other machine health.

Check the seat and seatbelt. Check the mirrors for damage, cleanliness and position. Test the horn and indicator. Look around the cab; make sure it is clean, that you have everything you need in it for the day, and that there isn’t anything present that doesn’t belong.

Then exit the cab and go to the engine compartment.

Look under the hood

Listen to the sound of the engine and the fan. Are either of them making any unusual noises? If so, make note of it (and if warranted, shut down the engine). Is the engine compartment fairly clean? Check for wet or colored spots around and below engine components because this could be a sign of leakage.

Check fluids (coolant, hydraulic oil and windshield wiper fluid) to ensure sufficient levels for operation and to ensure the fluids are the right viscosity and color. Fluids that aren’t their natural color or viscosity can be signs of leaks, contamination or some other engine problem. Address any fluid issues prior to operation.

Once complete, check underneath the machine.

Daily Equipment InspectionsA lot rides on the undercarriage

Undercarriages are one of the most expensive parts of a machine to fix, so close monitoring of undercarriage components can go a long way in your efforts to decrease downtime and repair costs.

If there is any dirt or debris, clean it; dirt hides damage and other machine issues. 

If your machine is a tracked machine, check the tracks for cuts or bends in the metal and check the tension. Put an object with a straight edge on top of the tracks. Ensure it can reach both the front idler and rear idler. At the midpoint between the two idlers, measure the distance between the tracks and the straight edge. Compare this number to the manufacturer’s guide for track tension (in the machine’s manual). Too little and too much tension will wear out undercarriage components more quickly.

Check the idler, rollers and sprocket for signs of damage or excessive wear. Tools for measuring wear aren’t necessary when performing daily inspections, since wear from day-to-day is minimal. However, you do want to check around and underneath the above components for signs of leakage.

If your machine has tires, check the inflation of the tires and check for damage and excess wear.

In both cases, you should hop back into the machine and move it so that the parts of the tires or tracks that were facing the ground are now visible. Also, at this point, lift the attachment off the ground.

Once complete, move to the front of the machine.

Front and center

Many machines perform the work at the front of the machine. Inspect the attachment for signs of damage and excess wear. Make note of any new dents, dings or cuts. If the attachment is a bucket or blade or fork, this is the extent of the inspection. Attachments can have distinct inspection points and you should check with the manufacturer on how to inspect a particular attachment. If the attachment is powered, you should run it during inspection.

Next check all the linkages starting from the attachment to the machine. Push down on the attachment and push side to side on the excavator stick or loader arms. You are examining how much play is in each component. In each case, there should only be a little movement. Look for signs of damage or excess wear from the attachment linkage to the machine’s base.

Flexible, consistent machinery inspections

If the machine has a tool at the rear of the machine, such as backhoes, dozers or motor graders, you will also need to inspect that as well.

The type of equipment, as well as its application, will affect your equipment inspection checklist, so consider how you will modify the checklist to account for those changes.

Properly train operators on how to inspect equipment and make them accountable for their inspections. Let them know they are the frontline workers when it comes to combatting downtime. If you want them to be as enthusiastic about daily inspections as production quotas, reward them for consistently doing great equipment inspections.

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