A Little PM (Preventative Maintenance) Goes a Long Way
Posted by Andrew Greess on Aug 10, 2007
Regardless of what you spent on your power spray rig, whether it is the newest top of the line gear, or a 20 year old hand me down, a good preventative maintenance (PM) program can make your life easier. Even the best equipment will require maintenance when exposed to typical operating conditions. Harsh chemicals, extreme temperatures, long operating hours and less-then-gentle handling by technicians, and age will eventually take their toll on your gear.
First, some general guidelines:
1. Consult equipment owner’s manuals, or contact your equipment provider for proper operating conditions, maintenance schedules, etc. Lack of proper maintenance can void manufacturer’s warranties.
2. Train your staff on the proper use of equipment. In our experience, from hundreds of organizations and thousands of spray rigs, we find that:
Technicians tend to run motors and pumps too fast. In an effort to get their job done quickly, technicians will often set operating speeds and pressures too high for continuous use. Running a pump or motor at maximum speeds is ok for short periods, but running full out for extended periods will reduce equipment life.
Technicians do not check equipment before starting it up. Instruct your technicians to check line strainers (filters), belts, hoses, etc. before starting equipment. Teach them to identify problems before they occur.
Train your technicians to report problems instead of just ignoring them. If the pump sounds like it has a problem, it probably does. This should be addressed rather than ignored or left for the next guy to deal with.
3. Track damage/repairs/problems by truck, technician and part to identify problems and training opportunities. A little tracking can go a long way toward understanding the causes of your breakdowns. Track your equipment failures by part to determine which items you should consider replacing more frequently or which technicians require additional training.
4. Instruct your equipment provider to install the equipment so that it is easily accessible for maintenance and repairs. If equipment isn’t easy to service, it is less likely to be serviced. For example, if your technician cannot easily reach the line strainer, it is unlikely that he or she will check the strainer for problems.
Next, create a Preventative Maintenance program based on your equipment, technicians, use and Organization’s operating philosophy. For example, if maintaining productivity and avoiding cancelled stops are top priorities, your program may call for replacing certain components at specified intervals, rather than merely checking the parts for wear.
To ensure you don’t miss anything, take a structured approach to developing your PM program. For example, our suggestions below follow the flow of material from tank through filter, pump, hose and gun.
Here are some ideas to get you started. Please visit www.qspray.com for more information.
Clean your tank periodically to eliminate buildup, debris and contamination. Debris will clog lines and starve your pump. Most pumps will sustain serious damage if run dry for more than a very brief time.
You may be surprised at what finds its way into your tank. In our customer’s tanks we have found: rocks, rope, beer cans, trash and men’s underwear. Flush your system periodically with fresh water to prevent problems.
2. Line Strainer
Check and clean your line strainer (filter) to ensure that only water and chemical gets to your pump. Foreign material should be filtered out to reduce the chance of pump damage. A filter that is too coarse may allow debris to pass to the pump. A filter that is too fine may clog too easily and starve the pump. Most pumps will sustain serious damage if not fed properly.
If your water is not debris-free, consider additional filtration. Installation of a filter basket in the tank fill well, or two filters (first a course then a fine strainer) before the pump may be appropriate.
When you can no longer rinse out the filter, replace it. Chemicals such as herbicides cause rubber o-rings to swell. Replace the filter o-ring periodically before it swells and no longer creates an airtight seal. Install a gate valve between tank and strainer so that the strainer can be checked even when the tank is full.
Service your pump according to manufacturer specifications. You may want to rebuild your pump periodically to prevent problems. Most pumps have repair kits to replace worn parts (for more information see http://www.qspray.com/product-category/power-sprayer-components/pumps/). It is a good idea to service your pump just before or just after your busy season to be sure the pump is ready for next season.
If you wait for your pump to fail before servicing it, you can expect longer downtime and more costly repairs. Be sure spray technicians and mechanics know the signs that a pump requires service. For example, roller pumps and gear pumps require attention when they begin dripping water. Diaphragm pumps require immediate attention when the oil sight glass contains white or milky colored material, or serious pump damage will occur.
Service your engine according to manufacturer specifications. Like the engine in your personal vehicle, changing engine oil is the best thing you can do to extend engine life. Periodic tune ups (change oil, filter, spark plug, clean carburetor, etc.) can keep your engine running and your technicians productive. Inspect pull cord for wear and replace as necessary. Train technicians to check oil and gas levels BEFORE leaving the shop.
5. Hose Reel
Most hose reels have a swivel on the input side of the reel. The swivel contains parts that should be replaced periodically to prevent leaks. Check the reel tensioner or locking brake for wear. Servicing the reel can help reduce chemical spills.
6. Spray Gun
Most spray guns can be rebuilt with repair kits available from your equipment provider. Servicing the spray gun can help reduce chemical spills and technician chemical exposure.
7. Check hoses
Check the main spray hose and all feeder and connector hoses for excessive wear and damage. Check clamps and connections to ensure good fit and an airtight seal. Be sure to check any o-rings, gaskets, washers, etc. that are used to create airtight seals. Failure to do so can result in large spills, especially if the technician is at the far end of 200 feet of hose when the leak occurs.
A good preventative maintenance program is your best friend for reducing equipment down time and improving productivity. Dollars spent on PM will reduce time lost due to unplanned equipment downtime, help keep your customers happy and your bank account flush.