Hydraulics At Work

Hydraulic Equipment Reliability: Who's Responsible?

I got this beef from the Chairman of an association of contractors in a particular industry in a European country (all of whom shall remain nameless to protect their identity):

"We depend heavily on hydraulic equipment. Our problem is that the manufacturers seem to make machines to sell components and not for reliability. So they don't provide any information regarding reducing breakdown of working hydraulics and how to avoid the same. Also, they charge unreal prices for replacement parts and they have agreements with manufactures of pumps and motors to give no information on replacements at a cheaper cost... I was very impressed on reading your 'Six Costly Mistakes report'."

In many respects the conflict between machine maker and machine owner is a classic duality - similar to that which exits between labor and capital: The owners of labor (workers) want more pay, better conditions, few working hours, etc. While the owners of capital (businesses) want the exact opposite - or at least their interests are best served by the exact opposite of what their workers want.

Similarly, a machine owner wants a machine that is cheap to buy, is maintenance free, highly reliable and cheap to fix when it does breakdown. But just like the owners of capital, the machine makers' interests are best served by the exact opposite of what the machine owners want.

In both conflicts: labor/capital and machine owner/maker, an acceptable compromise has to found between the two parties. But this compromise is not always in the middle. If the labor union movement is allowed to become too powerful, they can hold sway over the owners of capital. Conversely, if the owners of capital become too powerful, they can exploit their workers. In short, the power balance can shift one way or the other, and is rarely static.

Clearly the above comments from the industry association Chairman reflect the fact that he feels his members are being exploited - that machine makers have 'the wood' over machine owners. But it doesn't have to be this way.

"Manufacturers seem to make machines to sell components and not for reliability."

More often than not, machine manufacturers make machines to a price. Mainly because this is the criteria machine owners buy on. And if the machine owner buys on price, why should the manufacturer be overly concerned with reliability? Because at the end of the day, that's largely the machine owner's problem.

"...they don't provide any information regarding reducing breakdown of working hydraulics and how to avoid the same."

This probably sounds smug, but if the machine manufacturer really had this expertise, they would build as much of it as they could afford to into their designs. If you've followed what I've said so far about the conflicting interests of machine owner and maker, I'd say it's the machine owners' job to educate the machine maker - not the other way round.

This means machine owners need to get a lot smarter - both technically and commercially when making hydraulic equipment purchases. And only by buying machines based on a more sophisticated selection process than just initial capital cost, will machine makers be forced to sit up and take notice.

I'm always amazed that most hydraulic equipment owners pay such little attention to this. And when you consider the amounts of money involved, my Hydraulic Breakdown Prevention Blueprint should be my best-selling product, but frankly, it is not.

Last weekend I had to go out and buy a new desktop printer. So I looked at all the options, and the prices ranged between $50 and $200. After narrowing the field down to two which would serve my purposes - a $54 dollar unit and a $79 unit, I then walked over to where the replacement ink cartridges were on display.

Of course, it's not just the PRICE of the replacement ink cartridge which is important, it's also how many pages (or photos) you get out of it for the money. Obviously, by doing this simple exercise, I chose my new printer based on life of ownership cost, not just initial capital cost.

And you don't have to be a genius to figure out, that just like hydraulic equipment manufacturers, desktop printer manufacturers make their money on replacement parts. The black ink cartridge for the $54 printer I ended up buying is $59.95!

When it comes to buying hydraulic equipment, the amount of money, the technical issues involved and the level of analysis required are different, but the principle is EXACTLY the same. Bottom line: buying a hydraulic machine based on initial capital cost, without considering life of ownership cost, is a mistake. To discover six other costly mistakes you want to be sure to avoid with your hydraulic equipment, get "Six Costly Mistakes Most Hydraulics Users Make... And How You Can Avoid Them!" available for FREE download here.

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