Hydraulics At Work

Hydraulic Equipment Operating Costs: The Go-To-Guy vs The Bean Counter

In a previous blog post I discussed how being engaged and caring about what you're doing often has a cost associated with it. The odd sleepless night and premature grayness come to mind. But if you think you've got more than your fair share hydraulic headaches, this story may put them into perspective:

"I am a maintenance planner at a large coal mine in Canada. I relate to most of the issues you discuss in each blog post. I truly believe that one has to treat hydraulic oil properly from the getgo and filter it to keep it clean while in service then monitor the oil samples.

One of the big issues I have here is using the wrong hydraulic oil. We have adverse weather conditions at the mine site from -40C to about +30C range. The +30C is a much shorter period than is the -40C. We use VG68 hydraulic oil during the warmer months and then switch to (or I should say mix in) VG32 for the cold months.

The hydraulic storage tank has a capacity of 55,000 liters. Last September when we ordered the VG32 for winter, 15,000 liters of the stuff was just added to the main storage tank. I had just recently started working here and it took me some time to figure out why the oil analysis reports were so far out of whack. Long and short of the story is that I have done some digging, found all the machine specs for oils required and forwarded them to our oil supplier.

The big roadblock now is the cost of the multi-viscosity oil which has been recommended is $1 per liter more. Last year the company purchased 447,000 litres of hydraulic oil -- not cheap."

Boy oh boy. Where is all this oil going? I bet the coal from this mine burns better than most. And it's safe to assume hydraulic leaks are not the least of this mine's problems.

But taking a helicopter view, the first thing which stands out about this story is no matter how good or bad your hydraulic maintenance practices are, you need a 'champion for the cause' - someone to set, raise and maintain standards; someone who cares. And the larger the organization and the bigger the sums of money involved, the bigger the gonads someone has to have to step into this role.

Listened to and supported, this guy could be worth a small fortune to his company. Keywords: listened to; supported. Alas, not much evidence of that here though. He has correctly identified the need to move away from using a 'cocktail mix' hydraulic oil. But there's a half a million dollar sticking point. And clearly the bean counters don't like it.

Of course, the other side of this coin, and what he hasn't told us, is how many millions of dollars the mine spends on replacement hydraulic components every year. And what percentage of that spend would need to be saved in order to recover the extra half million bucks for the more expensive, multi-viscosity hydraulic oil. I wouldn't be surprised if that number - in percentage terms - is quite small. And that's without doing anything to reduce hydraulic oil consumption.

And therein lies another road-block this 'champion' has to drag his bean counters over: hydraulic oil is a consumable to be purchased on price alone, right? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

It doesn't matter if you operate a massive coal mine or a landscape gardening business, the principle is the same. The main difference with the latter is the amounts of money will be smaller and you have to be your own 'champion'.

But for those of you whose organization is large, not recognizing and supporting your 'champions for the cause' can be a very costly mistake. And 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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