Modern day cattle ranches and feed lots have countless moving parts working simultaneously to keep operations at maximum production. For this reason, equipment uptime is an especially important factor for ranch owners to consider when spec'ing a new machine. Equipment breakdowns and lengthy service time can quickly equate to lost production and revenue.
Compact track loaders have become a vital fleet member on farms and ranches due to their versatile performance capabilities. However, not all compact track loaders are created equal. There are several considerations to make with uptime in mind– most importantly, serviceability, support of a dealer network and parts availability.
Service and Maintenance Time vs. Machine Uptime
Daily maintenance inspections on compact track loaders are essential to achieve maximum machine longevity. You must monitor your machine's condition regularly in order to detect potential issues that could turn into bigger problems if ignored. However, if access to components that require daily maintenance is difficult, owners and operators are less likely to perform regular inspections. This could potentially result in increased machine downtime.
Therefore, the first thing to consider is the positioning of components such as the engine air filter, battery, engine oil dipstick, engine oil filter, electric priming fuel filter and water separator, hydraulic oil level sight gauge and hydraulic oil filter. Are they accessible by simply opening the rear engine door? Are tools needed to access or check them? These are important questions to ask an equipment dealer, as this factors into how much time will need to be spent on daily maintenance versus time spent operating the machine.
It is also important to consider the component layout underneath the cab. A complicated layout will take longer to inspect or troubleshoot the machine. Look for a compact track loader with a well-organized component layout underneath the cab which will be easy to clean out, inspect and identify any issues.
Compact Track Loader Fuel Systems Factor Into the Uptime Equation
Proper fuel system maintenance is another key element of routine care for compact track loaders, especially with the fuel system technology required to meet today's more stringent emissions regulations. It is necessary to always use clean fuel, regularly drain any water from the fuel water separator and change the fuel filter element within the recommended intervals. If the fuel system isn't engineered for ease of access and service, it can quickly begin interfering with machine uptime.
Today's top tier compact track loaders are equipped with advancements that significantly improve ease-of-maintenance and decrease machine downtime.
Some of these features include:
- Transparent fuel water separator housings that allow you to visually inspect for water in the fuel daily.
- Electronic sensors on the fuel water separator that alert you to water in the fuel.
- Tubes connected to the bottom of the fuel water separator that allow you to easily drain it on a daily basis or as needed.
- Automatic electric priming pumps that prime the fuel system with the turn of a key switch.
- Fuel systems in which the air is automatically bled while the machine is running, without having to open bleed screws or use tools.
Dealer Network and Parts Availability
In the unfortunate event of an equipment breakdown, it is vital to get the machine back up and running as quickly as possible to minimize lost production and revenue. With many cattle ranch and feed lot operations located in rural areas throughout the country, an industry-wide concern is the proximity of dealer networks and parts availability.
Even if the dealer isn't located in your immediate geographic area, you still may receive better and faster service from larger dealerships. Larger dealerships often have greater capabilities, advanced support structures and access to more resources, including field service technicians. Located throughout the dealer's region, these technicians can come out to customers' farms or ranches to perform regular maintenance and assist with any repairs.
Parts availability is essential when performing maintenance or repairs, especially for rural operation owners. Larger dealers are more likely to have higher counter availability rates, as well as faster parts shipping time. Some guarantee delivery within 24 to 48 hours. Additionally, they have parts drop boxes located throughout their service region to provide convenient access for their customers.
The end goal is always increased production and revenue, and this cannot be accomplished without optimal machine uptime. That is why it is critical to consider factors to increase uptime when spec'ing your next compact track loader to help ensure the success of your operation.