How To Efficiently Operate Wheel Loaders for Low Costs & High Productivity
Wheel loaders are key to your operation’s success, if the work involves ongoing movement of material into trucks. Mining and aggregate plants come to mind, as do construction projects that require extensive earth-moving and relocation. The more efficiently your wheel loaders perform, the higher your productivity. Boosting productivity paves the road to profitability.
An increasing number of equipment managers are using condition monitoring to get the most from their busy wheel loaders. Condition monitoring goes beyond traditional maintenance and repair programs that rely on set intervals to trigger services such as preventive maintenance or parts replacement. It refines the process and customizes it for each machine, by taking into account actual working conditions that affect wear and tear.
Condition monitoring combines the extensive automated data available to you through telematics with human experience and insight. That drives better results.
Collecting essential data
Today’s wheel loaders have a lot to tell you about themselves. You can gather pertinent performance and status data directly from the machine, and you have automatically-transmitted telematics data as well. The data used typically includes:
- Electronic machine data
- Fluids analysis (engine oil, hydraulic oil, transmission oil, final drive oil and coolant)
- Equipment inspections (a trained human eye can catch problems and assess the machine in ways mere data cannot)
- Equipment history and component tracking (to identify and track ongoing issues)
- Pertinent site conditions and application, including seasonal weather factors
Analyzing the data
Condition monitoring pulls all that data together and uses analytical software to evaluate it. To fully understand and interpret the information, equipment managers often work with suppliers or specialized consultants. The result is a maintenance program that identifies the need for regular maintenance and component rebuilds based on specific, measured factors that help predict the risk of failure.
This is far more efficient than following a strict regimen with timing intervals that don’t necessarily match the machine’s actual needs. Switching to condition monitoring saves time, thanks to automated data gathering, aggregation, correlation and analysis. And the results are more accurate. Of course you still need trained humans to conduct oil analyses, site assessments, etc.
This process offers multiple benefits:
- Improved equipment availability
- More planned and less unplanned maintenance, due to higher quality detection routines and a resulting maintenance strategy that’s more effective overall
- Greater reliability, measured as improvement in mean time between shutdowns
- Greater repair efficiency, measured as improvement in mean time between repairs
- Longer planned component replacement intervals
- Reduced risk and better cost control, especially the ability to avoid catastrophic component failures and the associated costs
Operating wheel loaders for greater efficiency
Since working conditions so obviously affect the performance and reliability of wheel loaders, it stands to reason you want to operate the machines as efficiently as possible. These best practices will help you get top productivity and longevity.
For site prep work:
- Optimal bench height should be equal to the loader’s maximum lift height. If the bench is higher, it can collapse, overloading the bucket and possibly damaging the loader.
- Avoid steep material slopes, to reduce chance of overloading caused by an “avalanche” of material
- Wet rocks are more likely to cut tires, so smooth flooring and good drainage are important. Cleaning the floor between trucks helps protect tires on both wheel loaders and trucks. It also reduces the need for trucks to maneuver into position when pulling into and out of the loading site, a process that wastes time and fuel.
For pile engagement and bucket fill:
- Start with the bucket as close to the floor as possible. This allows most efficient bucket penetration.
- Don’t drive the front wheels into the pile, as they can cause damage. Spinning the tires also invites damage.
- When digging, keep the frame straight. This allows maximum pile penetration, which improves production.
- Keep loading time in the face to less than 15 seconds. This increases production, ensures fuel efficiency and reduces wear and heat on the torque converter.
- Raise the bucket before crowding it into the material pile, because crowding wastes fuel.
- Do not fill the bucket beyond the point where the lift arms are horizontal. Anything more is inefficient.
- Do not operate a bare bucket edge. This will cause serious damage.
- Always use ensure ground-engaging tools. If they’re worn out, replace them.
For interacting with trucks:
- Always spot trucks with the bucket loaded, otherwise the loader is wasting time and fuel.
- Spot the truck at a 30 to 45 degree angle.
- Keep truck tires off the pile.
- Position the loader about 1 to 1.5 wheel revolutions from the truck and load in a tight V pattern, for most efficient loading and cycle times.
Following these production best practices and implementing condition monitoring will enable you to operate your wheel loaders more efficiently. You’ll gain productivity, and you’ll lower operations costs.