How to Eliminate Downtime and Maintenance Costs

How to Eliminate Downtime and Maintenance Costs

Downtime is inevitable in the construction industry. Since machines can't work when they go down, they're unable to recover their owning and operating costs, which means you lose money while you work to get everything back up and running. 

Thankfully, you can take steps to mitigate the impact of downtime. Planning for expected downtime and finding ways to reduce unexpected machine downtime will help save your organization money in the long run. Taking proper care of your machines and following recommended maintenance intervals are contributing factors in preventing unplanned downtime.

In this guide, we'll go over effective ways to lower your equipment downtime risk and offer some tips for reducing equipment costs.

Jump to a section:

The Cost of Equipment Downtime

Because there are so many moving variables, it's difficult to predict the exact cost of a down event before it happens. However, you can estimate what a machine will cost by multiplying its hourly ownership expense by the duration of downtime. For example, a machine that costs $25 an hour would cost you $250 after 10 hours of downtime. 

Ultimately, the factor that most impacts your downtime costs is the collateral expenses — everything that goes down because of an unexpected breakdown or accident. In addition to the machine's ownership cost, you'll also be looking at labor expenses, ownership costs of associated equipment and rental machinery costs. 

The best way to address this issue is to prevent and reduce unplanned downtime while also creating reliable plans for planned downtime. Taking action can help you decrease the costs of unplanned downtime while also keeping operations running during scheduled downtime.

planned downtime

Planned Downtime

Planned downtime is unproductive equipment time that you can schedule and budget for ahead of time. The great thing about planned downtime is that you can minimize the length of time your operations are down since you can make arrangements in advance.

Another benefit of planned downtime is that you can minimize the need for expensive repairs through planned maintenance, saving your company money and preventing more unproductive time on the job. Scheduled maintenance is a crucial factor in reducing downtime, so be sure to prioritize it. 

The most common examples of planned downtime are: 

  • Scheduled maintenance: Keeping up with scheduled maintenance is crucial to preventing unexpected breakdowns because it allows you to get ahead of any mechanical issues that could escalate. The other advantage of regular upkeep is that you'll know when your machine will be down beforehand, so you have plenty of time to secure a temporary replacement. 
  • Transportation: Your machine is idle during the trip from one job site to another, which constitutes planned downtime. However, it's still a necessary cost to ensure productivity at other sites.
  • Scheduled inspections: Scheduled work site inspections are one of the most common causes of work stoppages. Fortunately, you can use any inspector feedback you receive to stay ahead of potential issues with your machines that could lead to unexpected downtime in the future.
unplanned downtime

Unplanned Downtime

It's difficult to estimate costs resulting from unplanned downtime because concrete numbers are unavailable until something happens. When key machines go down, the whole site may need to stop work until the problem is fixed or a replacement machine is obtained.

Events that can cause unplanned downtime include:

  • Workplace accidents: When accidents and injuries happen, all work stops until the scene gets investigated or emergency services arrive. Providing safety training and mandating protective gear can help reduce the risk of serious accidents on job sites, but it's best to always be prepared for emergencies. 
  • Equipment breakdowns: Fixing equipment after an unexpected breakdown is more costly than maintaining planned maintenance procedures. Organizations with larger fleets are at higher risk for unplanned downtime due to the number of machines that must be tracked and maintained.
  • Severe weather: When the weather suddenly turns, you may have to halt operations until conditions improve. However, you can provide your staff with low-priority tasks to keep things moving in the meantime.

The best way to mitigate unplanned downtime costs is to have a backup plan in place before a down event happens. That way, you can keep losses as low as possible even if work stops completely.

7 Ways to Prevent Unplanned Downtime

One of the leading causes of unplanned downtime is unexpected machine breakdowns, which often happen because of irregular maintenance. Preventive maintenance is key to reducing the risk of breakdowns.

A good preventive maintenance program goes beyond conducting fluid changes and bringing the machine in for a review every set number of hours. It also involves routine equipment inspections, proper machinery usage and effective fleet management.

proactive maintenance

1. Prioritize Proactive Maintenance

Create a preventive maintenance plan for each machine in your fleet. Base the maintenance intervals off past information, like each machine's repair and servicing history, or use the intervals your fleet management software suggests based on your inputs. 

Regular fluid analysis is another major component of preventive maintenance — it's one of the most effective steps you can take in prolonging your equipment's life. You can analyze fluid samples in-house or hire a third-party supplier to test them for you. 

Plus, keeping up with recommended maintenance intervals can help ensure your equipment stays under protection for your policy's full duration. Failure to keep up with maintenance can void your warranty, leading to higher upkeep and repair costs in the future.

2. Conduct Daily Inspections

Have your operators perform daily inspections of their equipment. A walkaround inspection at the beginning and end of each shift is a great way to track and address potential issues with each machine. Regular inspections can also lower equipment maintenance costs by helping you spot potential problems before they escalate.

Operators should look for any damaged parts, leaks or smoke and note any performance issues they may encounter during operation. Provide your operators with an inspection checklist that they must complete and submit at the end of each day. A thorough inspection checklist should walk operators through the following:

  • Air and oil filters
  • Greasing points
  • Fittings
  • Undercarriage
  • Fluid levels
  • Transmission fluid wiring
  • Lights and horn
  • Gauges
  • Power cable

You can use a hard copy for the checklist or go digital. For example, the Cat® Inspect App, which integrates with other Cat data systems, allows administrators to assign inspections to individual team members and evaluate each person's results in real-time. It also effectively allows you to manage the repair budget for each machine, which is helpful for keeping costs down.

gather lots of data

3. Gather Lots of Data

Sufficient data is instrumental to keeping costs low while maintaining high productivity rates. Thorough records can reveal patterns that enable you to identify and target the most probable sources of equipment malfunction. This ability can also reduce downtime when your equipment goes in for scheduled maintenance or repairs, as your technician will know which parts to prioritize, helping them finish their job more quickly.

An effective documentation system is especially important for organizations that manage large fleets, as unexpected breakdowns are more likely to occur for companies with many vehicles. You can make your system more efficient by utilizing a digital solution like the Cat App, which provides a centralized database accessible from any device connected to the internet.

Another effective way to track information is to implement a system where work orders are mandatory. This system both increases your control over your organization's purchases and gives you insight into what was purchased, who ordered it and why. Keeping tabs on your purchases can help you more easily monitor your fleet and save money on potentially unnecessary expenses in the future.

4. Analyze Past Down Events

Tracking the causes and durations of down events can help you manage them more effectively in the future. Whenever your site experiences downtime, make a note of when it happened, why it happened and how long it lasted.

You can measure the frequency of down events by creating a work order code specifically for reported emergency down (RED) events. Count these work orders and see if you find any patterns in the details. For example, one machine might break down more frequently than others on the same site — this information can help you identify potential trouble areas, which enables you to come up with a targeted solution.

utilize equipment maintenance software

5. Utilize Equipment Maintenance Software

Using an equipment management program like those in the Cat Equipment Management suite can help you take the guesswork out of preventive maintenance intervals, which will reduce breakdowns, downtime and overall costs. These programs are far more efficient than the usual spreadsheets, paper systems or memory systems still in use by too many companies. 

Plus, tracking usage outside of standard operating procedures can help you identify which operators may be using equipment incorrectly. Incorrect or harsh operation leads to advanced wear, which harms your equipment's life span and increases its operating costs. Identifying the individual responsible for these actions can help you stop the problem before it escalates.

One high-tech solution is implementing VisionLink software, which uses cellular and satellite technology to deliver real-time data from your machines straight to your mobile phone or other smart devices. You can create detailed performance reports and identify potential problems before breakdowns can occur. 

Fleet management software like My.Cat.Com and the Cat App often has a fast return on investment (ROI) because it provides a centralized location for all your equipment data. You can keep an eye on your equipment in real time so no matter where you are, you can see what's going on at your sites.

6. Add Features to Your Equipment

High-tech extras like Cat Payload, Cat Command and Cat Detect can save your organization money by providing extra safety for your machines and operators. It's best to include these features at the time of purchase since that's when you'll get the best price for them. However, these features will still pay for themselves even if you end up paying for them at full price.

For example, in-cab tech solutions like Cat Detect, which increases operators' awareness of their surroundings through cameras and sensor systems, can make your site safer for your team. With a lower accident risk, you'll save money on costs like insurance and workers' compensation.

invest in operator training

7. Invest in Operator Training

Regular maintenance is crucial for reducing the risk of unexpected breakdowns, and so is properly operating your machines. Following operating best practices keeps your equipment in better condition for longer, which helps reduce costs and extends its useful life. 

Improper operation can accelerate wear and tear, leading to early breakdowns and higher overall costs. Training your operators gives your team the skills they need to get the most out of your equipment without causing excessive wear or burning through fuel at unhealthy rates. 

Additionally, providing training to your operators can improve your site's overall safety, which can help prevent downtime and costs resulting from accidents. You may be able to access training through your heavy equipment dealer, so be sure to ask about what options are available to your company. 

How to Plan for Downtime

Unexpected downtime may still occur even when you've taken every step to prevent it. That's why it's so important to create a plan for what to do when downtime happens. Having a backup strategy helps keep costs as low as possible while maintaining relatively high productivity.

Working with your dealership and a trustworthy rental provider can also help you accumulate backup resources in case something goes wrong on your site. For instance, when your dozer goes down, it can help to have someone in your corner who can repair your machine and supply a replacement in a short period.

create a contingency plan

Create a Contingency Plan

Sometimes you just have to accept downtime. Having a backup plan in place can help reduce losses in productivity and keep things moving until you're able to resume operations. 

As part of your contingency plan, you should keep spare parts on hand in case you need to make emergency repairs and ensure your stores of fluids and filters are well stocked. In case a machine only needs small repairs, you can use these stores to get everyone back to work quickly.

You should also compile a list of low-priority tasks workers can complete when equipment is down, like making deliveries or inspecting and performing basic maintenance on other machines. Keeping everyone busy helps minimize the loss in productivity and catches your organization up on tasks that normally come last.

Your contingency plan should also include a protocol for accessing replacement equipment when necessary. Most times, this protocol involves partnering with a nearby rental provider who can quickly connect you with an effective replacement for a reasonable price. 

Connect With Nearby Technicians

Depending on the size of your company, you may have a staff of in-house technicians, or you may already rely on a local mechanic for repairs and maintenance. Regardless of your current situation, it can help to have a local tech on call to prepare for periods of high in-house demand. 

Many dealerships offer repair services, including field servicing, where a technician will travel to your site to conduct repairs. This arrangement can save you transportation costs since you will not need to move your equipment back and forth between the shop and your site. Check with your dealer to learn more. 

partner with a reliable rental provider

Partner With a Reliable Rental Provider

Connecting with a trustworthy rental provider in your area will offer you a go-to source for rental equipment when you need a replacement. You can easily coordinate with your rental provider to secure a specific machine for scheduled maintenance intervals. A good provider will also be able to source and provide you with the right equipment in the event of an unexpected breakdown so you can keep working even in an emergency.

Plus, renting equipment from a reliable provider can help minimize additional project costs — you'll only pay what your provider quotes to you, plus fuel expenses. Some rental providers may also charge insurance and/or deposits, but these costs are easy to incorporate into your total fixed rental price. Your rental company should also take care of transportation for you, which saves you time and money.

Ultimately, when unexpected downtime happens due to an equipment breakdown, rental machinery will make the biggest impact in maximizing productivity.

use rental equipment to fill gaps

Use Rental Equipment to Fill Gaps 

Renting equipment during periods of downtime prevents major losses in productivity. When working through with planned downtime, you'll be able to schedule a rental to ensure you won't miss any time when your equipment is being serviced. 

Heavy equipment rental is essential for filling the gaps when breakdowns result in unplanned downtime. Work may have stopped or slowed while you secured an emergency replacement, but having a reliable rental provider at your back can get you back on schedule within a few hours.

Of course, you want to rent from a trustworthy company to ensure you get the best deal. Here are some things to look out for when you're evaluating a rental provider

  • Transparency: Surprise fees are the last thing you want when renting equipment. A good provider will, upon request, give you a comprehensive billing summary that outlines all applicable rates and fees. 
  • Wide selection: You want to choose a provider with a wide selection of machines available. Rental stores connected to larger dealer networks are more likely to have the machinery you need when you need it. You're also more likely to find niche pieces of equipment at larger rental stores because they can source from multiple locations.
  • End-to-end service: Your provider should handle details like equipment sourcing, delivery, pickup and billing. Logistical convenience is key.
  • Equipment quality: Before you rent, make sure your provider's equipment is in good visual condition with full functionality. Ask them how frequently they perform maintenance on the equipment and how long it's been since the piece you're interested in has been serviced.
  • Consulting: A reliable provider will work with you to identify the right equipment for your project and provide that machine without trying to push you toward a model outside your price range. If you get the feeling that a provider is just trying to make a sale, it may be smart to look elsewhere for service.
  • Customer service: Excellent customer service is indicative of a company that cares about its customers. The representative you speak to should be open, friendly and attentive to your needs. 
rent heavy equipment from the cat rental store

Rent Heavy Equipment From The Cat® Rental Store

It pays to have a reliable source for quick rental solutions when you're planning for downtime. We offer a massive inventory of Cat heavy equipment rentals in addition to more than 70 other brands, including Genie, Ditch Witch, Kubota and more. 

When you partner with The Cat Rental Store, you can trust that we'll provide you with the right equipment you need to get the job done well. Our massive dealer network of more than 1,300 locations worldwide allows us to locate the right type and size of equipment for your needs. Plus, if you find that you need your rental equipment for a longer period than expected, you can extend your rental contract — ask your local Cat dealer about flexible contracts to learn more. 

Please browse our selection of available rental equipment online, or find a local branch near your job site.

Find The Cat Rental Store Near You