Article by Jason Daly
Global Director, Customer & Product Support
John Deere Construction & Forestry

As the old saying goes, “time is money,” and that certainly rings true in today’s forestry market. Machine uptime is crucial, which is why loggers cannot afford to ignore having a disciplined, structured maintenance program in place for key production machines in their fleet.

Minimizing all possible opportunities for machine failures through maintenance and inspection reduces the overall opportunity for unscheduled downtime, and increases the likelihood of meeting production levels and schedules. In today’s forestry environment, this is not an option; it is a necessity to remain competitive.

The idea of a structured maintenance program is simple—it means performing the required maintenance at the appropriate time and intervals provided by your manufacturer. It also means scheduling the execution of maintenance during times when downtime is less sensitive to production, such as evenings, weekends, or taking advantage of rainy days to further maximize uptime.

Where this idea becomes a challenge is execution. Due to time or cash flow constraints, maintenance is often a second priority to production, but it shouldn’t have to be this way, and the good news is, it doesn’t have to be. With thoughtful machine updates, new technology and dealer support, loggers can feel empowered to worry less about maintenance and focus more on generating revenue.

The Machine—Many equipment manufacturers are making maintenance easier than ever before through considerate equipment design. Simply put, on today’s models, it takes less time.

Machine designs now include common, easy to access service points that take the time, frustration, and worry out of performing maintenance. The information customers need to execute maintenance occurs both on-board and off-board the machine through quick-reference maintenance decals, supporting detail maintenance references in the operators manual, and extensive on-board and off-board technology tools.

Technology—Today’s telematics systems can help you avoid costly downtime and  unscheduled repairs. With direct access to real-time information, you can manage maintenance on your machines, watch machine hours and service intervals, understand parts requirements, and access a wealth of other machine health indicators. These capabilities have simplified the maintenance process and have become the new benchmark for proper machine care.

These systems also make it easy for you and your equipment dealer to keep accurate, complete maintenance records and documentation, which can extend machine life and increase resale or trade-in value.

Your Dealer—Dealer support is key to any structured maintenance program, as dealers have access to a tremendous amount of information direct from equipment manufacturers. Dealers can educate the operator on required daily checks, how to perform them and the right parts to use to maximize uptime. Dealers can also educate the customer on what is required for maintaining major components, including maintenance intervals and proper oil types and volumes for each component.

Allowing the dealer to be involved in the maintenance of the machine is a good way to prevent mixing fluids or using the wrong type for certain applications. Using the wrong fluid can cause a breakdown of components in the oil, resulting in a need for more frequent oil changes and potentially premature wear of components. Dealers limit this risk and can help ensure the longevity of your equipment.

For more complex jobs, the dealer often has the expertise to get the job done correctly in a quicker timeframe. The dealer has the space and tools needed to complete major repairs, and can do a multipoint inspection to ensure all bases are being covered before the machine goes back to work.

Additionally, talk to your dealer about taking fluid samples. From engine oil and coolant to hydraulic oil and fuel, fluid samples can provide great insight and peace of mind. They can help to identify potential problems and avoid unplanned downtime.

While working with your dealer may seem like an extra step in the maintenance process, it does have a benefit. By using the dealer as a supplement for regular, thorough maintenance, you can free up your team to concentrate on the work at hand.

At the end of the day, an appropriately planned and executed maintenance program has a direct impact on machine availability. Maintenance is an investment in machine uptime. It’s the only way to remain competitive in the market.

The lack of a maintenance program, or the poor execution of one, creates only one thing: risk to having the machine available to produce. That’s a risk not worth taking.