Prairie Dawg Practical by Tim Holmberg, DEMI Equipment
It would be difficult to imagine our world today without remote controls, computer logic or other technology-based advancements integrated into just about everything that surrounds us.
So why not press on with these welcomed features into new equipment being designed and created for today’s (and future) markets? Is it possible that there are any drawbacks to utilizing technology advancements? Do they (often) create more problems than they were intended to eliminate by quickly becoming obsolete? By discussing both sides of the topic, will I help unite the possible generational gap of acceptance – or possibly divide it even further? Either way, as with most things, the more we are surrounded by something, the better the chances are that it is going to become or remain a part of our everyday lives.
If I remember correctly, during my lengthy tenure within the industry, some of the first regularly produced remote-controlled equipment introduced into the aggregate production community would dump a hydraulic grizzly positioned over the top of a standard issue hopper belt feeder. The loader operator could immediately realize the benefit of being able to dump and clear the grid while remaining within the safe confines of the loader cab. Having this simple yet valuable feature quickly eliminated needing another worker intermittently present, so they could manually operate the hydraulic lever to dump the grizzly (or worst case, even having the loader operator stop occasionally from his feed cycle and get out to dump the grizzly).
Either way, it required the exposure of going from a safe environment into an unsafe one where just about anything can happen if you’re not paying attention. I know from being a manufacturer of remote dump features – as simplistic a design as they were, they added an amazing value to an operation.
Then came the start of track-mounted processing equipment where both remote control and computer technology were quickly advancing and partnering together for many of the features required to make operating this complex machine a reality. Some of the very first technology wasn’t quite ready for the tough dirt- and dust-filled unprotected environments they would be working in.
The equipment experienced excessive or extreme jarring vibrations and the delicate computer packages didn’t hold a chance of surviving the punishment they were being placed under. Like anything, as the newer models kept arriving, so did improvements within the manufacturing technology, eventually providing real time data and quality control feedback. Today, not only does this technology work well at operating the functions, it works great at monitoring and even adjusting the parameters of the machines, all without slowing down mechanically. Because of the current advancements to this product offering, one can pretty much know at any moment exactly how a machine is performing and view it on the screen of their phone or other personal electronic.
Is all the new technology causing the generation before us heartburn? One can about guarantee that when a piece of equipment is down and waiting on parts, the “old timer” (as he is often referred to) is beside himself with frustration and disgust because the world has forced him into taking bad-tasting medicine he didn’t really need. Are there cases where we find out the electronic control system has been compromised and no longer repairable? Or a newer and extremely expensive replacement component has to be diagnosed properly first and then replaced? Would knowing this could happen at any moment put an operations manager a bit on edge?
I say the answer is yes, and the old timer has every right to be heated and upset when operations are broke down for what seems to be an inoperable computer device that he can’t just go to the local parts counter and get a replacement for.
In order to better unite the skepticism between generations of the workforce I would hope that we never lose the override feature or manual mode with a simple control lever option, no matter how stable this technology becomes.
We should never lose sight of the fact that the earliest built equipment was really what allowed for the opportunity to develop the new technology and remote control systems to be added in manufacturing. Let’s always respect where we came from, even if we ask ourselves “How did they do that back then?” I believe most manufacturers when possible or applicable usually have multiple modes of manual override built in so they can still operate their machines – unless it’s the one running the engine that decides to take a vacation.
As you continue to process your aggregate-based materials, remember that it’s okay to maintain a good mixture of both early and late model equipment and definitely some long-term employees as well as some recently hired so that each can learn from the other. The future never stops coming and our past never stops leaving.
If you enjoy these random aggregates and quarrying equipment-based subjects, tune back in for more topics to come. Send me a subject or topic you would like brought to light and any associated questions you would like to have discussed and I will gladly provide my best answer based upon my specific point of view and personal experience.
Write me a letter and we will send you a T-shirt or ball cap: Tim Holmberg / 2915 Idea Ave. / Aberdeen, SD 57401