I heard that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow — so another six weeks of winter it will be.
All silliness and tradition aside, it’s getting closer to that time when we must initiate that momentous task of getting production equipment out of hibernation and get those few repairs started that were just a bit much to think about after the late-running fall season.
• Get the maintainer style battery chargers unplugged and the tires pressured back up to max-recommended pressures. It’s time to get the first patient out of the shed where it has been napping these past few months. Hopefully the brake valves are not stuck (keeping the brakes engaged) or the airbags within the suspension are not starving for that much needed air pressure to lift the chassis to ride height (keeping those low resting conveyors off of the ground).
“Speed that truck up a bit!” you yell out as it slowly fills the air suspension and just starts to rise. With some moaning and creaking it slowly but surely rises back to life.
• Now that the equipment is seeing some daylight, take the air compressor and air blow gun and blast away that thick dust that collected all winter. Make certain you don’t drive any filth into the liquids or filters — or accidentally make direct contact with anything air filter related causing punctures, holes or tears. A hole covered up or forgotten can become a death sentence within two-three hours on any engine or hydraulic enclosed system. Once all the loose debris is blown off, it’s time to get the pressure washer running and spray it down; removing any forgotten crud and grease residues from last season — or if already removed, rinse and finish.
• Now is when we normally change the oils if still on last year’s running. When changing them at the startup of the season, “new” oil hasn’t been sitting all winter collecting any additional moisture residue from the atmospheric/weather changes; this however doesn’t really affect any of the grease-associated items. Also recheck antifreeze levels to make certain there wasn’t any leakage (externally or internally), which is another reason to let these fluids sit through the off season — unless issues were known before the end of the previous season. Finally, change all the filters — including diesel fuel as the water and contaminates have possibly gelled, causing completely plugged filtration; not letting fuel get passed and onto the injection system. This will cause hard starting and even injector issues, having been starved from the fuels’ lubricating properties.
Now is the time to take that fine tooth comb back over the plant and determine if you need or want to change out any questionable items — now that you’ve had the off season to slow down your anxieties and get a more rational thought process back with less stress and raw emotion playing its part.
Inspect the bearings again or maybe even a conveyor belt or some flashing that may start leaking (or worse) in few weeks (or less) of running. It is easier to change them now when the plant isn’t buried in rock and dirt and before customers are waiting for product to hit the ground. Wear parts are another pain to change while in full production and maybe those plates aren’t worth the downtime just to get that last 3-4 weeks of running and possibly risk it wearing faster and into the backing base metal.
Oh, how quickly things can get ugly and out of control! This is why having that second look can really pay dividends or maybe it’s that second look from a different set of eyes or perspective that is sometimes helpful.
Maybe Punxsutawney Phils’ 6 more weeks of downtime is the perfect amount of time to get the equipment up and running for the coming season. However, the way in which one’s procedure of coming “out of hibernation” is carried out will generally determine the success or struggle the next 6-8 months.
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Tim Holmberg, 2915 Idea Ave., Aberdeen, SD 57401