30-Minutes Could Double Undercarriage Life

by Diana Barnum, Correspondent

Let’s consider that the average life of a dozer undercarriage is about 4,000 hours. Since excavators are not as mobile as dozers, their undercarriage life is generally around 12,000 hours. But the bottom line on equipment life is management. A quick 30- to 45-minute equipment check by a trained professional can tell whether or not your undercarriage will even withstand half its estimated lifetime.
“The number one concern with heavy equipment is the undercarriage,” said Gary Steele, product support sales manager at Columbus Equipment Company in Columbus, Ohio. “Whether you’ll make or lose money often depends upon how you manage undercarriage life.”
Komatsu distributor Columbus Equipment, founded in 1952, handles equipment management in a variety of different ways. First and foremost is their trained field support staff who come out to the work site at no charge to conduct a thorough examination of the equipment. The contractor does not even have to be a past client or have equipment from them to utilize their services. Staff members use absolute measurements to examine wear on external and internal pins. They check the rollers, idlers, bushings and more and educate the equipment operator or owner about upcoming needs that would result in the best usage of his equipment.
“For example, the bushings need rotated before it is too late,” said Jeff Brackett, shop coordinator. “If it gets too flat, you have gone past the wear limit and will lose wear life.” Brackett and other support staff help educate the client by teaching them to feel the bushings by hand to determine if they are approximate wear.

At some facilities they use Komatsu America’s new e-CARE Track Management System (TMS). This system is a database application program that enables intercommunication between the customers, partners and vendors also known as an Extranet based program.
“It’s great for building parts’ lists,” said Rick Ransburgh, product support sales representative. “You can click parts graphics and immediately go to descriptions, start a parts’ list and continue on with the next tech.”
Data used to be input manually, but now, it is input with an ultrasonic download component.
“e-CARE allows direct input via electronic tooling that allows you to measure undercarriage wear by entering predetermined values and calculating the expected life of the undercarriage,” explained Steele.
Here are basic functions and new features of e-CARE (TMS):
• Calculates the percentage of worn and potential equipment life automatically
• Creates professional customer reports
• Shares undercarriage information among distributor branches via the Extranet
• Shares separate information for on-site customer reports
• Maintains management reports for follow up maintenance
• Easy to use screen form for data entry
• Links with “Today’s News” with links to parts and service news articles about undercarriages.
• Also links with Komatsu Undercarriage Manual
Not only will inspections and early maintenance extend undercarriage life, they will help increase production and decrease downtime.
Although all eight Columbus Equipment locations throughout the state of Ohio are not utilizing e-CARE technology, plans are in the works to add more equipment. Komatsu also has an eParts store in its infancy stages of development that should be ready for unveiling around June. At this time, customers can log on and view a parts book with daily updates.
Columbus Equipment mechanics and technicians, about 80 throughout the state, attend a training center in Columbus with teacher Ken Hyme. He instructs them mainly about hydraulics and electrical systems, mostly diagnostics.
“You can’t fix it if you don’t know what’s wrong with it,” said Hyme.
And “fix it” they do in a huge area taking up both sides of the street or about four city blocks or more on Kingston Avenue. Students work outside on a couple of lots or in doors in their warehouse facilities.
“There is a lot of hands-on training,” said Mike Smith, mechanic and past student.
Normal undercarriage repairs at Columbus Equipment include rails, sprockets, idlers, idle wear strips, top and bottom rollers, track adjuster rebuilds and pad replacement.
For more information about these 30- to 45- minute wear checks, contact the Columbus Equipment Company at 50 E. Kingston Ave, Columbus, OH 43207. Call: (614) 443-6541; or fax inquiries to: (614) 443-2602. Visit them online at www.columbusequipment.com.