Importance of training, maintenance and a good operator


The reason why machinery can work well beyond expected lifecycles is three way; proper personnel training, thorough maintenance schedules and good operators.

I recently visited a quarry that runs very old gear all the way from its processing plant, commissioned way back in 1974, through to its hauling gear, with one of the articulated haulers sitting well over 23 000 hours, and counting. I was sceptical of this gear’s ‘efficiency’ (in every sense of the word), bearing in mind the old age of the machinery.

The quarry manager gave me a rundown of what keeps this gear in very good operational state, despite many years of operation. He mentioned the significance of training, maintenance and a good operator, all combined together.He alluded to the fact that a poorly maintained asset cannot deliver the expectations it was originally designed to achieve, and reiterated that it is of utmost significance that fleet owners understandthe role that good maintenance practices play in the economic success of an operation of a quarry’s nature.

I quickly remembered the words of a training executive I recently met who echoed the same sentiments. During difficult economic conditions, it is more often than not that the first part ofan operation’s budget that gets cut is training, and the second is maintenance resources. He argued that this is a grave mistake to make, because not only should companies be empowering their workforces through proper training regimes, but stalling on improvement initiatives means that many asset lifecycles are severely shortened in the process.

This is one thing this quarry grasps very well. The reason why its machinery works well beyond expected lifecycles is three way;  proper personnel training, proper maintenance schedules and last, but not least, very good operators, which are moulded through a combination of training and motivation.

Because of the size of the operation, almost everyone on site is multi-skilled. A fitter can also jump into a front-end loader to do some dispatch duties, when need arises. The same goes for the plant operators, they are all multi-skilled, they can operate excavators or wheel loaders, assist on crushers with even changing screeds and liners. There is no one here that cannot do at least two specialised skills. And this has been achieved through proper training, which is keyto running an operation of this nature.

Through good maintenance, one of the company’s ADTs is now sitting on 23 000 hours. Initially they would have parked it or traded in at 15 000 hours, but it’s still running very well with over 95% availability. It also has very reasonable maintenance costs. The gains of good in-house training and maintenance are there for all to see here. In saying all that, it also comes down to the operator of the equipment. If the operator doesn’t have any mechanical sympathy, he will destroy the machine. It is a fact. The nice thing about today’s machines is that you can pull operator reports and you can see issues such as idling time and harsh braking. It is worthwhile to instil awareness on the personnel about the importance of looking after machines.

After all, reducing costs shouldn’t be the be all and end all of operations such as quarries and mines; profitability is. And profitability is the result of a combination of good training, thorough maintenance regimes and good operation of machines.

Enjoy browsing Equipment Africa!

David Poggiolini



David Poggiolini
David Poggiolini is a South African technical and business writer focusing on public and private-sector driven infrastructure development programmes in Africa. Over the past 15 years, Poggiolini has written extensively on transport, energy and water infrastructure. He also keeps a very keen eye on resource extraction industries on the continent, including mining, oil and gas, as well as forestry.
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