Machines don’t last forever. The tough operating conditions of most construction sites — with elements like steep grading, dust, debris, and rough terrain — ensure your equipment will fail sooner than it should without proper maintenance.
When a machine fails unexpectedly, it can cause significant issues like downtime, injuries, and damage to site structures.
The most obvious pitfall will be eventual equipment breakdown. Reactive maintenance and repairs can keep a machine running, even without regular maintenance checks.
But, eventually, just fixing problems as they become apparent can lead to more serious issues with a machine. At some point, a firm may be faced with problems that they can’t quickly or easily repair.
Equipment breakdown, in turn, can have serious knock-on effects. Downtime is likely while construction workers wait for technicians and replacement parts — or even replacement equipment — to arrive. This will cost a company time and money, and potentially harm site morale.
Repairs and responsive maintenance is often much more expensive than preventive or predictive maintenance, as well. While regular maintenance checks require some downtime and expense in the form of pay for technicians, the cost of the maintenance schedule will often be less than one would pay for major repairs that are necessary due to equipment breakdown.
Even when equipment doesn’t fully break down, damaged components can have a serious impact on how well a machine works. Damaged machines tend to be less efficient, may be harder to control, and can have issues with traction and movement.
They may also lose key safety features, as lights go out or signals fail to fire when a machine is moving or in reverse.
Regular maintenance can help companies avoid some of these costs and prevent the long-term issues that may come with equipment breakdown.
When machines fail, they can also create significant safety risks.
Some of these risks are obvious. Electrical fires, falling objects, cable snaps, and erratic movement of mechanical arms, for example, all pose highly visible threats to the health and safety of a construction site’s crew.
Others are less obvious. Carbon monoxide released by failing indoor equipment, for example, is odorless and colorless. By the time employees report the side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning — like headaches and weakness — they may already be at risk for short- or long-term health issues.
In any case, these safety risks can all have serious consequences. A regular maintenance schedule can’t prevent every potential problem, but it can help companies mitigate these issues and avoid some of the worst safety pitfalls damaged equipment can cause.
Damage to Key Components
On a long enough time scale, machine components will get damaged. Maintenance helps a construction company catch damage early, preventing it from causing more serious problems. In some cases, this also helps ensure their equipment continues to function well.
For example, maintaining a machine’s undercarriage can improve site safety, reduce overall repair costs, and boost equipment performance. Having an irregular maintenance schedule, or no maintenance schedule at all, can have the opposite effect by making the site less safe and driving up costs.
Maintenance may also help prevent extensive repairs, which can lead to some serious challenges. For example, it can sometimes be difficult to source replacement parts in a timely fashion.
This is especially true for companies that work with specialized or legacy equipment.
In some cases, it may be difficult or impossible to source components that are decent replacements for parts that were damaged or destroyed in between maintenance checks.
This may mean a technician is forced to swap in a suboptimal replacement part or adopt a new machine altogether.
There is a wide variety of construction equipment available, which means manufacturers can sometimes be quick to stop manufacturing backup parts for niche or little-used machines. For these machines, regular maintenance will be even more essential, as it can help prevent damage to hard-to-replace components and extend equipment lifespan.
Liability can also be an issue. Vehicles and machines that aren’t regularly maintained create safety risks. And if a worker is injured on-site due to equipment failure, poor maintenance practices mean the company could be at fault.
Failing to comply with safety regulations or creating an unsafe environment due to poor maintenance can also cause problems, even if no serious safety incident occurs. Inspections from auditors may reveal problems with a company’s maintenance strategy or equipment that could result in fines or other consequences for that construction firm.
It’s also important to consider the environmental impact machine failures can cause. A broken machine, for example, may leak fluids like oil, diesel, and antifreeze that can cause serious harm to the local environment.
These types of consequences can have severe long-term impacts on the area around the construction site and put a company at risk.
In some cases, environmental consequences may not even require total machine failure. A damaged filter could result in a machine that is significantly less efficient or isn’t properly filtering contaminants from machine exhaust.
This can make a construction operation less eco-friendly and potentially also create a less healthy environment for those working on-site.
How a Regular Maintenance Schedule Can Help Keep Construction Operations Moving
While reactive maintenance and quick fixes can catch problems as they arise, they typically won’t be able to prevent more severe problems. Only with a regular maintenance schedule will construction workers be able to see serious issues coming — giving them time to schedule repairs and downtime that will help avoid breakdown or sudden failure.
Preventive maintenance has several other benefits as well. With the right maintenance plan, a construction team can significantly extend the lifespan of a machine and help prevent damage to essential components, safety incidents, and harm to the local environment.
Altogether, these benefits can help construction firms save money and reduce some of the risks associated with construction work.