Confessions of a hydraulic equipment manufacturer

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In a previous article I suggested hydraulic equipment users should get smart and lift their game when dealing with equipment manufacturers: By specifying up front what they expect from their equipment - from a maintenance and reliability perspective.

This article generated a lot of mail and I was, among other things, accused of "OEM bashing". But then I received this message from an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) insider:

"It is rare to see a manufacturer truly interested in the bottom line of cost per unit loaded in the case of a hydraulic excavator or shovel.

With one hydraulic excavator OEM we insisted on double hydraulic coolers and enlargement of the hydraulic tank. The idea was rejected and we received more than one detailed letter from Sales and Engineering why this was not necessary and a waste of good money.

In addition we also received a letter from the VP of Marketing advising that in addition to all the technical reasons we had been offered, if they were to do as we had requested, our machine would look ugly and sales would be more difficult.

Anyway, in the end money talks and we waited for our best chance which came along in the form of an order for three units in the 300 ton class of excavator. So many millions of dollars and we went to visit the OEM with the order in hand.

Quite easy... you want the order, you will make following changes. Not just for this order but for all machines coming our way in the future.

Yes, of course it went our way and the changes made huge differences to the life of hydraulic components. The changes even became standard issue some time later due to word of mouth between users.

Why did we demand more cooling and more time for the oil to spend in the tank?

Because we saw a lot of high temperature damage and signs in pumps that indicated aeration. Believe it or not, we soon saw main pumps achieving 20,000 operating hours repeatedly on the modified machines where previously the OEM appeared to be satisfied to get 12,000 to 15,000 hours.

However, it is this attitude at the OEM that you have pointed out that gets them into a BOAT load of trouble.

Some more examples:

We need an electric power source for a mobile excavator. The OEM chooses a manufacturer, looks through his available motors and orders what they believe will do the job. Result - repeated failures, millions of dollars spent on trying to rectify the situation. Finally after years of two OEM's blaming each other we stepped in and made the following agreement:

Give the motor manufacturer ALL the required criteria including G-forces, vibration analysis, shock loading and every thread of information we had gathered. Take this to the motor designer and say, sell us a motor that will run 30,000 hours under these conditions and in this environment with next to no maintenance requirement other than a spot of grease every 1000 operating hours.

Guess what - we got what we wanted. Sure it cost more. But the big picture was: No downtime due to the power source and no money spent on warranty, air freight, technicians visiting site and offering a bunch of lies to protect their employer.

Same thing on diesel engines. Why is it that these same OEM's employ engineers that are too damn proud to listen to experts in their field. Same OEM discussed above obtains the manuals from diesel engine manufacturers, chooses the engine for a particular model and places the order for that engine without ever obtaining a dime's worth of input from the engine manufacturer.

So we ended up with machines in the field that were under powered, over taxed with duty cycles in the mid 90's and life expectancy between rebuilds under 10,000 hours.

All this could be avoided if the OEM visits the engine manufacturer, lays out the requirement and lets the engine manufacturer select which model to go with. Yes, if you don't speak the same language take a couple of independent translators with you. But hell, communicate.

So you're right. The customer should take every opportunity to use his experience and get the machine equipped the way it serves him best. Some astute OEMs might even get over their own people's pride and enhance their product by learning from the knowledge that is available from outsider's experience."

Hmmm ... Of course, not all OEMs are like this. And to err is human. But I see a lot of end users who put the OEM on a pedestal. The logic seems to be: They built the machine, they must know best. So we better do what they tell us. And yet these same end users whine on the other side of their face about how much the machine costs to run.

There are two sides to every story and so I don't get accused of "OEM bashing" again, here's a view of the world from an OEM's perspective, sent in by another of our members:

"For the last 13 years I was technical manager for a major hydraulic equipment manufacturer. And I KNOW there's a SHOCKING amount of IGNORANCE in the field of hydraulics: oil sampling, oil viscosity, filtration, component change-out schedules and cooling systems are often blatantly ignored or misunderstood and the dealer is then put under pressure for warranties."

As neither an OEM nor an end user, I've seen both sides of this coin first hand and from somewhere in the middle. And I can assure you there's PLENTY of room for improvement in both camps.

Related articles:

The importance of hydraulic equipment maintenance
How well do YOU know YOUR hydraulic equipment?
A popular myth about hydraulic cylinders - exploded!

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