April 5, 2011 

'Inside Hydraulics' Newsletter

1. You, a hydraulics renegade?
2. How to tell if you or your hydraulic equipment is sick
3. Which hydraulic oil?
4. Content for your web site or e-zine
5. Help us spread the word
6. Tell us what you think


You, a hydraulics renegade?

If you've been hanging around me for a while you're probably familiar with my story. If not, here's the haiku or cut-down version: 20 years ago I was unemployed, broke and circling the drain. Then, through luck more than good judgement, I got a job working in a hydraulics shop. The work was interesting and I made it my business to learn everything I could as fast as I could. In short, I found my 'groove' - in hydraulics.

Two decades later, I'm still working in hydraulics. But on my terms. I work where I want, when I want and for whom I chose. In this and many other respects, I don't conform to industry convention. And I guess this makes me somewhat of a renegade.

I know some reading this will think: "That's fine for you Brendan, BUTů"

Two points: first, as Zig Ziglar once said, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

Second, you don't have to do what I do. And if you look around, you'll find hydraulics renegades - doing what they do their way, on their terms, everywhere. Here's a good example courtesy of long-time member, Rick Sosnowski:

"A friend on mine worked for the local sawmill. Nobody paid much attention to him because he was and is a quiet kind of guy. Every year he would take a course on a different subject because he enjoyed learning. Most of the time the subject would be related to his work. After a problem showed up, and all the other mechanics had a go at it, he would solve it. The only thanks he got was management would leave him alone.

The sawmill had a hydraulic machine for feeding it logs. One day it broke down and nobody could fix it, so the decision was made to replace either the swing motor or the pump. I forget now which. Anyway, it cost 14 thousand dollars for the part. But there was no change in the problem. After three days of testing pressures and swinging spanners with no result, management told my friend to have a look at it.

This machine had two shuttle valves on the swing, I believe, and after looking at how it worked he came to the conclusion that the problem would be in one of them. The first valve he opened up was missing a snap ring. He installed a 75 cent snap ring and half an hour later the machine was working just fine.

In this case, lack of knowledge and imagination cost the company 14 thousand for the part, plus wages and lost production time. All it took was a guy who took a hydraulics course on his holidays and a 75 cent snap ring to fix it. The company could have paid for training all their mechanics with money left over.

Afterwards, there was a change in management. They threw away my friend's preventive maintenance program and got rid of half the mechanics to save money. And they started to tell my friend how and when to do his job. He just took his tools home and went to work elsewhere. Within six months most of the machines were broken down and they were paying dealers big money to keep things going. Not long after that the sawmill was dismantled and sold because it was no longer profitable.

Is this how you find the value of one man who knows what he's doing? (My friend is now enjoying his retirement while half the management team are still looking for work)."

It's not arrogance if you're right. And it is OK to be a proverbial square peg in a world full of round holes. So hone your hydraulics chops. And be a renegade if you want to.

The Nice Things People Say ...

"The knowledge I've gained from this information has been so valuable it has earned me a raise!" Find out more ...

Jack Bergstrom
Heavy Equipment Mechanic
Sharpe Equipment

2.   How to tell if you or your hydraulic equipment is sick

My son Benjamin had glandular fever last year. He was quite sick and missed a month of school. At the height of the fever his temperature was 39C for 4 days straight. I know this because his very concerned mother was monitoring his temperature constantly. If you have children of your own you can imagine the relief on day 5 when his temperature finally started to go down.

When you think about it, it's really handy that our body temperature is a quick and effective indicator of general health. These days you (or somebody else) can stick an electronic gizmo in your ear, press a button and get an instant indication that everything is normal - or not.

And so we humans have something in common with hydraulic equipment: monitoring temperature is a quick and effective method of detecting abnormalities, as one of our members explains:

"Something I started doing a couple of years ago is taking and recording operating temperatures with a good quality heat gun. I just recently purchased 75 of them and handed them out to most of the guys running our machines. We are logging temperatures at meal breaks so we have a good baseline to work from. I find this intelligence to be very helpful when the operator calls in with a problem. My goal is for the operators to start using this information for themselves as they take the readings. Hopefully by doing this they will gain a better understanding of the machinery they operate."

This is a smart, proactive maintenance strategy for a couple of reasons. Heat, or more precisely, too much of it, is public enemy #1 of any hydraulic system. And like all other contaminants of the oil, heat does most of its damage silently, without the operator being aware of it.

Too much heat cooks the oil and seals, accelerates aging of hoses and worst of all, results in loss of viscosity and therefore, lubrication. So early warning of an overheating problem can save a bucketful of money.

But perhaps the real stroke of genius with this member's strategy is that it involves the machine's operator. And a switched-on operator can prevent a lot of costly damage - or further damage - when things do go wrong. So any exercise which sharpens up the operator and increases his awareness of the machine he's operating can be extremely valuable - to the bottom line.

And logging operating oil temperature is a very effective condition-monitoring technique. Because whenever oil moves from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure without doing useful work, heat is generated. In other words, internal leakage creates heat. And so an abnormal increase in internal leakage will show up as abnormal heat-load and therefore, abnormal operating temperature.

So if you don't already own a heat gun, a.k.a. infrared thermometer, and know how to use it, you should fix this ASAP.

"This book has the potential to save many organizations lots of money. It should be on the bookshelf of every engineer, supervisor, planner and technician who deals with hydraulic equipment... it's worth its weight in gold." Find out more

Alexander (Sandy) Dunn
Plant Maintenance Resource Center

3.   Which hydraulic oil?

If you only ever do ONE thing to ensure the reliability and service life of a hydraulic machine, making sure it's got the right oil in the tank should be it. In this 20-page report and accompanying 34-minute video, titled: "How to select the correct hydraulic oil for your machine - OR how to make sure the oil you are currently using is the right one!", I show you how to get this right - step-by-step. Find out more

4. Content for your web site or e-zine

Need some fresh content for your web site or e-zine? You now have permission to reprint these 'Inside Hydraulics' articles on your web site or in your e-zine, provided:

1. Each article is printed in its full form with no changes.

2. You send an e-mail to editor@hydraulicsupermarket.com to advise us where you'll be publishing them.

3. You include the following acknowledgement at the end of each article:
About the Author: Brendan Casey has more than 20 years experience in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of mobile and industrial hydraulic equipment. For more information on reducing the operating cost and increasing the uptime of your hydraulic equipment, visit his web site: http://www.HydraulicSupermarket.com

5. Help us spread the word

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6. Tell us what you think

We would love to hear what you think of this issue of our 'Inside Hydraulics' newsletter. And of course, if you have any suggestions for future issues, please send us those too.

Just e-mail the editor at: newslettersuggestions@hydraulicsupermarket.com

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