November 11, 2008 

'Inside Hydraulics' Newsletter

1. What's your number one priority?
2. What a silly thing to do…
3. How to get to know your hydraulic equipment better
4. Content for your web site or e-zine
5. Help us spread the word
6. Tell us what you think


What's your number one priority?

It's barely a week since one of the most amazing elections in America's history. If your guy won, congratulations.

The next US president was always going to have a big job ahead of him. And the president-elect is sure to be busy right now getting his priorities in order.

So now the election is over and it's back-to-work-time, what's YOUR number one priority? Well, here's something to think about:

One of our members, who attended one of my Hydraulic Breakdown Prevention seminars last year and is currently working in an iron ore mine, sent me this a few days ago:

"The waste here would make you cry. Most hydraulic components are changed out on a scheduled hourly life even if they are still operating OK. There is very little diagnosing done, they just throw in reman components because they can't afford the downtime. The Komatsu loader is worth $7 million and digs $1 million of iron ore a day. So $50,000 worth of pumps and $40,000 worth of valves seems irrelevant. It's nothing for them to dump 400 gallons (1500 liters) of hydraulic oil every day for 3 or 4 days until a contamination problem goes away. New $700 filters are left open to dust and water. No one is accountable for the loss."

Hmmm… nice work if you can get it.

Now consider this gem, from another of our members when asked for his feedback on my Six Costly Mistakes report:

"I've been preaching the same message for many years. What does this mean to a maintenance person who wants to change hydraulic oil on hours? I have issued orders to everyone on my team not to change oil without my approval or you will be released to the economy."

The contrast between these two operations couldn't be more stark. At the first one, nobody is gonna be upset if you scrap $90,000 of good hydraulic components in one day. Whereas at the second, doing an unnecessary oil change could get you fired.

There's no doubt the iron ore miners are making hay at the moment. But I remember the last mining recession - which wasn't that long ago. They were watching every penny. So when the boom ends, these miners will have a real problem. They can't just flick a switch and go from "production at any cost" to a lean and mean operation. The prevailing workforce culture won't allow it - not quickly anyway.

Of course, most of us never have the luxury of waste the boom has handed the big miners.

But productivity and lean maintenance aren't mutually exclusive either.

And that's why, regardless of which of these operations more closely resembles your current situation, plugging any holes in your maintenance practices is something you should be doing even when the economic 'sun' is shining.

But now that storm clouds are appearing on the economic 'horizon', it should be on top of your 'To Do' list.

Because if the economic pessimists are right, the industry your company is in may contract. If it does, some workers will get laid off. Some of the players in your industry will go under.

This situation is like the old story about two guys being chased by a bear, where one says to the other: "I don't have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you".

So your job is to make sure this happens to somebody else. Not your company. Not you.

Don't be the slow guy. Be the guy who escapes the bear.

Sitting on your hands is not an option.

The Nice Things People Say …

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Anthony Nardella, Workshop Manger
Fulton Hogan

2.   What a silly thing to do…

If you've been working around hydraulic equipment for a while, it's likely you've witnessed or heard about more than a few acts of stupidity. But this story from one of our members will take some beating. When I first read it, my reaction was gob-smacked amazement:

"We had an underground mine scoop with a bad dump cylinder. The scoop operator could not keep a loaded bucket fully retracted during tramming from the face to the feeder breaker and delivered the scoop to the workshop for repair.

The standard approach to repair was to leave the cylinder in place; lift it up above the boom frame and support it with a hardwood block. Next, the hoses were disconnected; the oil drained out and the piston pushed to the end of its stroke.

After the threaded gland was unscrewed, the workshop bridge crane was used to support the rod while the piston rod was pulled out of the tube with a chain hoist.

On this particular day, the attempt to remove the piston rod continued with no success - even with the assistance of compressed air and much cursing by the head mechanic and his understudy.

During a coffee break, a decision is made by the mechanic on how to finally remove the troublesome piston rod from its tube.

After returning from his break, the mechanic removes the hoist and sling from the rod, grabs an acetylene torch, climbs onto the bogie frame and sits next to the dump cylinder. He opens the valves on the torch and squeezes the cutting torch handle admitting oxygen and the already flowing acetylene gas into the tube of the cylinder. Once satisfied the tube is full of oxygen and fuel gas, he shuts off the torch, sets it down, removes his cigarette lighter from his pocket and says: "here goes nothing".

The resulting explosion pushes the piston rod out of the barrel and it flies in a 200 foot arc along the roof line of the workshop. It passes three 30 foot cross entries and two 90 by 90 foot support pillars to its resting place near the incline to the 1928 level. The noise of the explosion was heard at the underground surge pile two miles away."

Like I said, it's a jaw-dropper.

And I shouldn't need to say this, but just to be sure: DO NOT try this at home. DO NOT even use compressed air to assist in removing a piston rod from its tube - it is VERY dangerous.

If there is a moral to this story - apart from the infinite stupidity some people are capable of - it's having the right tool for the job.

And despite the fact this incident happened many years ago, the mine workshop where it occurred is still not equipped with a cylinder repair bench!

"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.   How to get to know your hydraulic equipment better

There's a few basic questions you should always be able to answer about your hydraulic equipment. In my column in the July-August 2008 Issue of Machinery Lubrication available here I explain what they are and how to ensure you'll always be able to answer them.

To receive a complimentary subscription to this informative magazine (US and Canada only) go to:

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 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 19 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:

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6. Tell us what you think

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