A load-off: manufacturers offer tips for determining the best loader for an operation.
According to a number of product managers for several major equipment manufacturers, when choosing between two of the more popular material handling options--a wheel loader or a skid-steer loader--potential owners have to take a long, hard look at their operations and dissect exactly what they want the machine to do and how they want it done.
"You have to know yourself and what you're trying to do," says Dan Rafferty, product manager in charge of skid steers at JCB Inc., Pooler, Ga. Among the questions a recycler should be asking are: "How versatile is the job? Is it always the same task, or are there many tasks to be accomplished?" according to Rafferty.
Both wheel loaders and skid steers bring specific advantages to an operation, says Neil LeBlanc, product and marketing manager at Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill. "Comparing the size of wheel loaders vs. skid-steer loaders by product range and offerings, the wheel loader should provide much greater productivity," he says. "However, when size or weight of the machine is an issue, i.e., load-bearing capacity of the floors that the machine will work on, the smaller, lighter weight skid-steer loader will be favored."
When weighing the pros and cons of wheel loaders and skid steers, a solid knowledge of a facility's individual needs is a good first step to-ward choosing between the two.
PICKING AND CHOOSING. Size of the material to be handled is one of the most important things to consider when choosing equipment, says Rafferty.
Doug Laufenberg, product marketing manager for compact wheel loaders at John Deere, Moline, Ill., agrees. "One of the biggest challenges is how heavy is the stuff they're going to be picking up," he says. "How small is it broken into? How is it shredded?"
For heavy, bulky material, a wheel loader with its greater operating capacity might be more advantageous. "For large jobs where a lot of material needs to be moved, a skid steer would be too small," says Georg Seyrlehner, general manager of earth moving product management at Liebherr Construction Equipment Co., Newport News, Va.
Wheel loaders also tend to have better visibility, since the operator is seated higher up, says Laufenberg. This could come in handy if the machine is dumping material into a Dumpster or high-walled truck, adds Seyrlehner.
Recyclers and contractors also need to consider initial capital for the investment. Skid steers, in general, tend to have a lower initial purchase price, says Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager for skid steers and corn pact track loaders for John Deere.
Another big consideration is the jobsite itself--particularly the dimensions and layout. Laufenberg says recyclers need to consider whether there is enough room for a wheel loader to maneuver safely. If not, a skid steer might be more applicable.
Its compact size makes a skid-steer loader particularly advantageous for any work in restricted spaces. "A skid steer would get into many tight places that a wheel loader cannot," says Bob Beesley, product manager for skid steers and compact track loaders for Komatsu America Corp., Vernon Hills, Ill. "You need less room to move it around."
In addition to their tight turning radius, skid steers also tend to offer faster cycle times, according to Kelly P. Moore, product manager for skid steer/compact track/compact utility loaders for Gehl Co., West Bend, Wis., and Mustang Manufacturing Co., Owantonna, Minn.
Recyclers also need to keep in mind how versatile they need their material handling equipment to be. "A skid steer could do one thing and immediately go on to do something else," says Dave Hardwick, JCB's product manager for wheel loaders. "Or if it's a task that may last months at a time, the wheel loader would give you better output."
Wheel loaders and skid steers can be serviceable on almost any jobsite, but different environments bring out their individual advantages. Recyclers and contractors should take care to evaluate their own needs to determine which type is best for them. "It's really an application-driven answer," says Hardwick. "It all depends on what they are doing and how long it will take."
No matter which type of loader a recycler or contractor chooses, once he or she had made a decision, there are additional factors to consider when trying to keep the equipment running at optimum performance levels, according to equipment suppliers. These considerations range from tire selection to maintenance.
TIRE TRIALS. Tires are a key element to wheel loaders and skid steers. As one of the most vulnerable points on the machine, operators need to take special care of them.
Again, when choosing what kind of tires are the best fit for the machine, an operator needs to seriously review the conditions in which the equipment will be running, according to Moore.
Several product managers recommend solid or foam-filled tires to customers operating material handling equipment in recycling. "It's a very abrasive and aggressive application," Moore says. "More than likely because of the nature of their work, it would be much more cost advantageous to go with a severe-duty or solid type tire," he says.
Beesley adds that foam-filled tires give additional protection against punctures, while high-flotation suspension tires allow for an overall smoother ride, which also saves tire wear, he says.
Even though foam-filled or solid tires offer protection against flats, operators should still take care to avoid traveling over sharp objects, says Mark Teckenburg, marketing manager of Bobcat Co., West Fargo, N.D. Beesley advises customers to keep the area they drive in as clean as possible. JCB's Rafferry echoes his sentiment: "A neat jobsite helps keep things in better shape," he says. Teckenburg recommends running a sweeper broom to clean up debris, nails or anything else that could destroy a loader's tires to get the longest life from them.
Along the same lines, Hardwick also recommends making sure the hoppers and trucks material handlers are loading into are the correct size, preventing spillover and keeping the whole jobsite cleaner and safer for wheeled equipment.
In many ways, tire life is in the hands of the operator, says Moore. "An operator really has a lot of say in how he drives the machine and how tires stand up," he says.
Teckenburg advises operators to avoid skidding the tires on hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete, which will save wear. "Operators can also reduce wear on the tires by developing a work pattern that includes more radius-style turns vs. 'skid' turns. Making gradual turns will minimize wear on rubber tires and undercarriage components."
Operators can also extend the life of their tires with simple maintenance practices. Moore recommends watching the tires for wear and rotating them, just like tires should be rotated on automobiles.
Tires aren't the only area of concern when it comes to material handling equipment. With today's soaring fuel costs, operators are all looking for ways to minimize the damage of diesel prices on their bottom lines.
FUELING THE FIRE. Operating costs are rising across the board, and one of the chief concerns for operators of heavy equipment is the cost of fuel.
On one hand, attempting to limit fuel costs can be a double-edged sword for heavy equipment operators, says Caterpillar's LeBlanc. "Unfortunately, machine performance is typically the result of the rated horsepower or engine output of the unit," he says. "Attempting to minimize fuel expense will ultimately impact productivity. Most owners and operators will not be willing to sacrifice performance."
However, operators can take some steps to fight the cost of fueling their machines.
Rafferty says with today's high fuel costs, buying the right sized machine for the job is more important than ever. "It all comes back to what you're handling and knowing what you need to do," he says. "There's no need to overbuy. If you're doing fairly small stuff, it would be ridiculous to fire up a huge engine if a smaller machine can do the job," Rafferty adds.
Many product managers also caution against idling the machine. In addition, operators should pay attention to how they run their machines. "Often contractors run their machines wide open when it's not necessary," says Teckenburg. He advises operators to maximize the machine's fuel capacity by running it at the right speed with the throttle only open enough to do the job.
Operators should also be sure to keep up with proper maintenance, including changing the oil and air filter regularly. "That makes a big difference in the amount of fuel being burned," says Moore. "If the air filter becomes clogged, you're going to be burning more fuel."
Proper greasing also goes a long way in keeping machines running at peak efficiency, which ultimately has an impact on fuel consumption, says Teckenburg.
Zupancic also says that contractors should look into alternative fuel options. "[Operators] can make sure that the equipment that is purchased in the future can run approved bio-diesel fuels to help keep their fuel bill low," Zupancic says.
He adds that John Deere has plans to use B2, a blend of 2 percent bio-diesel fuel, as the factory-fill in all U.S.-made diesel-propelled machines. While operators can't change the price of fuel, they can take advantage of every trick in the book to keep their machines running as well as possible, which can help them manage their fuel-related operating costs.
"By doing these things, contractors can save a few gallons here and there, which will add up to big dollars and bring more to the bottom line," says Teckenburg.
The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at email@example.com.
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|Title Annotation:||MATERIAL HANDLING EQUIPMENT FOCUS|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2006|
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