To ensure the equipment performs well day to day, the department provides cross-training for equipment operators and involves them in maintenance.
"One day a week — and we have it staggered so it's not all the same day — the crew is responsible for cleaning the vehicle and doing a thorough check of it, including the batteries, tires, and lights," Newell says. "So the operator is responsible for fluids, oil, whatever. The mowers get checked more frequently, but the other vehicles get checked at least once a week.
"We make sure operators are doing things that are safe for them to do and don't require training. So we say, 'As an operator, these are your responsibilities for your piece of equipment. We don't want you trying to fix it.' We track all of our costs on our equipment repairs, so we don't want people doing something that we're not aware of, or maybe they don't do it correctly."
Operators and mechanics also become as familiar as possible with any new piece of equipment to ensure it receives proper maintenance.
"When we buy new equipment, we always have the dealer come and provide thorough training," Newell says. "Then we get all the manuals, and we do extensive training with our crew before they operate a piece of equipment. So it's not only, 'This is how you turn it and stop it and go.' We also train them on the fluids they need to check and anything they need for the piece of equipment as far as operations and maintenance."
The department has a full-time mechanic who takes care of licensed vehicles and equipment that operators ride or drive, and it has a small-engine mechanic who handles smaller pieces of equipment, including push mowers, string trimmers, and blowers.
"The small equipment gets checked in every day, and if there's a problem, it gets tagged and documented," she says. "With the bigger equipment, once a month, we go through a formal checklist, which is completed and turned into the supervisor. He reviews it and goes through it with the mechanic.
"If there are major items that are wrong with it, we all meet and discuss, 'Is this a piece of equipment we want to invest in and keep maintaining and spend this kind of money to fix an oil leak or do major transmission work? Or is this one we're going to salvage out and replace?' "
Newell and her staff also take equipment maintenance into account during the specification process.
"When we purchase equipment, we try to find a dealer who can get parts easily," she says. "Because we are operating year-round and can't afford to have something down for a long time, we try to have the parts in our warehouse or work with dealers who deliver them.
"For example, we have spare (mower) blades that we sharpen, so when we pull the dull ones off, we have sharp ones ready. It's the same with chainsaw chains. We've got spares on the shelf already sharpened. We also keep spare tires for mowers because that's something we go through."
GIE + EXPO 2012, the Green Industry and Equipment Expo, takes place Oct. 25-26 in Louisville, Ky. The event is the industry's largest showcase for:
The event also features: 750 exhibiting companies inside the Kentucky Exposition Center and on the turf area outside; 19 acres of outdoor demonstrations and test driving adjacent to the indoor exhibits; and seminars designed to boost efficiency and productivity.
For more information, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gie-expo.com.
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