Today’s crawler and wheel excavators offer technologies that make it easier for equipment owners and operators to minimize mistakes while using hydraulic-powered attachments. In fact, the integration of more sophisticated technologies, such as in-cab monitors, continues to improve attachment versatility and productivity. It’s easier to adjust and operate attachment rates, flows, pressures and preferences than ever before.
The ability to preprogram and store attachment settings can be a pivotal game-changer, allowing you to adjust to fluctuating market conditions and significantly enhance your excavator experience. That’s why it’s important to take the time to understand these technologies now, so they can translate into measurable efficiencies on the jobsite later.
Stored Settings Save Time
Prior to on-board management systems, an attachment would be installed on an excavator and then manually calibrated with the minimum and maximum flows and pressures. Today, when changing hydraulic attachments, you or your operators can easily select the appropriate preset via liquid crystal display (LCD) screens or touchscreen panels to optimize your excavator and attachment functionality. Between 10 and 20 different one-way or two-way flow attachment presets can be stored in on-board monitors. One-way flow only requires hydraulic power in one direction, such as hydraulic breakers and plate compactors; two-way flow is ideal for excavator attachments that need bidirectional flow, such as hydraulic clamps, tilting buckets or shears. Each preset can be matched to specific operational requirements of an attachment by limiting the maximum pressure and the minimum/maximum flow rate that is delivered to the attachment.
A password protection function will help to discourage the improper attachment preset selection if you have an operator with limited understanding of hydraulic systems. Some on-board excavator monitoring systems can be configured with two or more passwords.
In addition to optimizing flows and pressures, monitors in the excavator cab provide quick snapshots of machine vitals. A main screen can track how long the excavator has been operating in one-way or two-way mode, giving you or your operators an ideal number of hours and usage. If you know your excavator has been working 50 hours in one-way mode, you can track its fuel usage to have an idea of what the fuel costs will be going forward.
Engine coolant temperature, day and time, throttle position, idle hours, digging hours, and engine revolutions per minute (rpm) are other typical vitals displayed on monitors. Some equipment manufacturers also have the capability to display the
surrounding area via rearview and side-view cameras.
Customized Controls Simplify Operation
Another innovative excavator technology is the ability to customize your joysticks for simplified operation. Joystick controls make it easy to adjust the machine’s variable auxiliary hydraulic flow and speed. Some joysticks are even equipped with customizable control settings that are specific to you or your operators. On some joysticks, a roller switch can be adjusted left to right to control the speed of two-way hydraulics, such as hydraulic clamps, commonly known as “thumbs.” This feature can be beneficial if you need to secure material for loading and material-handling applications.
To tailor your performance, some equipment manufacturers design their excavators with multiple work modes, such as digging, lifting, breaker and shear. The first two modes recalibrate machine power for digging or lifting. Breaker and shear modes change the auxiliary hydraulic flow for specific attachments to optimize performance and protect hydraulic components.
For instance, the breaker mode works great for hydraulic breaker attachments. Nitrogen-powered breakers are equipped with an upper and lower suspension system that isolates the power unit from the housing, making it an ideal fit for a variety of demolition and rock-breaking applications. The breaker mode maintains a consistent downward pressure for maximum attachment performance and component protection. Some excavator manufacturers offer hydraulic breakers with two-speed controls that can be manually adjusted between low- and high-frequency settings.
In addition, you or your operators may be able to modify or select the way the detent button (used to resist the rotation of wheel, axle or handle) operates. Some operators may want the breaker to engage only when a button is held; others want the breaker engaged and to continue throughout the cycle until it is pushed again. Both controls allow operators to match the breaker impact rate to the working conditions for better productivity. The second mode, called “shear,” is a two-way auxiliary hydraulic flow that helps to secure material for superior loading and material-handling applications.
Training & Educational Resources
There is a wealth of information at your fingertips, as attachment technology continues to move toward greater sophistication and efficiency, balanced with easy operation. As an equipment owner, it’s your job to make sure all employees who will be operating have adequate training on these technologies. Whether it’s classroom training or hands-on training, your operators need a general understanding of basic operating procedures of controls and monitor displays before handling equipment.
Review the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual. It’s an important first step for anyone who operates your equipment. The manual serves as a primary guide for proper heavy construction equipment operation and maintenance, and it is provided upon delivery from your local dealership. The manuals should be kept in the machine’s cab for quick reference. An electronic copy, such as a PDF, may be available to access on a smartphone or tablet for easy reference.
Heavy equipment manufacturers also recommend visually inspecting the attachment connection system each time you use the attachment to help detect any potential failures and prevent unexpected downtime. Hydraulic hoses from the excavator should be the correct length and always be routed properly to help decrease wear.
Many manufacturers have standard hydraulic hoses that are the correct length for your machines; however, if standard-length hoses are not included, make sure you refer to the manual. Your local dealership provides hands-on equipment training, and their service technicians possess the product knowledge and experience to help troubleshoot and maintain an excavator. They understand and can articulate recent technology updates, provide demonstrations and help to show you how to get the best performance from your machine.
The advancements made in new labor-saving attachment designs can translate into measurable efficiencies on the jobsite. By taking the time to understand these technologies, you can capitalize on what excavators have to offer and successfully meet expectations and deadlines.