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Mechanics Corner: Takes notes now to avoid costly repairs later

Jim Schlund Published on 11 October 2011

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How’s harvest going for you? With harvest season soon drawing to a close, hopefully you know where you stand with your equipment in terms of repairs and maintenance.

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For those expecting a late harvest, there will be a big push to get the crop from field to storage, which will not only put pressure on operators and owners, but will also put tremendous pressure on the equipment.

This is the time to start refocusing on our record-keeping skills. Although record-keeping is a must year-round, it is very important to pay attention to even the smallest details when working your equipment day in and day out.

Making notes of how your equipment is running or any mishaps that you notice is very important.

Making notes
While we always run the possibility of running into problems of some sort or other, taking notes while working out in the field will better prepare you in dealing with those problems.

There are some dairies out there that grow their own crops but have someone take on the forage responsibilities. We are addressing those dairy producers that are owner/operators, have their own equipment and harvest their own crops. These equipment owners, as well as the equipment operators, should be the ones making notes.

Be sure to note any slips or abnormalities when operating your equipment.

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Marginal equipment
If you are running a machine that probably needs repairs and is operating at a marginal capacity, you may want to think that over. Even if you think that piece of equipment could last or work for the remainder of harvest, you’d better re-analyze the potential failure before it becomes a problem.

For example, if you have tires that need to be replaced or upgraded, that might be something to keep in mind. If you have some marginal tires, it would be in your best interest to go ahead and replace them.

When running marginal equipment, you’re basically gambling on whether it’s going to make it through the season. Is this a gamble you are willing to take?

Mental notes vs. written notes
I’ve always found that we are very visual people, and if we don’t make notes we forget. There could be a time lapse between the time when we were out in the field running that piece of equipment and when we take it in to have it worked on. If we don’t make some kind of note when we’re thinking about it, we could forget.

As you are out there running your equipment, don’t rely on making mental notes. Make written notes, so that when you finish the job, you can take those notes to your repairman or service technician.

In order to do this, you may have to put a notepad in each piece of equipment, but it’s a proactive step that will help you in the future.

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Why take notes?
I know a guy that works for a company doing equipment maintenance and repairs. He keeps a notebook and writes down everything he does as a repairman. There are two reasons for that: His employer wants to know the repairs that are made as well as when the repairs were made.

Notes from the equipment operators, the people actually working with the equipment, can prove to be very helpful to service technicians. The notes could serve as a guide in what to focus on.

Even though it may take time to do this, it will take more time to try to figure out what needs to be repaired and why at the end of harvest. You don’t have to write a book, just make simple notes. The following could be an example:

Truck No. 2 – bed chain needs to be fixed.

Have a system in place
To conclude, I have to reiterate that there has to be some kind of record-keeping system in place.

It is necessary to keep your equipment functioning properly. It all starts with making notes of what you notice while operating your equipment.

If you see that repairs are too extensive, you might find yourself asking, “Is this something I really want to fix or replace?” This is what making notes comes down to. It just helps in our decision-making processes.

I do think we need to give people credit. I think there are a lot of people that are doing a really good job. Even though there may be others that are a little too lax, there are some model dairy producers that run great farming operations. PD

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Jim Schlund
Retired Diesel
Mechanics Professor
College of Southern Idaho

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