Hi-tech high lifts

19 March 2008

Photos by Diane Tjerrild, Copyright 2007 www.EPWparts.com

Photos by Diane Tjerrild, Copyright 2007 www.EPWparts.com

As you have found out with your car, if you open the hood there is very little you can recognize any more. Of course the battery, radiator, air cleaner, and windshield washer are still there, somewhere, but what about the spark plugs, spark plug wires, oil filter, and distributor (now I'm really dating myself)? Heaven forbid if the car stops running.

Aerial work platforms have gone high tech as well, since quite few years ago. For example, JLG introduced ADE (advanced design electronics) back in 1995.

The days of a mechanic using a test light and trying to isolate the problem through a process of elimination are gone, replaced by laptops, software, firmware, interfaces, analyzers, and self diagnostics. Of course, problems can still be diagnosed the old way, but you will spend a lot of time (labor) and money on parts trying to fix a problem that could be fixed immediately with the right diagnostic help.

Even the cost of purchasing and maintaining maintenance manuals for all the different brands, models and years is costly versus downloading the searchable, selectable and up–to–date manuals for free if your techs have the laptop internet connection. Yes, free.

If the traditional paper maintenance manual costs $45 each and you have to maintain a stock of say 40 manuals, those 40 traditional manuals would pay for a nice high–end laptop of roughly $1,800 with almost unlimited capacity. Your tech can search for parts, order parts, directly from the pictures on the laptop manuals, as well as schedule regular maintenance items like filters, hoses, and such, in anticipation of upcoming service. Just in time, ordering exactly what you need when you need it. This can reduce parts inventories and those pesky outdated leftover parts that every parts room ends up with.

This also helps the manufacturers keep manuals updated (electronically) so fixes, warranty fixes and safety bulletins are now in one place updated regularly right on the computer. Techs don't waste time looking in old, dated manuals going down the wrong road to fix what was already figured out after the paper manual was printed by the manufacturer.

Richard Mondelli, veteran aerial technician for Sunbelt Rentals in Jacksonville, FL relates this story. “Recently here in Jacksonville one of our best road techs was called to a job site. A new JLG 400S was running pretty bad. The lift was blowing black smoke, was running rough and was hard to start once the engine was hot. He hooked up the JLG hand analyzer but no error code was showing. So, he tried changing some parts out with what he had on the service truck but still no luck.

“By this time, the customer was getting pretty upset. The tech made a phone call to dispatch and we decided to swap out the unit and bring it into the shop. When the machine arrived, we hooked up the laptop. But no error code was indicated. So, after looking at the data on the laptop for a few minutes, we noticed the water temperature was not coming up to where it should. A faulty temperature sending unit had the lift's computer in the cold start mode causing a rich fuel condition. So why was there not an error code? This is what is called an inside parameter fault.

“After the correct diagnosis, the total time of the repair was about one hour, most of which involved the time needed to let the engine cool down. The cost of travel time for the road tech, the cost of the tractor trailer and driver time to swap out the unit for the customer and crediting the customer back for the down time, would have probably bought a laptop for the road tech to be able to diagnose this in the field and make the repair in an hour in the field instead of at the shop. If you are a manager who has not embraced the high tech world of lift and engine diagnostics, you are paying for it even if you don't buy the technology.”

Gary Riley, safety director at Midwest Aerial & Equipment out of St. Louis, MO had a similar high tech experience recently.

“A service call came in on a Genie Z–135 boom at a power plant somewhere in the middle of nowhere. After traveling almost two hours to the plant, the tech found a software problem and Genie informed him that he could download the updated software off Genie's internet site. Unfortunately for the tech, he was an hour from any kind of place that would offer internet connection. So, he climbed back into the service truck and drove to a McDonald's an hour away to get WiFi connection and download the updated software and then an hour back to upload it to the Z–135 boom's brain. It was after this upload the boom was fixed.”

Whatever the method there are two things to remember: first, know the method of diagnostics before committing to buying the lift, because additional high tech equipment can change initial costs of the unit, and second, go and buy the high tech equipment to properly and efficiently diagnose the problem. You will pay for it either way.

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