Wears and spares

25 April 2008

Caterpillar's new K Series Tooth System includes a twist-on mounting, a lower profile and is availab

Caterpillar's new K Series Tooth System includes a twist-on mounting, a lower profile and is available in 11 tip variations.

According to Thomas Gilles, Managing director of Germany-based component supplier Assem Audi, the number of component and consumables suppliers around the world has grown considerably in the last few years.

“You can now type component or consumable supplier into an internet search engine and find hundreds of suppliers. However, the trick is finding one you can trust and who can supply genuine parts, with all the relevant documents to support their claims, from a supplier that can guarantee their quality,” said Mr Gilles.

The proliferation of non-genuine spare parts, or third party suppliers offering “will fit” parts means original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are keen to highlight the benefits of using genuine branded products. With their exact fit and function, manufacturers claim that the only way to keep a machine's original characteristics when it comes to reliability, comfort, performance and operating costs is to use original parts.

According to Mats Gårlin, vice president of marketing and sales for customer support, Volvo Construction Equipment (VCE), “Quality is crucial. Genuine parts have been designed and developed with the machine itself to act as a system of parts, rather than individual parts operating in isolation.

“The only way to keep a machine's original characteristics is to use original parts. Of course you may find some grey market parts that are close to 'genuine parts' quality, but grey products are sold on price. To do that you have to cut corners and the vast majority are low quality, sometimes dangerously so,” said Mr Gårlin.

A point echoed by breaker manufacturer Montebert's marketing manager Martin Dizière, who told CE that while availability is “the key success factor”, it's also important to use genuine parts.

“Using pirated parts can reduce operating costs in the short-term, but in the long-term it will only increase downtime, not just of the attachments, but of the whole machine,” said Mr Dizière.

However, Mr Gilles is quick to point out that some third party suppliers do offer “genuine parts” at a substantially lower cost. “An OEM will usually use a lot of parts manufactured by a sub-manufacturer. We cross reference the manufacturer's part numbers with the sub-manufacturer's part number and then deal directly with them.

“While we are in direct competition with the OEMs the ability to trace the sub-manufacturers, coupled to the high volumes and high turnover we deal in is what allows us to offer a lower price to the end-user,” said Mr Gilles.


However, genuine or grey parts are not the only options available to construction equipment users when looking to replace wear parts or other consumables. Many OEMs now offer factory-remanufactured components, and the choice available to end-users is expanding rapidly.

Components range from complete engines to starter motors, turbo - charger units, fuel injector pumps and air conditioning compressors. Operated on an exchange basis, worn parts are replaced with completely overhauled units.

Not only are the parts reconditioned like new, they are modified to incorporate any technical improvements that have happened since they were made. According to Paul Ross, Caterpillar's European market segment director, because remanufactured parts can be upgraded to include the latest advances in technology, they may actually perform better than they did originally.

“Caterpillar's products are designed with remanufacturing and the ability to upgrade in mind,” said Mr Ross. “Our engineers ensure that, wherever possible, parts can be easily and economically remanufactured to extend their lives.

“The remanufacturing processes use the original design specifications and tolerances to ensure that remanufactured product performs just as well, and is just as reliable as when it was new,” he added.

As an example of the company's methodology Mr Ross told CE that extra material is added to the combustion face of the cylinder head, which allows the face to be milled during the remanufacturing process while still maintaining thickness tolerances. Similar allowances are made in the cylinder head seat pockets, so they can be milled without damaging cooling passageways in the head.

Apart from the remanufacture of its own products, Cat also offers its remanufacturing capability to external customers. Its site in Shrewsbury, UK, one of three remanufacturing centres in Europe - the others are in France and Poland - has remanufacturing contracts with the UK's Ministry of Defence as well as with the country's rail and automotive industries.

At the heart of Cat's remanufacturing strategy, said Mr Ross, is the process of core management. “The 'core' in the remanufacturing process is the end-of-life engines and components that come back to us from our customers. Core management, therefore, is our proprietary process for collection, identification, shipping, tracking and reprocessing of the core material,” said Mr Ross.

This, he added, includes the information needed to manage the complex reverse logistics processes that ensure all core material is shipped to the locations best equipped to remanufacture it, and those with the know-how and technology to best remanufacture the incoming material and minimising the amount sent for conventional recycling.

Remanufacturing at Shrewsbury, for example, begins with the delivery of end-of-life engines and parts from across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Upon arrival, the parts are sorted and separated in preparation for remanufacturing. Some of this is done on site, some is returned to Cat in the US for remanufacture or transferred to an external recycling facility.

Lubricants and Filters

It's not just genuine or remanufactured components that are an issue for maximising machine uptime and ensuring end-users get the best whole-life costs from their equipment. Lubricants and filters are equally as important.

While one oil may look very much like another and seem to have the same composition, genuine manufacturers' oils contain protective additives that reduce wear, bind water, carbon, sludge and metal particles, as well as neutralising acids.

What this means in practical terms is that the engine operates more freely, reducing fuel consumption. Even hydraulic oils matter, with approved oils coping better with high temperatures, and transmission oils reducing noise and friction. And when using recommended oils, dealers can provide oil analysis services to ensure that performance is being maintained.

Filters - oil, fuel and air - are also areas where short cuts are often made, either by not replacing them, or by buying non-genuine replacements. This, according to Mr Gårlin, can be a huge false economy.

“These relatively inexpensive components are crucially important parts in construction equipment: they have to clean fluids and air from dirt and impurities. An inferior oil filter, for instance, can become clogged, obstructing the oil circulation and leading to 'oil stop' and an expensive engine failure,” said Mr Gårlin.

Even fuel is never completely clean - particles can easily blow in when filling. If not effectively filtered these particles can damage the injection pump and cause corrosion.

Guaranteed Delivery

Once an end-user has decided to buy a genuine or remanufactured part, and chosen his preferred supplier he then has to take delivery of the product. While this sounds simple there are complex logistics, and external factors influencing the process.

To aid in the process of quick delivery Assem Audi, for example, offers a full freight service to any part of the world with all the relevant documentation. “Besides the normal areas of operation, we cover the territories that the OEMs may find it difficult to work in through their dealers and distributors,” said Assem Audi's Mr Gilles, “This includes parts of the Middle East and Africa, along with certain areas of Eastern Europe.”

Manufacturers can of course supply replacement parts just as quickly. Hyundai Heavy Industries Europe is supporting the growing demand for spare parts for its Dash 7 excavator, for example, from its new parts warehouse in Belgium.

According to marketing manager Jan Coemans, sales of the Dash 7 recently hit the 2000 mark and demand for spare parts has grown by +100% in the last four years.

“Any European dealer who orders an item before 15.00 GMT+1 will have the part delivered no more than 24 hours later, anywhere in Europe.

“On the rare occasion when an item is not in stock, delivery in three days is what the company aims for, with the item flown in from our headquarters in Korea,” said Mr Coemans.

The service is backed up by its individual dealers, most of whom offer an internet ordering service. In the UK, for example, HM Plant's online shopping service allows customers and end-users to order a range of parts for Hitachi's excavators.

These include filters, buckets, cab glass, quick hitches and replacement tracks. Like the main parts warehouse in Belgium, HM Plant guarantees delivery in 24 hours. Customers do not need to open an account prior to placing an order as payment can be made via credit card.

Alternatively you could order the part and have the supplier fit it for you. UK-based company Spares UK, for example, offers a complete installation service for its QSA Superior Attachments Solutions range of hydraulic, universal quick hitch systems and buckets for excavators in the 8 to 80 tonne weight class. According to Steve Lee, product support manager at UK Spares, the part and installation kit - hitch, hydraulic hoses, clips, etc - can be delivered the next day, with an engineer should one be needed.

Future Developments

If negotiating the minefield of “genuine” suppliers and getting your part when you need it is not enough to contend with, Mr Gilles told CE the global shortage of raw materials and the high price of oil has not only had an impact on price but also on manufacturers' lead times.

“While the shortage of steel and steel components saw prices rise and lead times lengthen the peak was 12 months ago. However, there is still a global shortage of tyres. Lead times are still long and I doubt this will change much in the immediate future,” said Mr Gilles.

However, what Mr Gilles does expect to change is the way OEMs and end-users do business with each other.

“More and more use of the internet, both by suppliers and customers is sure to happen. At the moment I think the construction industry is a little slow to pick up on some aspects of the technology.

“When it comes to ordering parts, for example, some people still prefer to see a hand written fax, however, within the next five to 10 years I think this process will be completely revolutionised,” added Mr Gilles.

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