Equipment Operator Best Practices

Equipment Operator Best Practices

Attend the education session "Equipment Operator Best Practices" on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 from 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. 


Helping operators be more efficient and productive is a continuum. It can be as specific as “use this control in this way on this machine in these circumstances” to as general as “show up for work.” A good stopping point along that continuum is, “see the big picture.” Kurt Wilson and Matt Beinlich of Komatsu are helping operators see the big picture.

Part of the big picture is realizing your role in all that takes place on the jobsite. “Everyone should be working toward the common goals of safety, efficiency and profitability,” says Wilson. Part of it is seeing tasks in a timeline. “It takes fifteen minutes at the start of the day for an operator to create a good bench,” says Beinlich, “but it pays dividends the rest of the day in the form of more efficient loading. Yet many operators don’t want to invest that fifteen minutes because they don’t see the importance of that task in the all-day timeline.”

Part of seeing the big picture is recognizing the negative thoughts that should only be visitors but can become residents. “Operators will fixate on one negative item over which they have no control and it taints their thinking all day,” says Wilson. He uses the example of a hard toe at the base of a high wall. “They can’t dig it and they resent that fact the whole time they’re working. I say, ‘What is that – ten percent of your work day? Get over it and move on. Don’t let it ruin the rest of your day.’

Tips for Heavy Equipment Operators 

Wilson, lead operator instructor for Komatsu, and Beinlich, director of Komatsu’s Business Solutions Group, will present “Equipment Operator Best Practices” at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. “We’ll look at general recommendations and apply them to four categories of equipment,” says Beinlich. Those categories are wheel loaders, excavators, dozers and trucks. “In most applications that’s the order from highest to lowest of operational complexity and impact on operations.” They’ll go into detail at the presentation. For now, here are their five top tips for operators.

  1. Control your distance. “That includes travel during V-pattern loading, excavator swing, dozer passes, whatever motion you’re doing,” says Wilson. “Short moves are always efficient moves. This is especially true with wheel loaders where travel is the easiest item to manage and pays the greatest return.”
  2. Maintain the working area. Don’t sit idle; do something to improve the worksite. Move stray rock. Use loose aggregate to fill potholes. Doing so will improve comfort and efficiency, says Wilson.
  3. Pay attention to fill factor, says Beinlich, whether that’s with a blade or a bucket. “Are you consistently carrying as much as you could?”
  4. Better operators are faster for a reason. “They are more efficient and have higher intentionality,” says Beinlich. “Everything they do has a distinct purpose and is part of that big picture. Nothing is haphazard.”
  5. You have to be consistent before you can be fast,” says Wilson. This builds on Tip #4 until the best practices become automatic.

Each also offers a tip for managers. “The point of promoting best operator practices is to improve the overall performance of the company,” says Beinlich. “Savings and gains can be quantified, so know your numbers. And realize that incremental improvements add up to big gains over time.”

Experienced operators can reject technology. “Explain to them you’re helping them apply their extensive skill and knowledge to new systems and adjust their best practices in light of new technological features,” says Wilson. Best operator practices are often equipment-specific because those best practices derive the best performance from a particular machine. Operators with any level of experience may underutilize technology because they simply don’t know it exists or what benefits it offers. “Work with your equipment distributor to educate operators on how to get the most from the features on new equipment.”

Beinlich and Wilson will present “Equipment Operator Best Practices” on Wednesday, March 11, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. The location will be CONEXPO-CON/AGG Westgate – Pavilion 10.

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