For farmers, the greatest asset investment you can make is in farming equipment. Agriculture equipment can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, treating your equipment with care and precision is not only recommended, it’s an essential business decision.
When to Prepare Your Equipment
Winter months are the ideal time to start prepping your entire farming business for the upcoming season. Preparations should not only include your land and soil but your precious equipment, too. Though winter will likely be the majority of available time for maintenance, maintaining and caring for farming equipment is a year-round job. Although it’s easy to put it off during the busy season, it shouldn’t be neglected.
Failing to perform ongoing inspections and maintenance can leave you with an equipment malfunction at an inopportune time. An equipment malfunction can be devastating to your business. Routine maintenance and inspections throughout the year don’t have to be a time-consuming endeavor.
Small, regular checks are enough to catch impending problems that need immediate fixing. Schedule comprehensive equipment maintenance and preparation in winter — months of inoperable time can relieve the pressure of responding to other business requirements and responsibilities that get in the way of necessary maintenance tasks.
Colder months provide farmers with the down time necessary to execute a thorough maintenance, inspection and care plan on all pieces of equipment.
Plan for Your Equipment Preparation
Annual equipment preparation is a comprehensive undertaking that can be made a lot easier by thinking back and planning ahead. Here are some of the first steps to conduct before you do any equipment preparation:
Use an Equipment Management System
Whether you use proprietary software or simply an Excel spreadsheet, having a place to store, document and track your equipment preparation progress is important for staying organized. Use this management system as you work through each step of your equipment preparation plan.
Assess Your Inventory
Using your equipment management system, take stock of how many pieces of equipment you own and operate during planting and harvesting season. Knowing this can help you determine just how big this undertaking is going to be. As you tally up your equipment totals, note how many have computerized systems and software. These systems can tell you a lot about the performance of your equipment, which can help with maintenance and servicing.
Recall Past Issues
Once you’ve taken inventory, it’s time to reflect. Think back to whether you had any problems during harvest season. Make notes of any issues by marking them on your inventory list. Having information at your fingertips can help you address known issues so you know how to prepare your equipment.
Know Your Input
Preparing your equipment takes both time and money. That’s why it’s important to determine beforehand how much of both you’re willing to invest into equipment maintenance and repairs. To help figure this out, ask yourself the following questions:
- How much is my time worth and how much can I commit to preparing my equipment?
- How much money am I willing to spend to hire someone else to do it?
- Is there another way to pay for servicing, such as through trade or barter?
Your answers will give you a better idea of how to allocate your resources and where to find help if needed.
Develop an Equipment Preparation Checklist
Once you’ve done an overall assessment of your equipment preparation project, start to execute the tasks. The best way to approach equipment preparation for planting and harvesting is to establish a multi-point checklist. Your equipment preparation multi-point checklist should include the following categories:
- Preventative maintenance
- Cleaning equipment
- Inspecting equipment
- Testing equipment and system diagnostics
Working on your equipment piece by piece is probably the easiest way to execute your plan. That way, you can finish preparing one piece of equipment, cross it off your list and move on to the next. By completing tasks in each of these categories for each piece of equipment, you ensure you’re fully prepared for the next planting and harvesting season.
Conduct Your Equipment Preparation
There are multiple points to consider when getting your equipment prepared for next season. Because farming equipment is such complex machinery, it can be easy to overlook specific care requirements. To help you fully prepare your equipment, here are the top points to follow when maintaining, cleaning, inspecting and testing:
Preventative maintenance — or PM as it’s often called — is a regular and ongoing care plan executed by equipment operators and owners. PM has many goals, including:
- Reducing the likelihood of equipment failure
- Avoiding unexpected breakdowns
- Extending the equipment life cycle
- Maximizing the equipment’s value
- Saving time by planning and scheduling ahead
All these goals are important to farming businesses that operate many different equipment pieces throughout the planting and harvesting seasons. Regularly scheduled preventative maintenance programs can save a farming operation time and money, which helps farm owners maximize their revenue.
As part of preventative maintenance on farming equipment, farm owners can perform the following tasks on a scheduled and ongoing basis:
- Scan the Equipment. Do a quick once-over on each piece of equipment. A quick look can help you identify immediate problems and give you an idea of the needs of each piece of equipment.
- Check, Change and Top-off Fluids. Check all fluid levels and top off any as needed. These include hydraulic and coolant fluids as well as oil. Change the oil if needed.
- Change Filters. Check all filters and change them as needed. Research which filters can be cleaned and which need to be replaced completely.
- Inspect and Replace Parts. Check all parts such as hoses, fittings and seals. Replace any worn out parts right away and have any loose parts fixed. When ordering new parts for replacement, order additional parts to have on hand for future replacements.
- Inspect and Inflate Wheels and Tires. Check the wheel bearings to make sure they are functioning properly. While checking the wheels, don’t forget to check the tire pressure and inflate the tires as needed.
- Check for Signs of Wear. Preventative maintenance includes being aware of the state of your equipment. Inspecting for wear and tear on a regular basis prevents you from being blindsided when equipment breaks down or malfunctions.
- Prevent Rust. A preventative maintenance program should include a conscious effort to prevent equipment from rusting. This means washing off all equipment thoroughly after use. Keep equipment stored in a dry and clean location to prevent it from being exposed to the elements. Adding a coat of wax can provide extra protection against rust.
Some preventative maintenance items will need to be conducted more frequently than others. Create a schedule that addresses each maintenance item and how often it must be performed.
As you conduct all preventative maintenance items and tasks, document them in your equipment management spreadsheet. These records will prove to be useful throughout the spring and summer and again when you conduct winter equipment preparation.
The next step in preparing your equipment for planting and harvesting is to do a thorough cleaning. When dirt, mud or oil get caked onto equipment, it can be difficult to do thorough maintenance and inspection. When cleaning your equipment, tackle the exterior, interior and all internal components as best as possible.
Here are some tips for thoroughly cleaning your equipment:
- Pressure Wash the Surfaces. A pressure washer is the surest and most efficient way to remove caked on dirt and mud. Use a pressure washer with multiple settings to peel away grime from the surface and in between cracks. Make sure to pressure wash underneath the equipment as well as the wheel wells.
- Clean out Tanks. Take the winter off-season to thoroughly clean out tanks. Tanks can build up a lot of residue during the spring and summer. Although tanks should be cleaned on a regular basis, winter provides an opportunity to do a deep clean.
- Clean the Attachments. In addition to the machinery itself, the attachments need a deep clean. This ensures they function properly and reduces their level of wear and tear.
The winter off-season is reserved for thorough cleaning. This ensures your equipment is in great condition by the time you’re ready to plant.
Surface-level cleaning should be part of an ongoing preventative maintenance program. Pressure washing or rinsing your equipment right after use prevents any dust and dirt from hardening on the surfaces. Pressure washing requires a bit of strategy. Here are some pressure washing tips:
- Pressure wash over a grassy or unpaved surface to allow for water absorption.
- Use water and detergent to ensure you dissolve all the grime.
- Spray the equipment from a two to three-foot distance.
- Avoid streaking by spraying from the bottom and working towards the top.
- Use a high-pressure and wide-angle spray setting for a final rinse.
- Rinse from top to bottom to get rid of any remaining residue.
When preparing your equipment for planting and harvesting, it’s critical to conduct thorough inspections. The goal with inspections is to catch any pertinent safety concerns and correct them before they cause harm or damage when in operation.
Farming safety is a very important topic, and it must be made a priority. Any mishap that causes damage or harm can result in liabilities that can have costly consequences to your business.
These safety incidents and mishaps can be prevented or controlled by following an inspection checklist for each piece of equipment. Here are some questions to ask when inspecting your equipment:
- Are the mirrors clean and intact?
- Are the hitches properly secured?
- Do the slow-moving vehicle signs work?
- Have the breaks and tires worn down to unsafe levels?
- Are there any loose or missing bearings?
- Are all electrical wires are connected properly?
- Are there any loose or rattling parts?
- Is there a buildup of debris anywhere that can catch fire?
- Are the guards and shields intact?
- Do you have a full supply of safety equipment including fire extinguishers, first aid kits and personal protective equipment like chemical safety goggles and gloves?
With these questions in mind, make safety inspection a top priority during winter preparation and all year long.
After you’ve performed the maintenance, cleaning and inspecting of your equipment, it’s time to test it. Take the equipment out and operate it on a test-run. Do a final walk-around to make sure everything is working properly. Some of the items to test for include:
- Lights and signals. Have any lights burnt out or are any shorting out? Are all signals and hazards working?
- Leaks. Are there any noticeable leaks coming from the equipment?
- Sounds. Are there any noticeable and concerning sounds indicating issues such as loose parts?
- Smells. Can you smell burning or any other concerning smells?
Think of equipment testing as the final rehearsal before you send all your equipment into operation for planting season. By doing a final test, you can work out any last kinks or issues before you get back to business in the spring.
Other Tips for a Successful Harvest Season
There are lots of things to think about when preparing your farming equipment. But thorough preparation is what leads to a successful harvest season and allows a farming business to thrive. Here are some final points to address as you prepare your equipment:
Order Parts and Equipment Now
If parts need replacing, do not delay in ordering them. It’s better to order them in advance than be stuck at the last minute without a critical component. Be sure to order spare parts if individual pieces are prone to breaking so you can quickly replace them and avoid any operational downtime.
Set a Budget for Next Winter
Your winter preparation plan should include thinking ahead to next year and budgeting your time and money for maintenance and repair costs. Your costs from this year can help you set a realistic expectation for next year’s equipment preparation costs.
Create a Schedule for Ongoing Maintenance
Though the winter is a perfect time to do a comprehensive equipment preparation, you should prioritize ongoing maintenance and cleaning. Use the winter to create an equipment management schedule throughout the year.
Continue Using Your Equipment Management System
The equipment management system or spreadsheet you’ve used for tracking your preparation tasks should be used throughout the year for preventative maintenance. By keeping your equipment records in one place, it saves time and helps you be more proactive in your maintenance endeavors.
Think Ahead to the Upcoming Season
If you’re undertaking an equipment preparation plan during your winter off-season, use this time to reflect and plan. Think about your business needs and how you can improve your efficiency to maximize your output and grow your revenue.
A huge component of improving efficiency is making sure you have the right equipment for the job. You may be looking at investing in new farming equipment or replacing or upgrading your existing equipment. Altorfer is a leading supplier of agriculture equipment and can provide you with the best equipment for your planting and harvesting seasons. Contact Altorfer today for sales or service or for information on our agriculture equipment.