Time on the job is money. Time wasted on the job is wasted money. This is as true for your one-and-done projects as it is for the tasks your company repeats over and over again.

Jason Hurdis, Caterpillar Global Construction & Infrastructure, explains how even a seemingly tiny inefficiency can add up to a big waste of productivity (i.e. money) over a relatively short period of time.

While Hurdis, promoting Caterpillar’s fuel-saving Eco-Mode feature, focuses on the use of a wheel loader to load rocks into dump trucks, his example can be applied to any repeatable task requiring the use of construction or maintenance equipment.

So, what is the most efficient way (in terms of productivity and fuel usage) to load rocks into dump trucks? Here is how Hurdis says it should be done:

  1. Drive each empty truck as close to the wheel loader as possible, and rotate the trucks at 30-40 degrees to the loader.
  2. The wheel loader operator should approach the stockpile of rocks as square as possible, back out with the load, change directions and approach the truck as square as possible.
  3. Drop the load of rocks, back away from the truck and again approach the rock pile square. The loader should make a Z pattern (1.5 tire rotations in reverse and 1.5 tire rotations back) in transferring the rocks from the pile to the truck and back to the pile again.
  4. With good conditions and on good ground, Hurdis says he would expect a good operator to complete the Z pattern and deposit a load of rocks into the truck bed in 30 seconds or less.
  5. Assuming a 50-minute working hour, the operator should be able to load 133 trucks in a 4-hour period, he calculates.

However, assume the truck drivers do not position their vehicles at the 30-40 degree angle to the pile of rocks, which, on the surface, would not seem to matter much. However, because the trucks are not ideally positioned to receive each load the loader operator must spend an extra six seconds on each load.

Using the same 4-hour period, the operator is then only able to load 111 trucks, calculates Hurdis. This is a decrease of 22 truckloads of rocks using the same amount of fuel during the same 4-hour work period.

Think about the repetitive tasks that you or your workers perform each workday. Can you make even small changes to do them with less wasted effort and fuel?

Says Hurdis: “Efficiency is a game of inches. And every gain in efficiency goes right to your bottom line.”