Heavy Equipment Attachments Expand Versatility, Reduce Operation Costs

Expanding a crawler or wheel excavator or wheel loader’s versatility is a cost-efficient alternative to operating dedicated machines on a job site.

Wed March 23, 2016 - National Edition
Debbie McClung

Expanding a crawler or wheel excavator or wheel loader’s versatility is a cost-efficient alternative to operating dedicated machines on a job site.
Expanding a crawler or wheel excavator or wheel loader’s versatility is a cost-efficient alternative to operating dedicated machines on a job site.

Expanding a crawler or wheel excavator or wheel loader's versatility is a cost-efficient alternative to operating dedicated machines on a job site. Attachments help construction equipment owners grow business, replace less effective machines, lower operating costs and significantly increase a machine's flexibility.

Attachment versatility for construction equipment can stretch your fleet resources with their ability to adjust to changing applications and serve as work tools to perform multiple jobs. Both wheel loaders and excavators can be used with different attachments — more than two dozen types and models — that can help increase revenue and keep machines working year-round.

Attachments also offer a low initial investment with a high rate of return. When budgets are tight, it's typically easier and more cost-effective to rent or purchase attachments to complete a special job or offer a niche service than to purchase a separate machine. Contact your local equipment dealer to inquire about its attachment inventory when special projects or applications arise.

“With the right selection of attachments, a contractor may only need to bring one excavator or one wheel loader to a job site,” said Lee Smith, Doosan heavy attachments product manager.

Excavator Attachments

Crawler and wheel excavators are ideal candidates for attachment integration, which can help owner-operators build a custom fit to complete projects far beyond just earthmoving. Attachment connection systems and auxiliary hydraulic flow allow many sizes of excavators to be extremely effective tool carriers for a wide variety of attachments. Those attachments include:

• Buckets

• Clamps

• Crushers

• Grapples

• Hydraulic breakers

• Hydraulic pin grabber quick couplers

• Plate compactors

• Rippers

• Wedge-lock couplers

Shane Reardon, Doosan excavator product specialist, also dispels the notion that excavators become less versatile as their sizes increase. This industry misperception has occurred because machines have typically been dedicated to do a single job with one attachment.

“Even the larger excavators can be more versatile if you put different attachments on them,” he said.

Wheel Loader Attachments

While attachment options for wheel loaders and excavators are typically not compatible due to different attachment change mechanisms, loader-specific attachments have turned these heavy-duty machines into valuable assets for every season. The most popular attachments for wheel loaders range from light-material, general or all-purpose material-handling buckets to heavy, rock or grading buckets.

• General purpose buckets

• Pallet forks

• Grapples

• Light-material buckets

• Snow pushers

• Multi-purpose buckets

• Hydraulic quick couplers

• Rock buckets

“With several different types of buckets and specialty attachments available, the loaders' capabilities can be maximized to serve a wide variety of applications year-round,” said Mike Stark, Doosan wheel loader product specialist.

Multi-Function Machines

If you've ever owned compact equipment, you know the key to achieving a favorable return on investment is to reach high machine utilization. Leveraging attachments to perform certain tasks can significantly increase those rates. The same is true for heavy equipment. A multi-function machine that is productive on a daily basis not only has a greater chance of generating profit, but also can be more responsive to your needs on a job site.

For example, you may have a dedicated excavator only used for trenching or ditching, and if so, you may be missing an opportunity (or more).

Fit your excavator with attachments such as a grapple for land clearing, a trenching bucket to dig foundation footings or a plate compactor to finish trenches.

“There are some contractors with a mindset that they'll bring in a piece of heavy equipment for site preparation and then assign a smaller piece of equipment for other tasks,” Smith said. “Having machines sit idle while you bring in different equipment isn't the most efficient way to work. By utilizing attachments, operators can do more with fewer machines.”

Maneuverability on most confined worksites can still be achieved with excavators as large as 50,000 lbs. (22,680 kg) and wheel loaders up to 40,000 lbs. (18,143 kg). The ideal end goal, Smith said, is to make the power unit as versatile as possible and on as many different job sites as possible.

The key to getting the most productivity from an excavator or a wheel loader is the investment in a quality attachment change system, which is optional on most manufacturers' machines. Some industry experts estimate that a quality automated coupler mount on an excavator can save owners up to 25 percent of their total machine operating time compared to direct-mount attachments.

According to Reardon, a quick coupler installed on the end of an excavator arm speeds up efficiency.

“It allows the operator to change an attachment on a machine in a fraction of the time compared to manually using pins to connect the attachment to the excavator,” he said.

Many of the efficiencies are gained from operators being able to rapidly change attachments with a quick coupler from the comfort of a cab.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide's Web site at www.constructionequipmentguide.com.)


Quick Coupler Safety

Newer designs of quick coupler models have been one of the most significant improvements to excavators due to their ease of operation, faster connections and updated engineering features to help prevent the unexpected release of attachments. Unlike gravity systems in previous coupler designs, some manufacturer's spring-activated safety locks perform better in severe and dirty environments.

To prevent accidents related to improper use and maintenance of quick coupler attachment systems, it's important to train operators on the proper maintenance and safe practices for engaging and removing attachments. Most excavator and quick coupler manufacturers provide warning decals and other instructions to alert operators not to use the coupler without a safety pin installed.

Doosan attachment product specialist Lee Smith recommends the following additional quick coupler safety tips:

Select a Coupler Design Supported With Engagement Safety Features

• A spring-activated front safety lock designed to retain the attachment in case of improper attachment connection.

• A secondary spring-activated rear safety lock to retain the rear attachment pin in case of hydraulic cylinder failure.

• Pins constructed from extra-high-strength steel to increase durability.

• A control system that provides for safe attachment engagement and release.

Use Only Attachments That Are Approved by the Excavator and Coupler Manufacturers

Operators should only attach and remove attachments in a secure environment and ensure that the quick coupler is properly engaged with the attachment before operating.

Remove the Attachment Using the Quick Coupler Safely

For safe attachment removal, operators should lower the coupler and attachment on the ground or a structure at level height. Consult the manufacturer's operation and maintenance manuals for more information about proper use of the quick coupler.

Maintain Quick Couplers to Prevent Excessive Wear

The manufacturer's recommended preventive maintenance inspection procedures should be followed to maintain the coupler so that it operates properly. Important to coupler safety are regular visual inspections of the quick couplers to avoid changing conditions, modifications or alterations that could cause the quick coupler not to provide a secure attachment connection. With some coupler systems, the operator will need to manually inspect the safety pin to make sure it is correctly positioned and hasn't developed wear issues.

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