Stocking combine parts in shop can be good strategy

So you made some money last year and are thinking about building a shop.

I know that some combine owners where I live in central Saskatchewan are thinking about the long waits they had last season when their machines broke down. Sometimes they waited two or three days for repairs.

That’s not much time, unless you are in harvest mode. Then you can lose money on grade and yield by the hour. The more crop you put up in good shape, the better the bottom line. When you rely on others for service, you put your risk management in their hands. You have to able to live with that.

Let’s say, for example, that the combine has broken down and you farm on the edge of town, next to the dealership. The mechanic arrives in about 15 minutes.

“Wow,” you say. “Now we are going to see some action.”

He looks at the combine and says, “yep, you sure have a problem.”

You say, “well then fix it. That’s what I pay you to do.”

“But I have no parts. It will take two days to get them,” says the mechanic.

So we are back to square one. Are you further ahead? And do you farm on the edge of town and next to the dealership? I didn’t think so.

Some machinery companies offer a selection of typical parts and service items that you can stock in your shop if you bought your machines from them. This can be a good strategy and a form of risk management, but will the companies take the parts and service items back if you trade or sell the machine?

Time wise, whether you have the shop or not, you are down if you are waiting for unique parts.

So if you had a good shop, would it pay off?

You tell yourself if you had a shop you could fix things when it rained.But who told you the machinery would break down when it rains?

However, you could do maintenance when it rains or during the winter, which might help avoid some of those breakdowns. Maintenance is the best repair you never made.

Let’s get back to your new shop. You will probably need one big enough to hold your combine.

There was a farmer near Davidson, Sask., who had a shop that could accommodate two combines. He heated it with just an ordinary water heater, a pump and tubing buried in the floor.

The extra space heater never came on, even when it was -20 C outside. You can get quality with less money when it comes to a shop.

You probably already have all the hand tools, but I would recommend a rail with a good chain hoist. The rail should curve to the man door for unloading parts and other heavy objects and over a heavy duty bench if possible.

The roof should be high enough that your new chain hoist can lift an engine out of a combine. Even if the dealer is next door, you might be 12th in line at harvest time. In your shop, you are always first.

You might also want an hydraulic analyzer because just putting in a pressure gauge tells you nothing. You must know the flow at that high pressure. Then you can test everything.

A vibration analyzer is a tool that hardly anyone has. Whether it’s a funny vibration that you haven’t felt before or a noise that is enough to wake the dead, you can often go all around the combine and feel every pulley and shaft but find no obvious problems.

Your own vibration analyzer allows you to pinpoint every vibration on the combine. It will also help balance pulleys and read the condition of bearings. Here’s how to use it:

  • attach the magnetic sensor on anything solid, such as the frame or wheel hub
  • with the combine running at the appropriate speed, select total vibration. The highest point it reads is how bad your worst vibration is
  • select individual frequencies
  • go through the list of frequencies and read each one. The highest one will be the one causing the problem
  • turn your strobe light on and point at every moving part. The one that seems to be standing still is your culprit.

When building your shop, make sure you have more power and bigger doors than you need today. Has your equipment ever gotten smaller? As well, plan for better lighting than you think you need because I’ll bet your eyesight isn’t improving either.


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