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Trials reveal savings through changed approach to filter maintenance

Supplier: Donaldson Filters
13 April, 2015

Always looking for a better approach, and not getting stuck with the same old way, has been a driving force behind an award winning workshop manager who has found real savings can be made by changing the approach to filter maintenance.

Glenn Griffiths, Fleet Maintenance Manager with Wodonga based Ron Finemore Transport, was presented with the Craig Roseneder Award for Technical Maintenance Excellence in the Workshop at this year's ATA Technical and Maintenance Conference.

The award is presented annually and aims to recognise exceptional skill and dedication in Australia's professional workshop personnel, with a particular focus on innovation, mentoring and industry involvement.

Glenn always looks for that better way and, as a result, delivers good financial savings. "Implementing comparative trials on a regular basis, in order to compare an established method with a new way, helps ensure you have the data on which to solidly base your conclusions," says Griffiths.

"Even if you only save, say, 50 dollars per truck, per service, that saving soon adds up to many thousands of dollars annually when spread across the fleet."

Air filtration trial benefits

One of Glenn's easy-to-implement trials was related to his company's servicing and replacement of the engine-mounted air filters across the fleet. This, ultimately, lead to changed maintenance practices that delivered thousands of dollars in savings each year across the fleet.

"We find, with the component manufacturers involved, staff embrace new ideas more enthusiastically and the comparative trialing becomes their own trial if they are involved from the outset," says Griffiths.

"After the training sessions, we have toolbox meetings to cover how to best implement the processes identified. Following the training sessions and toolbox meetings come the programs of comparative trialling. The toolbox meetings cover the special requirements with different vehicles, as well as the monitoring procedure throughout the life of the trials. Everything is marked and we finish up with really solid data."

The air filtration trials turned out to be relatively easy to conduct and delivered good financial savings. The outcome was the adoption of a better maintenance procedure for the filtrations systems and the savings were substantial when applied across the entire Ron Finemore fleet.

Trial program beginnings

The program started with Glenn extending an invitation to a filtration manufacturer, in this case, Donaldson Filtration Solutions, to run a training session with the main workshop staff. The team heard what the Donaldson technical representative recommended and decided to run some comparative trialling to ensure the data matched expectations.

Prior to the visit to the workshop by Donaldson, mechanics used to remove the filters from the air housings and then send them off for washing each time the vehicle came in for service.

"It was a procedure that I would rather not carry out… I felt it was not good practice," says Griffiths.

"At the training, the workshop team learned that removing and washing the filter during every 100,000 kms service or more was not the best way to go about it. In fact, it could be called a bad way."

A different approach to air filter servicing

The Donaldson staff explained servicing the air filter in this manner could often result in the filter being removed from the housing prematurely when in fact it's likely it still has plenty of 'life' left in it. Air filters actually become more efficient when cleaning air as they load with dust, thus the cleanliness of the air reaching the engine is improved.

Best practice when servicing the air intake system is to leave the air filter in the housing until the filtration 'media' is known to have reached the end of its efficient working life. It was explained to the workshop staff that you cannot reliably judge the condition of an air filter by visual inspection. The optimum point at which the air filter should be replaced is when the maximum restriction level, as specified by the engine's designer, has been reached, and this can only be accurately determined with the use of a restriction indicator.

Restriction is the measure of resistance to the flow of air, and this increases over time as the air filter loads with dust, requiring the engine to work harder to draw in air for combustion. All diesel engines are designed to operate with some restriction, and the specifications for engines include the range of acceptable restriction for the engine to operate efficiently.

The workshop staff found that when adopting the service by restriction method instead of removing the air filter every 100,000 kms, they could leave the filter in place for 300,000 kms before replacing it, thus getting at least three times the life. In some cases the efficient working life would go beyond 300,000 kms.

"We were able to demonstrate that implementing a service by restriction approach was a much more cost effective maintenance practice than washing and reusing filters," explains Tony Cooper, Donaldson's Territory Manager for the region.

The other thing Donaldson advised was not to remove the filter for inspection during its working life because trials had shown that such a process can allow the entry of some dust and foreign matter, the very contaminant that the filter is there to protect the engine against. 

"My push with maintenance protocols now is 'no touch' wherever possible," says Griffiths.

"Every time the mechanics touch something, there is a possibility of introducing foreign material as well as the overall servicing process taking more time.

"Many mechanics want to touch things, and in the case of air filters, want to take them out and bang them against a hard object to knock off the dust. This is a big no-no.

"Trials on many advanced designs for truck components, including the new technology which we see being introduced, prove it is usually best practice to adopt the 'no-touch' policy."

The outcomes

Griffiths' trials found it is best to install a low cost ratchet style graduated gauge to indicate the state of the air cleaner filter. They also show it can be detrimental to touch air cleaners at the time of truck servicing, unless the indicator gauge shows a filter replacement is needed.

The money which can be saved with the procedure recommended by Donaldson is significant, calculated to have the potential to reduce air filter maintenance costs by more than 60 per cent. This figure is based on a fleet of trucks serviced as per regular monthly maintenance schedules and the reduced number of new filters which would have otherwise been purchased.