Pump hoists are no small investment, and it's important to make sound decisions regarding pump hoist selection, operations, and maintenance and repair.

Pump hoists are no small investment, and taking proper care of them so that they operate smoothly is essential if you want to bolster your company's profitability. It's important to make sound decisions regarding pump hoist selection, operations, and maintenance and repair.

The S12,000 from SEMCO is designed to install large submersible pumps, line shaft turbines and well completion to depths of 800 feet.

Let's Go Shopping

Key considerations when choosing a pump hoist are summed up nicely by Bruce Wiertz, sales consultant for Drilling Equipment Supply Inc.(DESI), headquartered in Phoenix: "Know what your budget will stand, size the hoist to suit your business, and don't undersize and figure you will get by - in the long, run you lose. Get the very best quality you can - not only the manufactured structural components but the hydraulic/mechanical components as well."

That emphasis on quality is heartily seconded by Albin Janecek, president of Pulstar Manufacturing Inc., Dodge, Neb. He exhorts drilling contractors to "consider top-quality in all aspects of your purchase. This would include high quality hydraulic components, high quality welding and overall craftsmanship, high quality paint jobs, a solid warranty and tech support team." Janecek also notes that drilling contractors need to be confident that the manufacturer has the unit right the first time. "Remember - you want to be able to work 'with' your pump hoist, not have to work 'on' it."

That confidence in the manufacturer is important to contractors, making the supplier's reputation of paramount concern. Make sure the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a solid business that's well received in the industry and prepared to provide backup should you require it. Talk with others who own a particular brand and model.

When shopping, check out what the OEM has done to enhance user-friendliness, safety, durability, etc. Distinguish between bells and whistles from the marketing department and real benefits that can impact your bottom line.

Smeal model 5THRPPGB mounted on a 1987 Chevrolet 3500 with four-wheel drive and gas engine. Courtesy of D & L Thomas Equipment Co.

Operational Advice

When it comes to operational dos and don'ts, DESI's Wiertz emphasizes the unit's operation and maintenance manual. "Read the manual - and then read it again," he urges. "Don't figure that because you have run a hoist before that they all are the same. Don't get into the position of letting the tail wag the dog."

When purchasing a new hoist, spend a few hours with your employees practicing with the hoist under controlled conditions. Make sure they understand the importance of fully understanding the machine.

Some specific advice offered by Janecek: "Never use the hydraulic cylinder circuits to help boost or break loose a load. If the operations manual says to guide the tower, take the time to do it properly. And pay attention to - and adhere to - the manufacturer's load ratings guides."

Regarding Maintenance

The advice here is short and sweet - sweet for those who heed it. The manufacturers set forth some rather explicit guidelines for maintenance - for good reason. Practice them religiously. Follow the manual instructions, particularly the schedule. Take care of the machine and it will take care of you. Adhering to the maintenance guidelines will have your hoist unit running better during a longer service life. And you'll thank yourself again when it comes time to trade in the machine.

This Pulstar unit features extra-heavy mast cylinders and rods for added security and long life. Courtesy of D & L Thomas Equipment Co.

The Common Problems

"Unfortunately," Wiertz notes, "most problems occur because someone just plain got careless."

A quick way to eliminate a great many of the problems encountered is an extension of the previous section - follow the maintenance guidelines set forth by the manufacturer. The manufacturers have engineered and tested their products extensively; they know the hoist's capabilities and limitations so follow their advice.

All the maintenance in the world, however, cannot defend against the human element and the attendant problems that comes with it. That's a management issue - having a company-wide mindset to campaign vigilantly against carelessness. Pump hoist problems often are self-inflicted by the operator - usually due to a temporary lapse into laziness and/or disregard for proper procedures - things you can never warn against too much.

If you do have a defective part or something of that nature, Janecek says to start with a telephone call to the manufacturer to set the wheels in motion to resolve the issue. He also reminds that the manufacturer is going to want the defective part so it can perform an examination -necessary for any warranty action.

Repair vs. Replace

"It used to be that you'd just swap trucks and move on. Those days are gone," Janecek remarks. "The computer-controlled truck changed everything. It is now very costly to invest in new power take-offs, pumps, throttle control modules, and probably an extensive mounting process to switch the hoist. We are seeing trends shifting to approximately 5- to 7-year trading schedules." Explaining this strategy, Janecek says, "Depreciation and tax advantages are near prime, any and all extended warranties are nearly exhausted, the trade value still is strong.

Wiertz sums up: "At a certain point you will just get nickeled and dimed to death on repairs. Keep good records of repairs and costs; this will be your best information for making the purchase/repair decision."

Sidebar: Appearances Do Count

Not only do pump hoists contribute indispensably to on-site procedural efforts, they can perform double-duty by providing a boost to your firm's marketing endeavors, as well. Image can be very important.

"Inasmuch as nearly every facet of life as we know it has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, how you present yourself and your company also has changed," reminds Albin Janecek, president and CEO of Pulstar Manufacturing Inc., Dodge, Neb. "Remember, your pump hoist/service vehicle literally is a billboard-on-wheels. The old adage that 'I don't want to look too fancy because my customers will think that I'm making too much money' is all but gone with the wind. So don't scrimp. When purchasing that new hoist, get the finest paint available, arrange colors in an eye-catching way, have professional lettering done, keep the unit dolled up and remember to power wash and polish up the unit at least twice a week. People (clients, prospects and employees) will notice the extra effort and will naturally presume that you apply the same principles to your work and business ethics."