How a Band-Aid Solution Can Fix Your Hydraulics Problems

Brendan Casey

Last year there was a book on the New York Times bestseller list called Have a New Kid by Friday. It was written by psychologist Kevin Leman and has sold more than 400,000 copies. To capitalize on this book’s success, Leman is hurrying out another titled Have a New Husband by Friday.

Leman’s literary success is testimony to the appeal and popularity of the quick (and effortless) fix for a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with the concept of a quick fix where one is legitimately available, but as a parent I know you can’t replace a child’s bad behavior with good in seven days. Most parents can’t even read the book in seven days. As a husband, I also know my bad habits won’t be eliminated in seven days. My wife may well be able to replace me in seven days but not change me.

Any thinking person knows instant results for anything but the simplest of problems are an illusion, but this is not to say that the notion of a quick fix or even a Band-Aid solution doesn’t have its place.

Last week I had a conversation with a longtime client who’s been having a long-running battle with the manufacturer of a hydraulic machine he purchased three years ago. The machine has never performed to either my client’s satisfaction or the manufacturer’s advertised specifications.

This client is an owner/operator, which means his machine is his livelihood. And he’s had enough. So now he’s taking the machine’s manufacturer to court - a decision he hasn’t taken lightly.

Although he didn’t consult me directly about this issue, I was aware of the problems he was having and the way in which the equipment manufacturer was responding to them. The crux of the issue, and one which will now be argued in court, is the machine model my client bought was marketed as a “professional” version, meaning it was designed to be used a minimum of eight hours a day, five days a week. This is in contrast with hobbyist or weekender use of typically a couple of hours in a stretch, a couple of days a week.

The trouble is, when the “professional” model my client purchased was operated continuously for more than a couple of hours, its performance dropped off dramatically. The primary reason for this, which was blatantly obvious to me, was insufficient installed cooling capacity, or more accurately, no cooling capacity at all.

Not only did I share this assessment with my client, but because I’d done work for him before and didn’t want to see him lose work and income as a result of the machine’s obvious design flaw, I presented him with a Band-Aid solution - switch to a high-VI synthetic oil.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for doing things right. The correct solution to this issue was to install a heat exchanger of sufficient capacity to maintain an appropriate and stable operating oil temperature and therefore viscosity. But in this case, there were two major barriers to this happening. The first was the compact nature of the machine, which allowed for little or no space to retrofit a hydraulic oil cooler. The second was my client quite rightly expected the machine’s manufacturer to do this under warranty, which meant they first had to admit the machine had a design flaw.

Switching to a high-VI synthetic oil would do nothing to address the issue of insufficient cooling capacity, but it would help the machine cope with it. So in this respect, it definitely qualified as a Band-Aid solution.

91% of people have used a Band-Aid solution for a problem, according to a recent survey at www.machinerylubrication.com

Unfortunately, my client didn’t act on this advice. Maybe it was because, despite the apparent widespread popularity and seductive appeal of the quick fix, we have been conditioned to think of Band-Aid solutions in negative terms. This negative bias toward the Band-Aid solution in engineering is particularly strong, and in many situations, rightly so. For example, there’s no way a Band-Aid solution is appropriate for the recent problems of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines fitted to the Airbus A380. But if you have a mini-digger with a chronic overheating problem that is not easily corrected, being open to a Band-Aid solution can be very constructive.

As mentioned earlier, I’m all for doing things the right way, and I consider quick-fix, silver-bullet, magic-pill, cure-all solution-seeking as lazy and unrealistic. But as author Malcolm Gladwell says, “There are times when we need a convenient shortcut...” The trick is being able to recognize when a Band-Aid solution is appropriate and when it is not.

I wish this client the best of luck with his lawsuit. He deserves to win. But more than that, having declined the Band-Aid solution, now he has to win.

81% of people view Band-Aid solutions negatively, based on survey results from www.machinerylubrication.com


Subscribe to Machinery Lubrication

About the Author

Brendan Casey has more than 20 years experience in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of mobile and industrial equipment. For more information on reducing the operating cost and increasing the...