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By Duane Craig
March 25, 2019
You can quickly lose the advantages of owning construction equipment if you don't review equipment needs regularly. Worse, when your equipment isn't up to the task because of its bad shape, you end up with scheduling and budget problems. Follow these construction equipment management strategies and tactics to get the best return on your equipment investments.
Carefully Review Your Equipment Needs
Everything changes, and it's no different with your equipment needs. Sometimes, it's better to rent equipment and avoid the extra work of owning. It's a good idea to annually review your needs for each type of equipment you regularly use.
Outdated equipment not only has higher maintenance needs but is also less efficient as it lacks the technological advances newer machines have. You and your clients benefit from an operator digging a foundation trench quicker because the machine is right-sized, quieter, and has features like automatic outrigger leveling, load sensing, diagnostics and analyzer functions.
Besides reviewing the equipment itself, remember to check out all the available attachments and accessories so that you’re certain you've got the most useful ones. Look ahead at least a year into the future, and gauge your decisions against the type of work you'll be doing. Always consider the 'rent versus own' question for all equipment.
If rentals pencil out to be a better option for some of your equipment items, it's a good bet you can reduce equipment management needs while gaining more flexibility in the equipment you deploy. You might also get a faster tax break—rentals can be deductible as business expenses.
Set Up An Efficient Shop
Whether it's skid steer loaders or vibratory compactors, each piece of equipment has its maintenance and repair needs. That’s why having a functional space to work on them is pretty important. It's difficult—not to mention dangerous—to work under equipment in the field. You might not have all the right tools available there, and the conditions may not be optimal. Instead, set up your shop to make it efficient and plan your regular maintenance to correspond with equipment downtimes, for instance, between projects.
While you're at it, take another bite out of equipment management headaches by organizing your parts inventory. It's wise to include a restocking plan so you have the right parts when they’re needed.
Keep Up Maintenance
Far too many construction machines get used to death for want of maintenance. While it may be tempting to forgo maintenance to get to the next job quicker, you can pay now or pay later for maintenance. Bear in mind that later usually means more cost.
Just consider pivot points. Older machines could need grease at certain pivot points every day. Some pivot points get more rotation than others, also requiring a more frequent lubrication schedule. Environmental conditions like the material in which the machine works, dust or mud add variables that increase service requirements. Forego maintenance at these critical points for too long, and you'll be building them up with welds or boring them and refitting them with larger pins.
If you clean your machines well at regular intervals, you'll more easily spot signs of wear and fluid leaks. Besides replacing missing or broken parts, keep up with filters, tires fluids, and batteries. Pay attention to machine accessories like buckets and blades—they're the front line of the work, and yet they often get ignored. Worn out wear plates, broken cutting edges, cracks and missing teeth all foretell future troubles.
Your machines may already be equipped with telematics, making it possible to check where they are, how they're used and what maintenance is due. Equipment manufacturers are now releasing apps for smartphones that allow you to access telematics information on the go. You can use the apps to quickly locate a machine and check its overall health. You could even get notifications regarding required maintenance, fault codes, and engine alerts, enabling you to take action to avert machine shutdowns or damage.
But, even if your machines are too old to already have telematics installed, you can still get the benefits of the technology. There is a growing list of companies that supply tracking devices. You can mount the devices yourself or have them installed. You can then get real-time information about the equipment and how it's used, gaining the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can locate the equipment and keep it secure.
Use Theft Prevention Tactics
Construction equipment theft accounts for about $400 million in losses every year, according to reports by the National Equipment Register (NER) and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Theft is by far the greatest threat to your equipment assets, beating out vandalism, fire, collision and natural catastrophes.
Ten states account for 63 percent of thefts: Texas, North Carolina, Florida, California, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alabama. Thieves target mostly mowers, skid steer loaders, backhoes, wheel loaders and tractors, and thefts peak in July and August.
More equipment gets stolen when away from the insured's premises, so you can improve security by disabling machines using cylinder locks, hydraulic system lockouts or even simply by disconnecting the battery. For small equipment, outfitting them with permanently attached security chains ensures there are few excuses for not locking them up.
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