Heavy equipment is the backbone of construction and manufacturing companies, but for small brands and those just starting out, the cost of purchasing and maintaining it can be exorbitant. Getting the lowest lifetime cost on equipment is the best option, but that depends largely on how well the piece has been cared for throughout its life. Do you know where to invest your money and time to reap the rewards of longer-lasting equipment?
You wouldn’t buy a new car without researching its pros and cons. The same rules should apply to heavy equipment. Start by comparing the cost of renting against the cost of buying. Consider, too, how often you’ll be using the equipment. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re using something more than 60 or 70% of the time, renting is no longer cost-effective and you’d be better off buying. Renting, on the other hand, is ideal for specialized pieces that are only used for specific tasks.
This step also requires you to analyze your equipment to work on eliminating waste. Consider adopting some lean manufacturing principles to reduce waste in all areas — even time. Gather data on how much time and profit you stand to gain and use that to make your decisions.
Each piece’s operational manual is a great source of information that can help you reduce equipment costs, from recommendations for usage to recommended maintenance schedules. At the same time, you’ll want to keep in-depth and accurate records of all your projects so you can analyze how your equipment is performing throughout its life.
Until jobsite autonomy becomes more commonplace, employees will be a necessary part of the process. Make sure you’re training everyone to use the equipment properly. Monitoring them on a day-to-day basis can help you reinforce good practices and spot problem areas that might need improvement. During their first month on the job, workers are three times more likely to experience an injury or accident than their more experienced colleagues.
Ensure that your entire team knows where to find any pertinent information for the equipment they’re using so nothing is overlooked. On average, construction crews spend more than 35% of their time on nonproductive activities, such as perusing operational manuals and looking for project information.
Most machines aren’t designed to be used 24 hours a day. Instead of trying to force more uptime out of a piece of equipment — potentially leading to damage or premature failure — focus on lower-priority projects that don’t require the use of heavy equipment. Investing in machines that get good fuel economy helps you make the most of your workday, so you don’t stress about downtime as much.
Take a close look at your fleet and figure out which pieces of equipment are overused, which are underused and which spend a lot of time idling. Idle time doesn’t just impact productivity — it also uses up engine warranty hours and can get you in trouble with your state’s environmental protection agency. Auto-idle systems can help cut fuel consumption.
4. Preventive Maintenance
Daily inspections of every piece of equipment might seem time-consuming, but it’s a key part of keeping your fleet running and reducing costs. The goal of preventive maintenance is to fix small problems before something goes wrong. Note what condition your machinery is in when you receive it, and take notes daily. This makes it easier to track and prevent problems before they develop.
Invest in good parts, and commit to a regular maintenance schedule rather than waiting for something to break. If something new comes out that could help extend the lifespan of your equipment, don’t hesitate to install it.
5. Professional Help
Seeking professional help when you’re endeavoring to reduce equipment costs is nothing to be ashamed of. Consider investing in analysis and recommendations from equipment professionals. When looking for new machinery, choose a dealer that offers regular fluid and parts checks. This might be rolled into the cost of your equipment, but will save you quite a bit in the long run.
An experienced professional can help you avoid the need for repairs later. Take the time to build a strong relationship with a dealership you trust.
Reducing Equipment Costs Involves the Entire Team
When it comes down to it, reducing equipment costs will involve the entire team, from the owners making purchases to the employees using it on the job. You don’t have to make big changes to reduce costs. Little things, like researching your purchases before you make them and committing to preventive maintenance, can make a world of difference.