Two months ago in this space, we challenged equipment managers to start planning for upcoming shortages in equipment as various market forces came to bear on supply. Turns out an unforeseeable force brought its own weight to bear on equipment supply: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
According to some managers, disaster-relief efforts are sucking inventory out of normal distribution channels already struggling with order backlogs. One fear: construction activity in the rest of the country may be delayed for lack of machines. Preliminary results from our Annual Report and Forecast indicate a strong business outlook and strong fleet-expansion rate in 2006.
Rarely has fleet management become so important and the understanding of operating costs so crucial.
Operating costs put managers to the test because they can be variable. And, if you ask a manager what single variable he'd like to control, more often than not it's equipment operators. The person behind the sticks has enormous influence on a machine's operating cost.
We've watched our friends at Local 150 of the Operating Engineers for two years, and we've seen what the experts can do. It's what the less-talented do that equipment managers would like to change. That's why we're in the middle of an ongoing series called "Production Heroes" (see page 20). These articles illustrate operating techniques that not only improve overall project production and efficiency, but also reduce wear and tear on the machine. If the operator applies the iron correctly, component life and operating costs will be optimized.
Of course, identifying techniques is only the first step; they must be applied. For managers who control or have direct influence over operators, they can have a conversation or make a procedural change. For those managers who have little or no influence, they must figure out how to communicate these techniques to the operations side.
Our intent is that the "Production Heroes" series will provide some ammunition for those who must take this fight across departmental or divisional lines. Use the articles to show operations folks what can be gained, and how to gain it. For those who don't need to fight, take these articles directly to the field.
Machine operators can extend equipment life with some simple changes. And the way the supply channel looks these days, equipment has to last its maximum life.