The Shop Door Opens Outward

Sept. 11, 2013

In search of quality technicians, fleet managers are increasingly turning to outside sources. We recently surveyed a portion of our subscribers, and two-thirds said they are outsourcing more maintenance and repair.

Sources of Technician Labor

  • 67% are outsourcing more maintenance and repair
  • 17% use work-study programs with technical schools
  • 14% offer more employee benefits
  • 12% provide tool allowances
  • 11% use apprenticeships with trade unions

This result confirms what I’ve suspected, but some of the detail was not what I expected. I’ve served on AEMP’s Educational Foundation for several years, and the technician shortage has been a focus. AED’s Foundation also calls attention to this shortage.

When we asked for the primary training issue facing maintenance operations—and we asked them to choose only one—36 percent replied that it is the shortage of qualified labor. Closely on its heels, however, was this training issue: 31 percent cited keeping up with overall developments in equipment technology. If we add the 8 percent identifying electrical/electronic componentry, plus the 6 percent choosing emissions technologies, that number jumps to 45 percent.

Machine technology is the tipping point for outsourcing. Fleet maintenance managers do not know how they are going to handle Tier 4 technology. It’s not only the new aftertreatment componentry, but also the reengineering that has gone into the machine itself: hydraulic systems, for one.

Then consider the various hybrid technologies, some of which include new battery technology and electronics. Sam Allen, CEO of John Deere, recently told Forbes that some of their agricultural tractors have more computing power than the first space shuttle.

Equipment asset managers need to ask if maintaining the technologically advanced machines in their fleet is worth the investment in training, labor and shop space. Or, as the numbers seem to indicate, equipment fleets should turn to distributors and third-party specialists.

About the Author

Rod Sutton

Sutton has served as the editorial lead of Construction Equipment magazine and since 2001. 

Our mission is to help managers of heavy equipment and trucks to improve their performance in acquiring and managing their fleets. One way we do that is with our Executive Institute, where experts share information and ideas that will enable equipment managers to accurately manage equipment costs so that they can deliver the optimum financial benefits to their organizations.

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