Equipment Type

Equipment Expertise for the Future, Part III

August 07, 2012

Rod Sutton is editorial director of Construction Equipment magazine. He is in charge of editorial strategy and writes a monthly column for the magazine, The Sutton Report. He has more than 30 years in construction journalism, and has been with Construction Equipment since 2001.

In the previous three blogs, I've been sharing comments I made to a group of fleet professionals attending the Construction Equipment Management Program regarding the reasons their expertise will be needed in coming years. The purpose of that presentation, and this blog series, is to motivate equipment managers and fleet owners/senior managers to recognize and take advantage of the expertise of equipment professionals.

Part I addressed the area of emissions. Part II looked at ignorance and wisdom within the equipment profession.

Finally, I turn to the future of equipment maintenance. Although this is only a portion of the responsibility an equipment professional manages, and the area in which he may be most comfortable, fleet maintenance is heading for a change.

Young people are not flocking toward technician careers. Talented technicians don’t stay unemployed for long, either, with many astute fleets locking in interns and helping train them in an effort to bring on board the best...while they are still in high school.

Equipment managers for construction companies are competing against dealerships, too. According to Associated Equipment Distributors, 75 percent of their members say they do not have enough technicians. Given a choice, fewer young people will choose a career spent moving from job site to job site, often far away from home, working outside in the elements, when they could work in the clean, climate-controlled shop of a local distributorship.

Could it reach the point where staffing in-house equipment maintenance and repair will no longer be feasible?

I believe outsourced fleet management will have a growing place within the market. The major OEMs have upgraded their telematics packages to allow their dealers to interact more quickly with machines in the field, allowing for more accurate preventive maintenance and better communications about equipment.

Some of the more progressive dealers are already expanding their customer support agreements to reach a broader audience. These agreements have had great success for fixed fleets such as aggregates producers and mines, but dealers are recognizing the opportunity in more mobile fleets.

The fleet-asset manager is the one within an equipment-owning organization that can evaluate this option. By reviewing operating costs—comparing repair and maintenance costs with outsourcing, balanced with the cost of downtime—the equipment manager will be able to present the best option to upper management or ownership.

That’s the expertise they bring, and it will be more valuable over the next few years.

What benefits to outsourcing maintenance have you seen? What would have to happen before you'd even consider it? Comment below, or email me your thoughts.

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