Equipment Executive: Where Have All the Equipment Managers Gone?

By Andy Agoos, Contributing Editor | February 10, 2011

It seems to me that there are fewer equipment managers today than there were 10 years ago. I’m pretty sure of it, and if you’re an equipment manager, that should concern you. So why is that? Is your job at risk?

Since most construction-company presidents and owners come out of the operations side of the business, we would expect them to hire and depend on equipment specialists, that is, equipment managers. That suggests that there would be more equipment manager jobs out there. But at the same time, other bigger factors are at play that cause the overall number of asset managers to decline. Some of those factors would be:

First, a lot of construction businesses have either failed, merged, acquired, or been acquired over the last three years. That reduces many available positions. Second, many construction companies have gone to a more de-centralized organizational structure that puts equipment management under some version of a construction operations group manager. Third, computer and company IT software efficiencies allow equipment managers to be more effective and simply manage more fleet than before. Fourth, companies are outsourcing repairs, maintenance, fueling, transport, and other previously self-performed functions which reduces the number of managers needed. And fifth and finally, companies are de-fleeting and pushing more work to their subcontractors or using more rental equipment.

It’s hard to argue that any of these factors are bad. Putting more decisions into the hands of operational folks may cause companies to become more short-term conscious (which usually is not good), but at the same time, it incentivizes the operating units to become a better stakeholder in the use and ownership of the equipment. It probably doesn’t matter much if equipment management likes it or not, because once senior management decides what direction the enterprise is going, the equipment manager’s job is to support the company’s position to the best of his/her ability.

So to this point, we can probably agree that there are fewer equipment managers than before, and the trend is likely to continue or even accelerate. If you’re an equipment manager, what do you do to be more effective and ensure your job doesn’t go away? Ladies and gentlemen, this is where the rubber meets the road.

First, have a written job description for your position in your organization. You and your boss should clearly agree on what it is that you do and what constitutes good performance.

Second, know your costs! The manager who knows costs can and will make better improvements than one who shoots from the hip.

Third, extend the equipment life, balance your fleet, and reduce the capital invested. Your owners don’t want to invest any more in equipment than absolutely necessary.

Fourth, prevent failures. Measure and improve downtime…especially unplanned downtime. Operating people want equipment that is reliable.

Fifth, using your job description, measure and manage significant things that aren’t currently being managed well now. For example, actively manage fuel storage better, actively manage transport operations, actively manage your mechanic turnover, actively manage undercarriage and tire wear, etc.

And finally, create reports that allow you to see the improvement. Share those reports with your boss and your company’s senior managers. Don’t just routinely send reports out to everyone; send them with a cover memo that explains why things are better…or worse, and what is being done to deal with the problem.

And if you or your equipment manager can do all this, that position will be essential to the success and profitability of the enterprise. It won’t go away.

Think about it.