Tear Down Those Walls

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief | September 28, 2010

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief
Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief

There's an adage, usually delivered heavy with sarcasm: "This job would be great, if it weren't for all the people." For equipment managers, fleet productivity and financial performance rest on the people who touch the machines, many of whom the manager has no authority over.

One such manager, who oversees a large heavy earthmoving fleet, told us recently that equipment management is actually quite simple. You buy the machine at the best price, maintain it at intervals, and sell it for a great price. Or, as this Caterpillar customer put it, "You turn green dollars into yellow dollars and back into green." It's while the dollars are invested in the iron that they are most at risk.

The first group of people affecting that risk are usually in the equipment manager's sphere of influence. Maintenance managers, field technicians and shop technicians usually end up reporting to the fleet manager either directly or indirectly. He has some level of authority over their performance.

The best managers have made the maintenance side of their job a focal point. They understand that preventive maintenance, oil sampling and training will save equipment dollars over time, recouped at resale or through extended operating life. They can devise compensation programs or use other motivational incentives to ensure that these people treat the machine right, guarding its value.

But there is another group of people over whom most equipment managers have little authority or even influence: operations. Equipment operators—and their managers—often have no incentive or reason to care how the machines are treated. In their minds, the machine is a tool to produce the work they've been charged with completing within their project's timeline. After it leaves the site, it's out of mind.

In companies where separate departments exist, the silo mentality has to be broken down. Instead of treating each other as stand-alones, equipment and operations must exist as partners within the same profit-generating entity. Integrating the financial side of the equipment into the entire organization will provide incentives, but attitudes have to change first.

Trust and a commitment to a common goal are a great place to start.

Author Information
Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief, 630-288-8130, rsutton@reedbusiness.com