Managing Operating Costs and Overall Cost of Ownership
Gary Bryan, National Warranty Manager, Takeuchi-US
When it comes to managing your operating costs, it’s important for there to be very strong relationships between the contractor, the dealer and the manufacturer. Let’s face it; machines of equal size and operating capacity can pretty much move the same amount of material. But as a business owner, if you want to move the most dirt per dollar you have to maximize productivity and minimize costs—that’s where the real value of a piece of equipment shows up. So how do you save money and enhance productivity at the same time? In order to achieve that balance, you have to spec the right piece of equipment for the job. It’s also important to make sure that you have highly trained operators, and you have to keep a proper maintenance and service schedule with your dealer.
Choosing the right machine for the job
One of the most important things to look at when it comes to spec’ing a new machine is the undercarriage. Choosing the right undercarriage—and proper maintenance—are incredibly important when it comes to reducing your operating cost per hour.
Ask your dealer about the lifecycle of the undercarriage. Look for the differences in how they are built, and how that affects maintenance schedules. Be sure to ask about replacement and/or refurbishing programs. If you need a reliable, high-production machine, you want to make sure that you don’t have to take it out of the dirt unless you have to. And when you do, you want to be able to plan for it. This is where that strong relationship with the dealer comes in. Work with your dealer to come up with a maintenance schedule and stick to it. Remember, the outcome of proper maintenance should be to increase uptime, not cut costs.
A good portion of your operating costs are going to be fuel and wages. There’s nothing you can really do about fuel costs—fuel burned is work done, right? But you can make sure that you maximize your productivity with well-trained and highly skilled operators. By providing advanced training for your operators, you can increase the amount of work done per day for the same amount of wages and fuel expended. A well-trained operator will spend more time with his blade or bucket in the dirt. They will also have the knowledge to take better care of the undercarriage and other critical components on a daily basis, which will protect your investment and extend the overall life of the machine.
Studies have shown how important operator comfort is when it comes to increasing productivity on the job. Look for a machine with a well-appointed, comfortable cab with an adjustable seat, smooth, ergonomically designed controls, and other creature comforts like climate control. An operator can spent ten to twelve hours a day on a machine, so it’s important that they don’t get worn out. Modern cabs are also designed to be much safer, so when making an equipment investment, make the choice to protect your operators. Even a minor incident on a jobsite can shut down productivity for hours. Not to mention that safety incidents can drive up insurance costs, which will increase your overall cost of ownership.
Other Maintenance Considerations
It’s important to stick with your scheduled maintenance and service plan. Some folks try to shave down cost of ownership by skipping service or letting components wear down to near failure—this kind of thinking doesn't get you anywhere, and in some cases can wind up causing even more damage, which obviously drives up your costs. Not to mention the safety concerns when it comes to poorly maintained equipment on a jobsite. Again, the outcome of proper maintenance should be to increase uptime, not cut costs.
Rather than pushing a component to the very edge of failure, it is important to take advantage of some of the more advanced monitoring systems that are built into today’s machines. These systems can diagnose problems and alert you before a failure occurs, so make sure that your operators are properly trained and are paying attention to the electronic monitors on the equipment. These systems allow you to be more proactive and schedule maintenance procedures as opposed to being reactive, and having to take your machine off the jobsite for more involved maintenance and parts replacements.