How to Boost Heavy Equipment Productivity

19 June 2020

Many contractors are looking for ways to get the most out of their equipment by maximising operating efficiency, reducing downtime and monitoring machine health.

Contractors have enormous responsibilities in managing construction jobs, including buying, renting, maintaining and operating heavy equipment. Whether you’re renting or buying construction equipment, you want to know that it’s helping you achieve higher productivity, not lowering it.

Equipment productivity generally refers to the time during which the machine is in operation performing productive work. The more efficiently the workers can complete their tasks, the higher the production level is. Equipment productivity applies whether you’re an equipment owner or you’ve rented a machine for the week.

No matter the case, whenever equipment isn’t in use for any reason, or someone is operating it incorrectly, it’s being non-productive or not as productive as it could be.

Poor equipment productivity is a leading contributor to many problems that contractors face, including increased and unexpected costs that cause budget creeps. Non-productive hours can slowly add up throughout the day, week, month and year. It’s estimated that the average contractor can expect 800 to 900 productive hours annually from a typical piece of equipment. At best, that translates to a productivity rate of only 62%. In other words, the productivity rate of construction equipment has an opportunity to improve by nearly 40%. Low equipment productivity rates are preventing contractors from earning higher profits, but there are practical solutions to curb this trend.

To increase equipment productivity, you need to ask yourself what productivity means to you. Increased equipment productivity can refer to better work efficiency, more project profitability, improved job site safety or higher quality work produced. There are many aspects involved in maximising construction equipment productivity rates. In general, every productivity solution involves assessing your people, processes or the technology and systems you use. It requires an investment in them to make them more productive.

With this in mind, here are five of the top ways you can get the most out of your equipment and earn higher returns and production rates on each project.

Choose Certified Used Equipment

Getting the highest construction equipment productivity rates doesn’t necessarily mean going out and buying the newest and most heavy-duty model available. While there are some definite pros to buying new equipment, there are just as many benefits to renting or buying used equipment — as long as the equipment manufacturer certifies it for rent or sale.

Equipment breakdowns and malfunctions can have costly outcomes on a job site that’s looking to maximise equipment productivity. To prevent unexpected downtime due to poor-performing equipment, be sure to rent or buy used equipment from a supplier that’s authorised to sell the brand of equipment you need. Some outlets don’t maintain their equipment by the same standards others do. They don’t have the technical expertise or product knowledge required to service and repair intricate and complex machines from some of the world’s leading manufacturing brands.

When you rent or buy used equipment, you need to know the machine has received correct service at the highest standards possible.

Select the Right Equipment for the Job

If you’re renting heavy equipment for your construction site, it’s essential to get the right tools for the job. Sometimes, contractors rent equipment that’s too small, either because that’s all the supplier had available or because they miscalculated their capacity needs. Renting equipment that’s too small can reduce your productivity by taking longer to complete the job. On the other hand, machinery that’s too big for the project adds unnecessary costs. Oversized equipment is not only unnecessarily complicated for the job, but it can also cause added management time that comes with a bigger, more intricate machine.

Even if you own your equipment, it’s still worth analysing each project to see if it’s more cost-effective to rent a machine that’s better equipped for the job. No two projects are the same, so your equipment may not be as productive as a machine that’s available to rent. Choosing the most productive equipment for the job will also ensure you produce higher quality work. High-quality work that’s done right the first time mitigates the risk of having to perform expensive re-work, which extends rental agreements, puts more wear and tear on the equipment and tacks on costs for the operator’s time.

Contractors need to know their dealer has experienced staff with the expertise to recommend the right equipment for the job. They also need to be certain their dealer will have the desired equipment available when they need it.

Schedule Jobs Wisely

Just as contractors prepare schedules for labour and materials delivery, they must also plan out their equipment calendars. Make sure you know exactly when you’ll need your equipment — the date and exact time. Block off project time based on how long the project will take to complete. Make sure the equipment arrives at the site ahead of the scheduled work, as inspection and preparation time can slowly erode heavy equipment production rates.

For contractors running multiple jobs at a time, smart equipment scheduling is essential to maximising productivity. Multiple projects can complicate things, so make sure you’re scheduling your equipment to be productive for the majority of the week. There are plenty of project management systems available today that can plan out a production schedule for you, taking out the guesswork for contractors.

Another aspect to consider with equipment rentals specifically is to secure your rental well ahead of time. Planning ensures you get the equipment you need, not something too big or too small. Ask to have the equipment delivered on the afternoon or evening before the job will start. Have the operator review the equipment and get familiar with its systems and controls. On the first day of the new project, you can jump in rather than spend additional preparation time on a production day.

Follow a Preventative Maintenance Programme

There’s no better way for contractors to protect their investment and get the most out of their heavy equipment than to follow a preventive maintenance programme. A regular PM programme can increase a contractor’s profits by an estimated 10% due to reliable, smooth-running machines.

Preventive maintenance means not only scheduling regular servicing, but it also means monitoring your equipment with every use to ensure you’re catching any issues before they affect productivity. Check the equipment each day before beginning work to ensure it’s functioning properly. Be sure to check it again at the end of the day to ensure it is free from damage. If there are any issues, have them repaired or addressed before beginning another production day.

As an equipment owner, you need to be aware of the service requirements of each component and when to inspect them. Ask operators about any noticeable wear and tear they can feel during operation, such as vibrations or heat. By ensuring all parts are functioning properly, you’ll get maximum use from your machine on every job.

Keep Detailed Equipment Operating Records

When you invest in heavy equipment for your contracting business, it pays to develop excellent record-keeping skills. Being detail-oriented about operating records and maintenance plans is essential to maximising production time and extending the machine’s life cycle. Comprehensive records will include the following information you can use to increase the productivity of your construction equipment.

Operating hours: Record how long you and your crew used the equipment on any given day, week or month. Documenting how long the equipment was actually in use also gives you a clearer picture of equipment downtime levels — non-productive time where the machine stood idle.

Operating costs: When calculating operating costs, there are lots of factors to take into account. The real cost of operating construction equipment includes not just the operator’s time, but also fuel, insurance, wear and tear, maintenance and repairs, equipment depreciation and non-productive time for other trades on the site.

Profitability and return on investment: When you deduct your true equipment operating costs from the value it generated, you’ll be able to determine your return on investment from the equipment. Measuring the profitability of your equipment gives you a job-to-job metric of your equipment production rates and highlights opportunities to improve it.

You can keep track of these equipment records manually with spreadsheets. Or, you can take advantage of the latest in construction technology and equipment management software that automatically performs these calculations for you.