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Grounds management continues to evolve, and the rise in the use of electric equipment, either voluntarily or mandated, has managers pondering how they need to adapt their management practices to support electric equipment.
Successfully implementing electric equipment requires nimble and innovative managerial skills to simultaneously reward staff for changing their work patterns while also encouraging staff to proactively identify areas of improvement and acknowledging that there will be setbacks. Culturally, a grounds manager must be understanding and develop a “fail fast, learn fast” mentality when adapting traditional fossil fuel-based maintenance plans to meet the varying workflow changes, accounting for changes such as battery life and charging infrastructure.
Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) member Brandon Haley, CGM, CLIA, senior project manager, grounds and sustainability for SSC Services for Education, a university and K-12 facilities services provider, shares his organization’s approach to using electric equipment:
“We have been successfully integrating electric equipment into our operations for over five years,” he says. “We have found that you need to be flexible with your workflows to manage your batteries and that you will need more batteries than you think. As long as you have battery power, people like using the equipment and are productive with it. Our biggest success with electric equipment has been noise reduction. Being able to use equipment near buildings during the school day has made scheduling easier and makes our clients happier. Our staff appreciates the lighter weight and not having to handle gasoline. Even with the higher initial battery cost, we have found handheld equipment to save money over its lifespan.
“There are a few other areas we have had to adapt to. Many sites need electrical upgrades, which can easily run $5,000-$10,000, depending on the amount of equipment being charged. Additionally, there needs to be a plan about how your crew will charge batteries in the field. Having a crew run back to the shop to switch out batteries will negate any operational savings you may see, but there are mobile options available.”
To learn more about integrating electric equipment and proactively designing infrastructure and workflow for success, watch the PGMS webinar “Electric Vs. Gas, Don’t Get Zapped: The True Cost of Electric Equipment,” available in the PGMS member portal.