How to Successfully Rent Equipment

A successful equipment rental experience requires managers to plan and prepare.

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor  

Maintenance and engineering departments rely on a steady supply of rented products to complement their in-house arsenals of tools and equipment to ensure technicians can complete their tasks. But the equipment rental process can be complex for managers, given the complexity of many facility operations and the selection of products available. As a result of this range of variables, a successful rental experience requires managers to plan and prepare. 

Starting the conversation 

The process of equipment rental starts long before managers ever sign a contract or take delivery of a product. An essential first step is to gather as much relevant information as possible about the project to be completed – information that will be essential in discussing rental options with dealers. 

Managers "need to be very clear on the project,” says Nathanial Brookhouse, senior manager of business development with Home Depot Rental. “Certainly, understanding the scope, understanding anything that's going to impact getting the work done. 

“What does timing look like? What deadlines are involved? Where is the project within the facility? Is it inside? Is it outside? Is it at height and requires something to lift personnel up to do the project to do the job? If it does require tools or equipment, are they specialized?” 

Additional considerations include a closer look at issues not directly related to rental equipment options. 

“Go through an inventory of the equipment they have access to, and determine their needs,” says Andrew Sunday, national sales manager for facilities maintenance with Sunbelt Rentals. “They should also take overall safety into consideration, and evaluate how to access a point most safely, which can sometimes be a variation of specialty tools and equipment. 

“Customers also should determine timing and scheduling, which renting can bring a good amount of flexibility there, both for short-term and long-term needs. Lastly, managers should think through their commitment to sustainability and how that factors into their equipment needs.” 

Staff considerations 

While managers might want to focus on gathering information on their facilities and in-house equipment, they also need to carefully assess the people who will actually be using the equipment – in-house staff. 

"Managers should confirm operator experience and qualifications for operation of that particular machine,” says Jody Van Huisen, director of national accounts with United Rentals. “They should also assess whether or not staff needs additional support, such as job scoping and site logistics like access points, required height and other application recommendations.” 

The safe and effective operation of rental products, such as mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) and light construction equipment, add an important element of safety and training to a manager’s assessment. 

“It's important that you understand whether the equipment itself needs special training for whoever's going to use it or whether there's some safe, standard operations,” Brookhouse says. “The biggest thing for staff members is to make sure they can be trained on the equipment if they're not and if the equipment requires certified operators. 

“A good example of that would be MEWPs or aerial equipment. Forklifts would be another example. Knowing what is required to operate the equipment and knowing whether your staff has certifications and training is critical when you think about any person potentially using the tool or the equipment.” 

Spotlight in training 

Rental equipment can require that in-house staff who operate the unit receive training and certification to do so safely and effectively, so managers need to pay close attention to these requirements. 

"Certain categories of equipment require certification, and all operators need to be familiar with operating anything that's being used,” Brookhouse says. “The OEM’s operator training manual or operator's manual will dictate what training is required or what knowledge is required to use the equipment. This will be clearly stated in there for any type of equipment. It's absolutely critical that the OEM operator's manual is read and understood before someone jumps on some piece of equipment to start doing a project.” 

Van Huisen emphasizes the role of the rental equipment dealer in helping managers navigate the training and certification requirements of any equipment. 

“It is always best practice to consult an expert before operating equipment,” she says, offering these examples: 

  • If forklifts or aerial equipment will be utilized, material handling or aerial certification is required by OSHA. 
  • If entering a confined space or trench, then competent person or confined space training is required. 

Because of the complex nature of safety compliance related to rental equipment, managers need to build this factor into their planning for the upcoming project. 

“The best piece of advice I can give is for managers to think ahead when it comes to training, as logistics around certifications can sometimes be time consuming,” Sunday says. “Knowing the need ahead of time and scheduling the training in advance will ensure they have staff who are ready to operate certain equipment when the need arises.” 

The ‘right’ equipment 

With information related to staffing, in-house equipment and safety compliance in hand, managers can move to the next phase of the process, which involves working with the dealer to select the most appropriate rental equipment for their specific projects.  

“If the project involves working at height, but it's outside and there are curbs or there are small trees, do you need to go up and over something,” Brookhouse says. “In that case, you might need an articulated manlift. If you're inside and the surface is flat and there are wide enough aisles, you might need a scissor lift.” 

Dealers also can help managers work through any assumptions they brought to the rental process. 

“Sometimes a manager may think they need one thing, but when talking through the application, there may be a better solution presented,” Sunday says. “This is also true of newer, sustainable solutions that could provide long-term impact on an organization’s carbon footprint and cost savings.” 

Avoiding trouble 

For all the planning and preparation by managers, they still can run into complications and problems when renting equipment. Anticipating and understanding potential trouble spots can help them minimize or even avoid disruptions of the work.  

“One of the most common is that you see managers just not taking the time to understand the environment and any safety risks associated with the job,” Brookhouse says. “Everybody's under deadlines. Everybody’s got pressures to complete projects. But sometimes that can result in a manager perhaps rushing into a job, not taking the time to really assess the potential risks to the team or to an individual completing the work. 

“A perfect example of that is relaxing the focus on PPE. You’ve got somebody out doing grounds work, and they're not doing something as simple as wearing protective eyewear. That can result in an injury.” 

Sunday also says managers too often fail to take a practical view of the time needed to complete a project. 

“Managers are always more optimistic about a project’s timeline and how long they’ll need the equipment,” he says. “Most managers assume jobs will take less time than they do. I’d advise realistic planning, timelines and budgets are key. It’s also important to give the rental provider the opportunity to scope the project to provide a realistic estimate and work with them to keep a project on time and budget.” 

Brookhouse emphasizes that to avoid problems on the jobsite, managers need to understand the dealer’s role in delivering and maintaining the rental equipment. 

“A customer working with a rental equipment company is going to expect that the equipment can be delivered to the job in working order when they need it, whether that's 7 a.m. or it's 5 p.m. for an overnight job,” he says. “That's going to be the expectation of the customer. 

“In addition to that, there's going to be an expectation of service. If something goes wrong with that piece of equipment while they're using it, they're going to expect that a service technician can come out and repair the equipment on site and do it quickly. If that's not an option, then potentially replace it with a similar unit. Those are very common expectations of any facility decision maker, any facility manager renting equipment, especially the larger equipment.” 

In the end, managers who pay close attention to the preparation and planning for equipment rental and allow ample time are more likely to ensure a successful project. 

“The rental experience can be a very smooth, fluid and rewarding process with consistent communication and the right tools,” Van Huisen says. “If possible, customers should call early to discuss the project.” 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 

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  posted on 7/12/2023   Article Use Policy

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