Before grounds managers decide whether the most appropriate move is to purchase new equipment, they need to go through the exercise of determining whether a more appropriate option for the department — and its budget — is to rent the piece of equipment instead.
“Equipment that sits around waiting to be used tends to break down, even though nobody has run it,” Fitzpatrick says. “If you have things like aerators or skid steers that you need when you’re working with mulch, rather than purchase them, I recommend you rent them so you’re not on the hook for the maintenance and ongoing repairs for something that spends more time sitting than in use. If it’s something that I used more frequently than once a month, I probably would want to own it. If I used it a only few weeks at a time once or twice a year, I probably would rent it.”
Once a manager has made the decision to purchase, the next step is gathering information. Given the big-ticket nature of mowers and utility vehicles, as well as their impact on the first impression a facility creates with visitors, the specification process is rarely a one-person process. Fitzpatrick recommends that managers gather input from those who will come to know the equipment the best.
“I definitely would have the people using the equipment give some input,” he says. “They are the ones who can tell you how user-friendly it is. The more user-friendly it is, the more apt they are to take good care of it and be happy running it. The people that maintain the equipment definitely have input on the dealer you elect to buy from.”
Managers also need to stress to equipment operators and mechanics that ongoing equipment maintenance is essential in prolonging the unit’s performance life — and that they actually perform this maintenance.
“That’s usually the first thing that goes by the wayside because guys are busy,” he says. “Using the proper piece of equipment for the job also is important. You might use a piece of equipment since it’s in your hand or you’re riding on it, and you try to do things with it that you shouldn’t. But that can damage the equipment or, worse, injuring the operator.
“Typically, guys come in in the morning, and they want to get work done before it gets too hot out or, if you’re in the South, before it rains in the afternoon, or before the place gets busy with pedestrian traffic. By the end of the day, they’ve done a good hard day’s work, and all they're thinking about is going home. Unless you physically work it into your schedule, that ‘At 1:30 every Wednesday, I’m going to do my equipment maintenance’, it’s pretty easy to let it slip.”
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