A common complaint from some parks and recreation staff members is that they don’t seem to get the life out of spray equipment that they would like. Among the concerns are equipment that wears out too soon, employees who invent new and more creative ways to destroy equipment and equipment that is waiting for repairs, etc.
We have found that parks and rec departments with well-designed pest- and weed-control spray rigs can reduce problems significantly with a few easy steps. Here are the top 10 spray-equipment productivity tips:
1. Good Filtration
Design good filtration to prevent debris from getting into the system. Debris will clog or damage the pump, plumbing, fittings, hose and spray guns. It will reduce productivity and create expensive repair bills. Design filtration based on the water source, type of application, sensitivity of the pump and technician skill. For example, bad water in new housing developments may require more than one strainer. Place filtration so it is easily accessible for technicians to check and clean. (For more on this topic, see PRB Sept. 2008.)
2. Clean The Filter
The biggest secret in spray equipment is to check the filter. There is nothing that will save more money than this simple activity. We repair and replace more pest- and weed-control spray equipment because of clogged filters than for any other reason.
3. Release The Pressure
Take off the pressure. When spraying is complete, release the pressure. Squeeze the handle of the spray equipment so that the system is not under pressure. If you don't want to waste the material, spray it back into the tank. Equipment will have fewer breakdowns and last longer if the stress of constant pressure is removed from spray components. Never store equipment overnight under pressure.
4. Don’t Run It Too Fast
Don't push equipment to its limit. Our experience is that techs run power-spray rigs at high speeds to finish a job quickly. A power-spray rig can run at extremes for short periods, but it is not designed to run full-out all the time. Running “in the red” for extended periods will shorten engine and pump life. Make sure techs know proper operating ranges.
5. Clean It Out
Rinse the system with clean water periodically to remove old chemical buildup, debris, etc. These can clog the filter, starve the pump, damage spray tips, and play havoc with other components. When in doubt, rinse it out. Be sure to follow all labels and laws when cleaning out spray tanks.
6. Perform Preventative Maintenance
Preventative maintenance will save time and money, and avoid equipment breakdowns, unhappy customers, etc. The equipment is running hard and pumping strong chemicals--it will need service. This service will be much cheaper and less painful if it’s done before it’s needed. Read the manufacturer’s recommendations, and then customize a plan for use and application. A good preventative maintenance program reduces equipment down-time and improves productivity.
7. Train Employees To Report Problems
We are constantly amazed at the equipment problems employees will tolerate. They continue to use leaking pumps, hose, backpacks, etc. Ignoring these problems inevitably leads to higher repair expenses and increased down-time. Encourage employees to report problems so appropriate action can be taken before a small problem becomes a big (i.e., expensive) problem.
8. Emergency Repair Kit
Many simple repairs can be performed in the field. This allows technicians to finish their work before heading to the service site for more thorough repairs. Assess technicians’ skill and training to determine which parts can be changed in the field.
9. Don’t Overpressurize Manual Sprayers
If a backpack isn't spraying, don't pump it up more because it will break. It is easy to turn a $3 O-ring replacement into a $50 repair. I like the following analogy for this situation. I was having dinner in a restaurant in France. The waiter didn't understand English. So I yelled louder. Don't overpressure your manual sprayers!
10. Pre-Flight Checklist
Every pilot goes through a pre-flight routine before taking his or her plane into the air. Spray techs should do the same. Before heading to the first stop, spend a few minutes checking equipment to prevent down-time that hinders timely service. Here's the key point--it is better to have an equipment problem at the office or shop rather than in the field, where it will most likely take longer and cost more to fix. Technicians should report any problems or exceptions to their supervisor.
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Andrew Greess is president of Quality Equipment & Spray, which designs and builds custom pest- and weed-spray equipment solutions. He can be reached via e-mail at Andrew@qspray.com