Have you ever calculated the actual cost of landscape spray equipment? The purchase price is like the tip of an iceberg--only a small portion is visible. The rest is hiding, unseen, waiting to sink your department's productivity, results and budget.
Total equipment cost is comprised of:
· Purchase price
· Unplanned downtime
· Productivity impacts
It is important to understand all the costs associated with equipment so you can make good decisions. (Note: Although this article focuses on landscape power-spray equipment, the concepts apply to many types of equipment.)
This is the most obvious component of total cost. Unfortunately, it is often the only cost that is considered in the purchase decision. It includes the price of the base unit plus any optional equipment, sales tax and freight.
Installation includes the total cost of installing equipment in a vehicle. Generally, rigs requiring electric power will cost more to install. This equipment must be wired to the truck battery, which takes more time and requires wire, fuse, fuse holder, etc. If you are doing the installation, be sure to ask the rig vendor if electrical components are included in the purchase price. If the vehicle requires modification to accept the new equipment, factor that into the overall cost.
If you are installing the spray equipment in-house, be sure you know what is under the truck bed. Drilling through a pickup truck bed into vehicle equipment--such as the gas tank--adds significant cost and delays. (This observation is based on expensive personal experience.)
Include regularly scheduled maintenance, such as engine oil changes, pump rebuilds, spray-gun rebuilds, etc. It is a combination of the costs of the components as well as labor. Regular maintenance extends the life of a sprayer.
Recently I serviced a spray rig--in the bed of a John Deere Gator--with a broken engine pull-cord. Because of the rig design (not by my company), I couldn’t replace the pull-cord without removing the skid from the Gator. A five-minute task became a one-hour job. Think of what this does to maintenance costs if you must remove the rig to perform minor maintenance, such as changing the oil. Make sure equipment is designed for ease of maintenance to avoid additional expenses and increased downtime.
Does the rig constantly break down? Repair costs include not only the cost of the repair but the downtime that results during the repair. Are replacement parts readily available? Can the repair be performed in-house, or must it be outsourced? Waiting for parts and repairs can be a productivity killer.
Does the equipment boost productivity or hinder it? Are key components properly situated for easy, safe, ergonomic access? Must the technician perform extra motions just to do his or her job? A small increase in daily productivity will more than pay for a small upfront increase in equipment cost. Equipment with a low purchase price that does not support safe, efficient operation is not saving money.
How long do the components last? Are top-quality components used? A sprayer with a low purchase price
that doesn't last is not a money saver.
For example, one of the most expensive components is the gas engine. Honda engines cost more than other engines, but they provide years of uninterrupted service if properly maintained. This is not an area to try to save a few dollars. The higher upfront cost is more than offset in reduced repairs and downtime.
Some of the cheapest components of a sprayer are the plumbing fittings. Yet these inexpensive parts can cost a bundle. A plastic fitting in the wrong place can be easily damaged, resulting in chemical spillage and lost productivity. Be sure you know everything you are getting when you order a sprayer. If your purchasing department gets multiple quotes on new equipment then selects the lowest purchase price, this is an area to pay attention to because fittings are usually not specified in request for quotes.
On the same note, if you work through a purchasing department that selects the lowest purchase price, your total costs may be higher than they need to be. As professional managers, it is critical to the success of your organization that you understand the true costs of the equipment.
Andrew Greess is the president of Quality Equipment & Spray, which designs and builds custom weed-control spray equipment. He can be reached at www.qspray.com or follow him on Twitter. For more information or to share your thoughts, check out his blog at www.sprayequipmentblog.com.