Standardize For Savings

By Andrew Greess
Photos Courtesy Of Andrew Greess

You may have noticed that when you order a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder in Anchorage, Alaska, it is exactly the same as the one you purchase in Miami, Fla. This is also true for a cup of Starbucks coffee.

The business strategy--called standardization--is used by many great companies to ensure a dependable result. Creating a uniform product means people know what to expect and can rely on a good experience.

Southwest Airlines is another example of standardization. Every plane the company flies is a Boeing 737. By standardizing its equipment, Southwest has created various efficiencies:

  • Training--Staff members only need to be trained on one aircraft. This applies to pilots, cabin staff, ground staff, baggage handlers, mechanics, accountants, marketing managers, telephone service, and maintenance staff. Think of the time and money this saves the company.
  • Scheduling--All employees can work on any aircraft. For example, if a pilot calls in sick, any other pilot can stand in and do the job without additional training or instruction. This reduces the odds that Southwest has to cancel a flight when the appropriate staff member is not available.
  • Efficiency--Every employee knows exactly where everything is and how to do their job, no matter which plane or flight they are working, supporting, or servicing.  If a flight attendant needs a first-aid kit, it is always in the same place on every aircraft. There is no time lost looking for needed items, figuring out how to do something, or devising “work-arounds.”
  • Maintenance--Mechanics only need to be trained to service one type of plane. The capital (money) tied up in parts inventories is much lower because there are fewer required parts. This also significantly improves the odds that a part will be available when needed. In turn, this reduces the downtime planes are on the ground. In the extreme, the number of backup aircraft that Southwest must keep available is probably lower than their competitors that fly multiple types of planes. Further, any Southwest plane can taxi up to any airport, terminal, or gate to which Southwest flies.

Do It Yourself
Many of these concepts also apply to parks and recreation professionals, their organizations, employees, and equipment. Standardizing landscape equipment will result in many of these same efficiencies for the organization.

If your equipment is already standardized, congratulations, for you are clearly in the minority. Take the next step and standardize

Since filters can be a source of many spray-equipment problems, it is a good place to begin standardization.

storage locations on vehicles. For example, always store marker flags in location X. By putting specific items in the same place in each vehicle, any employee can find what he or she needs immediately instead of wasting time looking for those items to complete a job.

It obviously doesn’t make sense to replace all existing equipment with new, standardized equipment. When it comes to spray equipment, for example, implement some small changes that will make an impact:

  1. Line strainer/filter. Spray equipment problems often include clogged hoses, fittings and tips, and damaged pumps, so begin standardization efforts here. Standardize procedures and filters so all techs know how to check and change filters so it is easy and cost-efficient to inventory the screens and gaskets that cause many problems.
  2. Quick-disconnects. Standardize quick-disconnects and spray tools so spray guns are interchangeable. When a piece of equipment such as a spray wand requires service, fails, or is needed elsewhere, it only requires a quick change that does not disrupt schedules.

To plan for the future, develop clear standards for hand sprayers, backpack sprayers, toolboxes, power sprayers, etc., so that over time, as you replace obsolete equipment, the fleet becomes standardized.

Once the equipment is standardized, developing and implementing service standards is much easier. For example, if the make, model, and location of small engines on the power sprayers are the same, then performing the required service and preventative maintenance at predetermined intervals requires less time.

A word of caution: Use common sense in this process. You may not be able to standardize everything. If you have special-purpose vehicles, standardize where possible. Work with your equipment vendor to standardize filtration (location, access, and design), maintenance (engine positioned so oil changes are easy), etc.

Start today by examining equipment to find opportunities for uniformity. Even a little standardization can go a long way toward improved service, sound financial results, and employee satisfaction.

Andrew Greess is the President of Quality Equipment & Spray, which designs and builds custom landscape spray equipment. He can be reached at, or follow him on Facebook. To seek more information or to share your thoughts, check out his blog at .