From the Editor: June 2014
There’s some pretty cool technology out there these days, and it looks like more is on the way.
By Patrick Flannery
There’s some pretty cool technology out there these days, and it looks like more is on the way. At the Rental Mart in March we saw a man lift that can lower a worker over the side of a bridge and position them underneath to inspect the bottom of the span. Our Tech Tips feature in this issue highlights flywheel systems that capture the energy from braking and gravity-assisted motion and store it for use with assisting the machine’s power plant. A recent special feature in The Economist talks about the diminishing cost of computer processing power and how it is powering a renaissance in robotics that may soon deliver cheap, easily programmed industrial robots, cars that drive themselves and construction equipment that can operate remotely or automatically. Do these kinds of whizz-bang innovations have a place in your rental store?
As a rental operator, you aren’t interested in flash for the sake of flash. You need reliable technology that is easy to maintain. Your relationship with your supplier becomes increasingly important as you stretch the capabilities of your staff with unfamiliar and possibly temperamental new technology. You’ll have to invest in additional training for your staff, and your staff will have to spend more time training and supporting customers. Plus, the fancy stuff costs more. For all these reasons, rental stores have not typically been bastions of cutting-edge technology. Rental customers expect functional, heavy-duty equipment that addresses a need they know they have. Usually, those needs can be met with technology that is ten years old, or older.
Meeting expectations and giving customers what they know they want is a good recipe for keeping the lights on, but many of you are also looking for growth. If you are looking to differentiate yourself from competition, attract new business and find new sources of revenue, you always need to be trying something new. What if a contractor who came into your store looking to rent the same excavator he gets every time instead found an automated one that could save him the cost of a worker? Or one that uses 10 per cent less fuel than he budgeted for? Gaining a reputation in your market for having solutions no one else can provide could be worth the investment in equipment and training.
As the proud owner of a PC that recently blew a motherboard after just four years, I feel I have gained some insight into what to look for when assessing technology. Just because something is popular does not mean it is the best. Centralized design and manufacturing are to be preferred over machines consisting of poorly integrated collections of components from numerous third party suppliers. Operator interface and ease of maintenance are key. Stay away from manufacturers that appear to be stagnant and out of new ideas. Sometimes it pays to pay more. And buy the extended warranty.
Speaking of technology, there are some excellent examples on page 28 of superior application and design achieving great new results with old technology. The pressure washer has been around for quite some time, but manufacturers are finding better ways to squirt water harder. This new technology should be just the thing for summer as contractors look to clean mud off machines, car-lovers look to restore the shine of their paintjobs and homeowners look to blast off their decks.