The Road to Success
You have likely heard the old adage; success is what you make it. Have you given much thought about the steps you can take to become a successful contractor?
Operating a construction business can be stressful. Here are four tips to help you improve your success: Educate operators on safety guidelines, properly service equipment, monitor equipment remotely and know when to supplement an equipment fleet. Review these tips regularly to help grow your construction business into a more productive and profitable company.
Running a successful business starts with proper employee training to minimize risks on jobsites and maintain employees' safety. Before operating any and all construction equipment - including excavators, wheel loaders and articulated dump trucks - operators should understand all controls, gauges, signals, indicators and monitor displays.
Understand the instructions described in the manufacturers' Operation and Maintenance Manual. The manual is the primary guide to educate operators on proper equipment operation and maintenance. Trained and authorized operators should follow all safety rules, regulations and instructions. If you don't have a copy of the manual, visit with your local equipment dealership to obtain one. By the way, the best place to store the manual is not in the office or shop, it's on the piece of equipment to which it was originally attached.
Make sure you and your operators review safety and instructional decals, which are strategically placed on the interior and exterior of most construction equipment. The decals alert equipment operators about potential hazards, the consequences of injury and instructions on how to avoid the hazards. You and your operators should carefully review the decals prior to operating and performing maintenance. Replace any missing or damaged decals. You can get these from your dealer.
In addition to relaying rules, safety information and instructions, make sure your construction equipment is equipped with the proper safety features needed for each specific application.
Cramer and Associates, an Iowa-based road and bridge repair and construction contractor, kept safety as a priority for all employees who were working on a bridge replacement project. The contractor had more than 12 crew members and pieces of equipment on a bridge replacement project at a time, so it was critical to maintain a safety mindset.
"The rearview and sideview cameras, travel alarms, mirrors and horns were all important features needed for this specific application," says Larry Wood, Project Superintendent. "Machine lighting was another important safety feature for our operators who worked early in the morning and continued into the evening hours."
Visibility is also a key safety feature. Wood's operators maintained good visibility from the Doosan excavator and wheel loader cabs to all sides of the machines, including front-mounted attachments on the excavators and wheel loader. "Being able to see the attachment in front, and the top and side of the tires or tracks, was critical for safe and efficient machine operation, especially in our line of work," Wood says.
Follow Routine Maintenance
Unexpected maintenance can cause unplanned downtime and place a financial strain on your company, directly impacting your profitability. Convenient service checkpoints, quality components and extended service intervals help keep equipment maintenance costs low and daily production schedules moving.
The Rasmussen Group, a construction management firm based in central Iowa, found success by following a routine maintenance schedule and working with an authorized equipment dealership to maximize equipment performance, minimize downtime and reduce operating costs.
"By completing regular service intervals, such as checking the fluids and filters, we minimize any major issues," says Wade Beck, Shop and Equipment Manager. "We request the dealership keep the basics, like filters and fluids, on hand for when we complete routine maintenance inspections. Our machines have been pretty repair-free since we bought them."
Typically, maintenance procedures, which are provided in the Operation and Maintenance Manual, can be performed without any specific technical training.
Monitor Equipment Remotely
Technology has significantly changed how construction tasks are performed and how machines are monitored. Many manufacturers configure their construction equipment with a telematics system, including an onboard tracking device, that communicates wirelessly through a cellular or satellite network, providing a wide range of machine information remotely to owners and their equipment dealers.
Contractors like Jamie Doll, Owner of Corinthian Contractors based in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, monitor their Doosan excavators and wheel loaders with the Doosan Telematics package. The system's website allows Doll to monitor his equipment from a computer or smartphone. "I can monitor hours worked, hours idled, fuel levels and maintenance hours," he says. "It's extremely helpful to productivity."
The visibility to the machines through the system gives Doll an upper hand on his business and significant diesel fuel cost savings. "I can look online and see in real time that a machine is at 50 percent fuel and is good for another day. I don't have to drive over and fill it up, but I know I've got to get to it the next day," Doll says.
Doll can monitor his equipment remotely and keep tabs on the following items:
- Fleet status
- Operating hours
- Fuel usage
- Engine idle versus work time
- Error codes
- Engine/hydraulic oil temperature
- Tonnage hauled
Remotely monitoring data points improves his company's day-to-day operations. Knowing how to correctly use machine monitoring software may significantly cut operating costs and help keep projects on schedule.
Rent to Supplement Your Fleet
There are many benefits to renting heavy equipment to improve productivity. Easily take on short-term projects, access new revenue sources, use the newest and most advanced equipment, reduce operating costs, minimize downtime and eliminate storage requirements by renting.
For contractors like Tim DeJong, Owner of Triple-B Excavating Ltd. based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, rental is the best option when taking on new projects.
"My business is built around the concept that when someone calls me, I never want to be in a position of turning them down because I don't have the right equipment available," he says. "That's why I have no problem renting a machine if the work is there or if I can see it coming."
Renting an attachment, such as a hydraulic breaker or plate compactor, for use with heavy equipment is also beneficial if you are looking to expand your company's services. A well-paired attachment can enhance a project, delay purchasing a dedicated piece of equipment and open up new revenue sources.
Building a productive and profitable construction company can be challenging but is attainable. By educating operators on safety guidelines, properly servicing equipment, monitoring equipment remotely and knowing when to supplement an equipment fleet, you can pave the way to becoming a successful contractor.