Heavy equipment attachments: Think outside the stock

How to determine what heavy equipment attachments to carry

Are you ready to serve customers who walk through your door seeking an attachment for a job requiring a heavy excavator or a wheel loader? If you can’t answer that question with certainty, perhaps it’s not only time to review your inventory, but you may need to think outside your current stock.

Even in a slowly improving economy, customers with tight budgets or special short-term projects typically find it easier and more cost-effective to rent attachments than to purchase a separate machine. While attachments are the key to an excavator or wheel loader’s versatility, your ability to successfully stock the right heavy equipment attachments in quantities to meet demand is directly tied to understanding your customers’ needs and helping them identify business opportunities.

Stocking attachments that will generate revenue also involves a look at utilization across your markets and using that evaluation to stock attachments that can help create a sustainable competitive edge. Stocking multiple units of properly selected excavator and wheel loader attachments offers a low initial investment with a potential high rate of return. In order to achieve this, attachments must ultimately provide value to your customers.

The ideal end goal for attachment rental is to make the power unit as versatile and productive on as many different job sites as possible. Wheel loaders and excavators should be offered for rent with a variety of different attachments, which can add several capabilities to enhance a rental business year-round.

While rental needs in the field vary widely — from loading aggregate to moving brush and debris to breaking up concrete — a machine outfitted with an attachment is typically designated for a very specific purpose. However, attachment versatility for heavy equipment can stretch equipment resources with an ability to adjust to changing applications and serve as work tools to perform multiple jobs.

For example, customers who determine that a dedicated excavator can only be used to perform heavy digging may be missing an opportunity to equip it with attachments such as a grapple for land clearing, an auger for utility installations, a breaker for demolition, a trenching bucket to dig foundation footings or a plate compactor to finish trenches. Likewise, winter seasonal work may present a business opportunity with snow removal, as some contractors will typically seek a four- or six-month rental of machines and dedicated snow removal attachments.

Crawler and wheel excavators are ideal candidates for attachment integration, which can help owner/operators build a custom fit to complete projects far beyond just earthmoving. Attachment coupling systems and auxiliary hydraulics allow even the largest sizes of excavators to be extremely effective tool carriers for a wide variety of attachments, such as:

  • Augers
  • Breakers
  • Shears
  • Grapples
  • Clamps
  • Plate compactors
  • Rippers
  • Trenchers
  • Crushers
  • Processors
  • Pulverizers
  • Mulchers
  • Grinders
  • Magnets

While attachments for wheel loaders and excavators are typically not interchangeable due to different attachment interface mechanisms, loader-specific attachments have turned these heavy-duty machines into valuable assets for every season.

The most popular attachments for most manufacturers’ wheel loaders range from general, all-purpose material handling buckets to heavy-duty or rock buckets for more serious applications. A 2½- to 3-yd. loader is typically fitted with a general-purpose-size bucket designed for cleaning feedlots, moving wood chips and lighter organic materials, and general combination aggregates in construction, agriculture, municipal and recycling applications. Buckets 5½ yds. or larger are typically designed for moving higher-density materials, such as those found in quarries and mines, and larger road work and site development projects.

Wheel loaders also can be fitted with a number of other attachments to handle demand, which can multiply their capabilities to serve a wide variety of different applications year-round, including:

  • Buckets
  • Pallet forks
  • Grapples
  • Brooms
  • Snow blades
  • Snow pushers
  • Larger-capacity snow buckets

Rental operations should further explore how different attachments can help distinguish services in a crowded or competitive market. What makes your business different? Perhaps your rental business always provides a clamp with your bucket rentals or an attachment exchange system that increases a customer’s flexibility.

For example, stocking a quality attachment coupling system can open up more attachment options for machines and speed up efficiency. Some industry experts estimate that a quality automated coupler mounted on an excavator can save operators up to 25 percent of their total machine operating time compared to direct-mount attachments. Such an investment in excavator and wheel loader versatility can be a strategic way to expose a customer to a better methodology that can potentially create a niche for your rental operation.

It’s also worth noting that identifying and connecting regionally based trends driving attachment selection represents an opportunity for rental operations. Some areas may use a different type of clamp or coupler that’s more acceptable in their region. That’s an opportunity for rental companies on the borders of those areas to carry a mix of each technology and help educate customers about which one is best for their application.

John Sad is a heavy attachments product manager for Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment America, West Fargo, N.D. More information about the company is available online at doosanequipment.com.

Tracking utilization

Tracking utilization

Financial utilization is a predictor of rental profitability and an important indicator of a rental operation’s ability to grow a market. A sound attachment stocking strategy is based on utilization and what makes the most sense from a business perspective. It’s all about making sure the machine and the attachment will be utilized to their fullest potential, so they’re not sitting idle and costing you money while they’re not generating revenue.

Here a few attachment utilization tips:

  • Always work with a machine manufacturer to determine the best options for approved attachments and the proper configuration that matches hydraulic flow rates and capacities.
  • Analyze a machine or attachment’s utilization rates as frequently as every six months, and compare figures against your operation’s benchmarks and market trends to determine whether to add or sell attachments.
  • Calculate attachment utilization by dividing a tool’s rental revenue by its acquisition cost.
  • Measure a tool’s demand by dividing the number of days that a piece is rented by the number of days it is available.
  • More information also can be gained by seeing how attachments affect the financial and physical utilization of the fleet as a whole. This information can be developed using the American Rental Association’s ARA Rental Market Metrics™ from a certified software company.