What to consider when adding generators to your fleet
The generator rental business continues to accelerate for a number of reasons, from rebound activity after the economic downturn to the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. If you are considering adding industrial or commercial generators to your rental inventory — or you already rent them, but wish to expand your offering — here’s how to choose the right equipment.
► Understand your market’s needs. Generators have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, making it more important for companies to consider their markets carefully and match generators to them. This is especially true if you have traditionally offered only residential or small commercial generators and are moving into the large commercial and/or industrial generator rental markets.
If you have customers located in areas with extreme weather — for example, sub-zero temperatures, very high salinity or humidity — you can tailor your purchases to those models equipped with special devices or designs that increase reliability in these operating environments. In these areas, especially, generator manufacturers have made significant breakthroughs in recent years.
Furthermore, if your customers are located primarily in urban areas or at or near areas of major sources of pollution, they may be subject to specific EPA guidelines regarding emissions. As a result, it may be necessary to ensure your rental equipment meets national environmental standards for hazardous air pollution (NESHAP) mandates.
Before you make any new purchases, update your target customer profiles to address new customer locations, including weather constraints, regulatory environment and other factors. Polling key customers and asking what their expected needs will be over the next few years can be productive as well. With this information in hand, you will be in a better position to tailor purchases to your customer base.
► Selecting equipment. Generators come in a wide range of power ratings and can feature a number of options. It is amazing how much power and functionality good manufacturers can pack into even a small, portable unit in today’s market. When evaluating generators, encourage your buyers to ask vendors about customer-requested features, no matter how unusual they might be. Inquisitive buyers may discover that affordable generators come equipped with advanced features that will afford more flexibility in matching equipment to your current and prospective markets. The following are some of the features you might not think to look for.
— If you rent enclosed packages, the generator’s enclosure should offer sound-attenuation at a level that ensures silent or near-silent operation.
— The generator should be in compliance with the most recent Tier requirements for your area. The EPA phased in the NESHAP mandates mentioned earlier, referring to each level as Tier 1, 2, 3 and 4.
— The generator design should be environmentally friendly in regard to spillages. We recommend a totally bounded frame with a 110 percent spill-containment feature.
— The generator should be equipped with the latest engine technologies to reduce fuel consumption and increase reliability.
— The generator should be equipped with a telematics solution that enables you to remotely control the fleet and schedule service and maintenance, with appropriate, customer-friendly support for these features.
— The generator should have — or at least support the use of — extended run-time tanks to improve diesel supply logistics.
— The generator should have a convenient power distribution panel for the operator to use, outfitted with Cam-Lok connectors
► Selecting a provider. Most rental companies and their executives understand the importance of provider selection, but in the case of generators, there may be points you have not considered. Obvious criteria for a generator manufacturer or supplier are good customer service and having a network of dealers that can service your rental units if you do not have a team that handles these tasks. Other considerations, given the diverse array of manufacturers and providers in today’s generator market, include:
— Does the manufacturer of the equipment you are purchasing, either directly or through a dealer, have a reputation for reliability and a strong commitment to safety?
— Does the provider have a dedicated support team that will fly on-site and troubleshoot problems?
— Does the provider offer a comprehensive training program, either directly or through the manufacturer?
— Can the provider procure winterized solutions?
— Can the provider assemble and deliver to your customers’ sites parallel configurations, that is two or more generators working as a unit to meet a wide array of power needs to increase solution flexibility?
— Does the provider develop custom-made generators?
— Does the provider offer generator fuel choices, such as alternative fuel, natural gas and bi-fuel generators?
— Does the provider complement its generator offering with power distribution products, making it a one-stop-shop for generators and any related equipment your customers might require?
If you are just entering the generator rental market, give some consideration to your operating model before you jump in, head first. For example, will you handle maintenance in-house or outsource it? Hiring a third-party maintenance service may seem expensive, but it pales in comparison to the damage you’ll suffer if generators seize up in the field and you lose both the equipment and the customer.
Also, when planning for any purchases, consider that there may be alternatives other than those your current vendors present. Don’t settle for anything that won’t meet your clients’ needs. A company committed to your success will work with you to find the models that are best for you and your clients.
Rafael Acosta is president of Hipower Systems, Lenexa, Kan., a division of Himoinsa. Hipower Systems supplies power distribution and prime, standalone power-generation equipment and packages to the U.S. and Canadian markets. The company builds and customizes diesel generators from 8kW to 3MW and natural gas or alternative fuel/bi-fuel sets from 20 to 400kW with a range of accessories, including automatic transfer switches, paralleling switchgear, UL tanks, enclosures and power distribution equipment. For more information, visit hipowersystems.com.