When it comes to keeping equipment for as long as possible, teaching proper employee use is just as important as routine maintenance, says Joe Uran, co-owner and vice president of C&C Lawns.
Uran touches on equipment care during regular seasonal training and on the job as the season gets underway. His company offers property maintenance, including snow removal, to commercial clients.
“If we notice somebody’s beating up on equipment, it starts with just a simple talking to,” he says. “If it becomes a routine issue, of somebody breaking equipment, or misusing equipment, then they’re let go. We try as much as we can to have our employees respect the equipment.”
At Naylor Landscape Management, Barney Naylor, president, says training is not just about avoiding equipment damage. It’s also about avoiding property damage. Naylor Landscape is a full-service landscape company offering snow and ice management in the winter for both residential and commercial clients.
“We offer training on technique, on how to approach curbs properly,” Naylor says. “We review that every year and with our subcontractors, too.”
Customization on the job.
Because each property is unique, a variety of snow throw equipment is essential, Uran says. “A small office parking lot might be handled well by a pick-up truck with a plow, whereas a big-box store is better serviced by a front-end loader.”
C&C Lawns is based in Hopkins, Minnesota, and employs up to 30 people during the winter season, including subcontractors. The company’s annual revenue is about $1 million.
Skid-steer loaders are used on downtown properties too tight for a truck and a plow to enter.
Walk-behinds are used for sidewalks, he says.
“For us, the equipment provides a better value to us, because snow removal is pretty easy on it, and they also hold their value a lot better,” Uran says.
Larger pieces of equipment such as skid-steers, wheel loaders and small tractors, are kept for five to seven years. ATVs usually last three to four years, Uran says.
Naylor says the average machine gets about 450 to 600 hours of use per year at his business, and he keeps them longer than most contractors do.
Naylor Landscape is based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and employs about 15 people during the winter season. It has an annual revenue of about $2.8 million.
Salt spreaders and snow blowers usually last about two to three years as they tend to get beat up and the snow blowers get rusty, Naylor says.
For snow blowers, Naylor says he uses Toro commercial grade and keeps them up to three years.
Depending on their condition, Naylor will then sell them for $25 to $50 to employees for personal use.
Uran likes to keep some equipment as backup in case of a complete break down mid-season.
“We can’t call a customer and say, ‘Oh, sorry, equipment broke down, we’ll be there next week.’ We get one try,” he says.
At Naylor Landscape, last year a skid-steer broke mid-season and required significant repairs. Naylor said he rented one for a week. For smaller items, he’ll purchase new mid-season if needed.
“You’ve got to be careful, though, if it’s a crazy winter, they run out of them,” he says.
Before the season, all equipment at C&C Lawns is inspected and serviced before use. During the snow season, equipment is checked after each snow event. Larger pieces receive oil changes.
“Then, to limit rust, we’ll repaint some equipment,” he says.
This maintenance and service is also tracked carefully on any piece of equipment above $2,000 in value.
Naylor says his crews try to follow the manufacturer’s recommended preventative maintenance schedule. Pre-season care for walk-behinds such as snow blowers includes replacing paddles and any broken parts.
“A lot of times, we’ll clean the carburetor,” he says. “Usually, by mid-season, we have to go through and replace every one of those (paddles).”