February 27, 2013
In a sit-down conversation with Rob Marringa, North American brand marketing manager for wheel loaders and heavy excavators, Case Construction Equipment, at World of Concrete 2013 earlier this month, he talked with me about trends in the heavy equipment industry.
The current challenging economic environment makes investment in capital equipment expenditures increasingly difficult, so naturally, equipment owners try to stretch every dollar and lengthen equipment life and functionality. It’s called “stretching” — a slang term for “doing more with less,” Marringa explains.
I think stretching is something that we’re all guilty of — some of it because we have to and some of if because we want to. I admit it. (Who hasn’t almost been out of dish soap and “stretched” it by adding water until you have time to head to the store?) I bought this year’s valentines for my children at The Dollar Tree this year. I also stocked up on birthday cards and upcoming event cards there. I couldn’t bear the thought of spending $5 per card on something that may just be thrown away. I also stocked up on some cleaning supplies. I usually succumb to convenience, buying everything at the grocery store or the major discount retailers.
It’s my own type of “stretching.”
In the world of equipment, Marringa says, stretching may mean attempting to achieve higher productivity by modifying machines to handle heavier loads. Sometimes larger buckets are put on them. Sometimes counterweight sizes are increased.
There are cases where it has been authorized by the manufacturer, Marringa says, but other times, dealers and owner-operators are doing it themselves to suit their own needs. “The machines are running on the fringe of their intended design,” he says. “The engine and equipment manufacturers work together to design a machine for an intended range or capacity. Those loads are directly related to axles to bear the framework.”
However, Marringa says, by encouraging or endorsing an increased lifespan, the products are being diminished. In a manufacturer-authorized case, “It is a matter of a manufacturer choosing to work on the edge of their design,” he says.
In non-authorized cases, “This is where [operators] run the risk of making modifications,” Marringa says. “Under normal circumstances, the modifications are made and the equipment functions and does the job they want it to do without having it authorized by the manufacturer. I think individuals always push the limits, but given the cost of wheel loaders — you are talking about $175,000 to $400,000 in capital expenditures — they are probably more careful and are now trying to do more with what they have.”
Have you “stretched” your equipment? Was it manufacturer authorized or on your own? If you don’t mind having your response published with your full name and company, let me know. If it’s not manufacturer authorized, but you’d still like to share how you’ve modified and whether it has been successful, I’d be happy to just use your first name and the piece of equipment. (I’ll call or e-mail you back, though, to make sure it’s a legitimate response and that you’re a real person.)
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I look forward to hearing from you.