When I visited Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for my high school daughter’s team dance competition, I noticed that the fences between the fields were constructed on gravel a foot deep. Why would I have noticed that? And why does it matter to pest management professionals? Disney is smart. It’s easy to see that the gravel makes it faster and easier to maintain the fields. But, more importantly, Disney considered maintenance issues, costs and procedures before building the fields.
Think about the economics of Disney’s decision. By spending more money upfront to put the rock down, the facility saves time and money. Additionally, think of all the problems associated with mowing grass along a fence line — which is probably once or twice a week.
If Disney had done it the fast way, installing the fence on grass, there would be lots of extra work at every mowing. After mowing, an employee would have to go back with a weed eater on both sides of the fence, and there would still be unsightly grass growing in the fence, creating an eyesore and habitat for all sorts of undesirable creatures, creating even more work and cost.
A PEST CONTROL PERSPECTIVE. Pest control professionals should follow Disney’s lead. They need to better understand maintenance issues before buying equipment. Too many times PMPs don’t think about maintenance until it is needed. By then it may take longer, cost more, result in more cancelled appointments, etc.
Following are some questions to ask yourself before purchasing equipment:
- Which parts or components are likely to require maintenance?
- Are those components easily accessible for maintenance?
- Where do I get parts?
- Who does the maintenance?
- How long is it likely to take?
- What is the likely cost?
- What is maintenance frequency?
- Are there any special considerations (e.g., tank must be emptied first)?
PLANNING FOR MAINTENANCE. Considering maintenance issues up front doesn’t have to slow down the process or be expensive. You may decide a piece of equipment is so beneficial that it is worth a few maintenance hassles. But at least you will know this up front and can plan accordingly. For example, you would schedule maintenance well in advance or budget for the expense.
When companies fail to plan for maintenance, a number of problems can occur. Following are some of the most memorable maintenance nightmares we’ve seen:
- Hose reel above gas engine. Had to unroll 300 feet of hose to put gas in engine.
- Filter inside backpack tank. If filter got clogged, had to reach into tank full of chemical to check and clean the filter.
- Equipment installed too tightly together. Service required removing sprayer skid from vehicle, so service took an hour, rather than five minutes.
- Can’t check power sprayer filter or service the sprayer pump when tank has chemical in it without dumping a tank full of chemical.
- Gas engine mounted too low/too close to truck bed. Can’t change oil without dumping oil in truck bed or unbolting sprayer and removing it from vehicle.
- Maintenance parts were not available locally, increasing equipment downtime waiting for parts.
Don’t rush blindly into equipment purchases. Think about and plan for maintenance issues when adding a piece of equipment to your fleet. Ask questions upfront. Designing for maintenance may or may not cost more upfront, but it will pay you back every day.