Aftermarket Service when Selecting Aerial Lift Equipment
Whether leasing or purchasing aerial lift equipment, school districts make a significant investment in these machines – and for good reason. Lifts regularly provide safe and efficient access to hard-to-reach spaces to help accomplish a variety of tasks – anything from changing light bulbs and the batteries in smoke alarms, to cleaning windows, painting ceilings, maintaining heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems and providing access to areas above seating and stairwells – all the things that are part of a regular maintenance program.
Dependency on this equipment, especially during scheduled breaks in the school year when maintenance tasks and construction projects are in full swing, makes it important for school officials arranging purchase or lease agreements to know what to look for and ask of their provider as they make equipment selections. Machine features usually top their list of questions. But schools should give equal consideration to aftermarket support services to ensure those features will be available to them and functioning whenever they are needed.
For example, does the equipment provider offer repair services for the equipment they lease and sell? Just as importantly, does the provider have access to responsive, quality service from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), should the complexity of the repairs require the OEM’s expertise? Visitors to an OEM website should be able to find a dealer/service locator that helps identify the available and recommended service providers, where factory-trained technicians and mechanics can inspect, maintain, troubleshoot, repair, and overhaul equipment. OEM websites can also be the source for a variety of kits that help technicians properly maintain machines, increasing productivity and maintaining the life span of the equipment.
Along these same lines, it is good to know if the school or the equipment provider has access to an OEM call center for technical support to troubleshoot a machine. In some cases, equipment providers have access to a private portal that includes all customer transactional information and is designed to help identify the right parts, check availability, review pricing and warranty claims, view repair instructions and order parts 24/7. Knowing the OEM’s response rate to customer inquiries and its fill rate for parts is also worth asking and noting. It is not out of the question to expect that the dealer should be able to have same day support and/or the OEM have next day delivery capabilities. Knowing this can provide piece of mind with respect to machine uptime.
For schools that own equipment and anticipate doing their own machine maintenance and repairs, the availability of parts is important, particularly if using older equipment that is more likely to need repairs and parts replacement. Again, a visit to the OEM website will provide a catalog of available parts, as well as oil, filters, tires, and batteries. It will also indicate whether the company provides competitive parts, which is useful if the school owns equipment from a variety of OEMs. Not only will a competitive parts offering ensure the availability of parts, but it also allows for the bundling of orders and reduces freight and transaction costs.
The availability of parts for equipment that is out of production, as well as rebuilt parts, is another important consideration if machines will be kept for many years. As equipment nears the end of its lifecycle, the use of rebuilt parts becomes a way to lower the cost of ownership.
In addition to parts availability, OEM Equipment service and manuals should be available online. In fact, some manufacturers have taken this a step further, making manuals available as downloads on mobile devices, including laptops, tablets, and phones. In many cases, these online sources are regularly updated, so technicians can trust that the product information is the most current.
In addition, at least one manufacturer offers a tool that combines a free mobile application and a wireless access module to provide technicians with remote access to program, troubleshoot, calibrate, or customize their equipment performance. Because technicians are not limited by connections to equipment by cables attached to handheld devices, they have greater mobility around equipment and can seek shelter in trucks or other protective cover during inclement weather, while continuing to receive and analyze data.
A school that is opting to do their own repairs and maintenance might also inquire as to whether the equipment provider or OEM provides technician training. Often, the equipment provider can provide the appropriate training, including tips for safe operation of the equipment. In other cases, the OEM provides the training, online and onsite, including train the trainer programs, which teach their customers and distributor channel to train end users and qualify equipment operators that use their machines in schools and other facilities.
In addition to training opportunities, school representatives should also consider equipment warranties, information that should be available from the equipment provider and the OEM website. A strong warranty program includes a 12-month standard warranty on parts, a 60-month structural warranty on structural components and a transaxle or drive train warranty. Additionally, some OEMs offer an optional extended warranty program.
Another trend in school districts – the emphasis on sustainability – can also influence the selection of equipment, especially as it relates to battery technology. EV traction-style batteries represent a clean, dry-cell technology that eliminates any spillover or off-gassing that typically contributes to corrosion in the battery compartment. Unlike traditional wet batteries, they can be charged indoors and require no maintenance. What’s more, these environmentally friendly batteries can last as many as 500 cycles, compared to a typical wet battery that may last just 200 cycles and in some cases represent the number one cost of equipment ownership. So, it is worth asking an equipment provider whether they offer these batteries with their equipment or can secure them as replacement batteries.
Lifts can also be ordered that use non-marking tires for indoor applications and vegetable oil based hydraulic fluid. Unlike petroleum-based fluid that can harm the environment, vegetable-oil hydraulic fluid is biodegradable, making it another environmentally friendly option for school districts to consider as they make equipment selections.
In the end, many factors influence the choice of an aerial lift. Things like how the lift will be used, where it will be used, the preferred power supply, how many people will use it, accessibility of the space in which it will be used, and the features and accessories it offers are all important considerations. Just as important is the aftermarket support that is available to the equipment owner, because this is what will help ensure the equipment functions efficiently, effectively and safely when the timeframe for work is limited and throughout the expected lifespan of the equipment.
Travis Myers is Global Director of Customer Support, JLG Industries, Inc.