Time to assess and upgrade

By Jeff Winke

End of year seems to be the time when things are in a swirl. There is a mix of nostalgia, recollection, and reflection, and the holidays.

It definitely appears to be the time when assessment and planning take place. Contractors find themselves asking… Did we accomplish everything we intended for the past year? What are the plans for the coming year? And are the tools and resources there to succeed?

“When approaching the end of your striping season, your thinking about your equipment will generally consist of two things: (1) repair/maintenance items and (2) new equipment/accessories for next season, if you can find a good deal,” stated Mike Vangstad, global product marketing manager for pavement maintenance and turf products, Graco, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota. “During the off season, you will want to do all necessary equipment repairs so that you are ready for the next season — pump repacks, replace worn hoses, replace filters, etc. This may also be a good time to add any accessories that could increase your productivity for next season, such as laser guidance systems. Finally, it’s a good time to keep your eyes open for end of year deals on stripers for next season to avoid next year’s price increase.”

The time of year may be opportune for buying new equipment.

“As the season winds down, you should consider buying equipment that both will increase your revenue to close out the year, and also with an eye to generate growth for upcoming years,” stated Cam Roberts, founder of Stripe It Academy, British Columbia, Canada. ‘You can look at additional striping machines to reduce time spent on color changes, or even look at machines that will allow you to expand services, such as grinding tools or thermoplastic equipment.”

Roberts continued, “Not all striping jobs are the same. A striping machine that has a larger pump, multiple guns, automated layout capabilities, or a laser can make you a lot more efficient on larger projects, meaning less money spent on labor in the field. Having those smaller machines is great for smaller projects where you don’t need ‘heavy artillery’ to complete the job. Avoid trying to push a small, single-gun machine to do large projects. The undersized equipment will be stressed and make quality work more difficult.”

Reflecting on the past year can get the wheels rolling on various options.

“Firstly, one should look at their past year’s operations and ask themselves were they lacking to make the striping process more efficient and productive?” stated Mark Estrada, senior VP, with Marathon Solutions Group, LLC, Houston, Texas. “Talk to your team, and get their input. It might be an upgrade on the machine itself. For example, going from an introductory unit to a full-auto, or a direct-drive to a hydraulic-system, or even better, a dual-color! Maybe the team is tired of pushing and it’s time to introduce a line-driver, which will dramatically help with production and alleviate fatigue. Additionally, look at the features and make sure it will compliment what you’re trying to achieve with your operations. For instance, if you want to be faster and more efficient with new layouts, think about purchasing a striper with auto-layout and laser capabilities.”

Having access to a mix of striping and pavement marking systems can provide the contractor with the different equipment to service different needs

“If you’re simply doing single-line re-stripe jobs, you can get by with a lower output, walk-behind striper,” Vangstad said. “If you’re doing new parking lots that require layout work, it’s worth your investment to buy a striper with layout features and a laser guide system. If you’re doing large jobs, it’s worth your money to buy a line driver. One more thing, most professional striping contractors will dedicate their line striper to a specific color – for instance, one striper for white paint and one for yellow paint. This will save them time as they will not need to do color changes. . . ever. And for those jobs that require specific colors for stenciling, it is economical to add a stencil sprayer to your lineup.”

Again, this regroup and evaluation time is ideal for standing back and looking at your equipment fleet and needs.
“This is the time to get prepped for the next season so you can start fresh, not slow down in the new season, and maximize your equipment investment,” says Chris Noto, Product Director with Wagner Spray Tech Corp., Plymouth, Minnesota. “It is also a great time to evaluate your current business and see if that is the direction you want to continue to go in the new year. Assess your current job types and how things have changed. If you’re getting larger jobs, you probably need larger and more robust equipment that can handle those loads.”

When choosing to add a new piece of striping or pavement marking equipment, there are considerations.
Roberts outlined several factors that should be a part of any new purchase:

  • Investment — How fast will you be able to generate a return on the money paid? Don’t just consider the revenue on jobs; calculate the profit needed.
  • Maintenance — Will this equipment require you to purchase additional tools or spend additional funds to maintain it properly? Calculate this into your purchasing decision.
  • Warranty — Is your vendor going to be easy to deal with if the machine has problems? Sometimes, rock-bottom pricing is not the answer, if you have issues with the vendor.
  • Used Equipment — If the new purchased equipment is not going to be used a lot, should you consider buying used? The end of the season is a great time to do complete maintenance on used equipment.

Adding a new piece of equipment can be expensive and you don’t want it to be an expensive mistake.

“Make sure the equipment is coming from a reputable company that will back the product with a fair warranty,” Estrada said. “Think about it like buying a new vehicle…shop around and connect with all of your reps to get the best deal. Don’t be an impulse buyer. Do not purchase if there’s any chance that it won’t be utilized or if you’re not comfortable with the manufacturer.”

Estrada continued with advice for employees, “Prep your sales team, strategize and make a game plan for future projects your new equipment will be used on. It’s important to talk to your team: Make sure they are comfortable learning and introducing the new equipment. Nothing is worse than seeing newly purchased machines turn into your shop ornament!”
Jump into the swirl of year-end activity and use the reflective time to assess and plan for an even more productive new year. Cheers to new beginnings.