Do you question whether the equipment in your construction fleet is profitable or if you should be renting equipment as needed instead? Do you have a piece of equipment that often sits idle for months and don’t know whether to sell it or hold onto it – just in case?
You aren’t alone. Many contractors ask the same questions. To find the answer for your construction company, you need to know the three factors that determine profitability of construction equipment.
1. Equipment Costs
Two categories make up your equipment costs – cost to own and cost to operate. Cost to own is composed of fixed costs – whether you operate the equipment or it sits idle in your warehouse. These expenses are insurance and depreciation.
Cost to operate are variable costs associated with actual operation, such as maintenance, repairs and fuel.
2. Equipment Revenue
Revenue from your equipment is generated when you charge an internal rental rate to your jobs. To establish this rate, you need to know the costs to own and operate the equipment (as mentioned above) and the going rate within current market conditions.
Setting an internal equipment rental rate is similar to bidding a construction job. For example, if your costs indicate that your backhoe rental rate is $200 per day, you don’t want to set a higher internal rental rate just to show a profit on the backhoe.
Conversely, if your equipment costs exceed the going market rate, you’ll need to figure out why and decide if continuing to own the equipment is good for your bottom line.
3. Equipment Utilization
Another factor in determining your equipment profitability is how often you use the equipment. To evaluate this properly, have a clear understanding of both annual usage and lifetime usage for each piece of equipment. For example, say you’ve determined that your backhoe needs to be in use 50 hours annually to break even. In the first year, it is used 120 hours, which makes it profitable. In the second year, it is only used 20 hours. Does that mean it’s not worth holding onto it? Maybe, but you need to look deeper than that.
When you only analyze one year at a time, your conclusion will keep changing. But when you look at the equipment over many years, the law of averages provides a more realistic picture. Historical data is vital to making important decisions regarding the profitability of your fleet.
Tracking Equipment Usage and Gauging Profitability
Now that you know the determining factors, let’s look at three options for tracking equipment usage and gauging profitability.
A spreadsheet is one way to track your equipment usage. Many CFMs are experts in designing complex formulas to compute data and to help them analyze the results. While using a spreadsheet isn’t a bad option, it does require you to manually input data, and there are man-hours associated with keeping the spreadsheet up to date. Often, construction firms do this on a weekly or even monthly basis, which means real-time data are never available.
Another option for tracking your equipment is using your accounting program’s job cost functionality. Every accounting program on the market has a different level of complexity, so the process of setting it up to track and manage your equipment can vary (detailed set-up instructions can be found here). While this option does allow you to collect equipment utilization data in a central location, manual input is still necessary.
The best option is to use equipment management software that is a component of your construction accounting program. With this approach, you have a variety of built-in tools for managing all aspects of your equipment as soon as a piece of equipment is set up within the system. These tools include preventative maintenance alerts and work orders for maintenance and repairs.
An integrated equipment module also automates a number of tasks to greatly reduce the number of man-hours and human-error factor. Tasks such as assigning equipment to jobs and generating recurrent billings can all be automated. Not only does this improve efficiency, but it also give you a more accurate snapshot of your job costs to-date.
Once you begin to track equipment costs in this fashion, you can easily identify which pieces of your fleet are profitable and which ones aren’t. Discover how the ComputerEase Equipment Management module can provide you with the historical data you need to make your construction equipment profitable.