Opinion

Machine-operator shortage calls for efficiency

We’ve now heard several times in recent months about the impact of the operator shortage on construction contractors, quarry operators and rental companies. There’s no getting around it – the uptick in activity has led to a serious shortage in highly-skilled operators. Some companies have found themselves paying higher wages in order to retain long-service staff. In other cases, companies are investing in larger capacity machines in order to increase productivity without bringing in extra manpower.

As we profile in the current issue of Construction Machinery ME, contractors are also turning to rental companies in order to address their shortcomings in the area of operators, bringing in machines and trained drivers to cover the peaks of their projects. Since many rental companies offer equipment-only leases, this means they too have to scramble to find operators in order to service market demand.

Nevertheless, while there may be a shortage of operators, it’s also an opportunity for fleet managers to invest more in operator training and up-skilling their existing staff (whether reluctantly or enthusiastically). Companies struggling to find extra operators may look at training their existing operators to be more efficient, which will go some way towards countering the shortfall.

As far as demand goes for operator training, machinery dealers across the region can offer comprehensive training programmes, whether on-the-job or at their dealership, and operator trainers from the major manufacturers frequently visit the region.

Fleet managers can also look to the advantages of telematics, which are available on most premium machines. Telematic systems function as a continuous eye on performance and can help identify areas where machines are not being used efficiently, whether it’s due to an individual operator, an entire shift or poor set-up on-site.

The reality is that most job-sites have a fair amount of slackness in them, wasted time and effort which, if channelled into productive work, increases overall productivity without bringing in extra machines or operators.

With all the talk about environmentalism, it should be remembered that in the equipment sector the rule of thumb is that the less money you’re spending on your inputs – hours of fuel burned, units of equipment working – the less emissions you’re sending out.

It’s important to remember that improving operator training and better managing work-site processes can in some cases do just as much for productivity as the costly business of buying in extra machinery.

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