How to Develop a Smarter Equipment Strategy

Are you looking at all the options when it comes to equipment for your company? Renting might be an option for those jobs you don’t get all the time.

How to Develop a Smarter Equipment Strategy

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Having the right equipment for a project is a game-changer for plumbing and mechanical contractors. But it can seem like a waste of resources to invest in tools that might be used infrequently. Plumbing professionals could see increased labor costs and missed deadlines if they do not have the right tools to get the job done correctly.

Is investing in new equipment for the crew always the best solution? It’s an age-old question, rent versus buy, and the answer is in the numbers.

Evaluating the total cost of ownership provides a helpful checkpoint at almost every stage of the project — from bidding to close. Although tools tend to be smaller line items on the overall budget, it’s easy to lose sight of their cost and end up overspending.

Most companies purchase equipment, so they have the inventory for the peak project period. Since downtime can often be attributed to not having access to the right tool, that makes sense. That also means that those tools sit underutilized during the off-peak times or any project delays. Those unused assets equate to real dollars and time lost, and especially now, companies may not have much flexibility for either one.

Typically, contractors do not revisit pre-job estimates after a project closes. However, identifying those gaps in estimates early on could allow reallocation of dollars elsewhere and minimize dilution of anticipated returns.

There are so many variables that go into a contractor’s decision to buy or rent. However, teams are increasingly looking to create smarter equipment strategies that include rental solutions to get the right equipment in the right hands within the right timeframe. These strategies can also help contractors reduce large capital expenditures.


Equipment availability and reliability are essential in daily operations and contractors rely on rental providers to have the right equipment at the right time. Look for mechanical equipment rental inventory that includes various tools to knock the job out quickly and safely.

These inventories should include hand tools, hoisting, surface prep, threading, torqueing and welding equipment. Look for solutions that group tool packages for crews instead of work sites. This equipment should include cordless technology, which can help remove trip and fire hazards from the work environment.

Renting equipment can help level out inefficiencies during a project’s life cycle. Typically, different stages of a project require different sets of tools, but by working closely with on-site teams, a rental provider can supply the right equipment based on the project’s craft curve. These equipment solutions can also help eliminate the need to carry capital expenditure should a project get delayed and no work occurs.


As mechanical contractors manage through the COVID-19 crisis, they must have more options when renting needed equipment safely and efficiently. Besides having equipment delivered to a work site or available to an equipment rental provider branch, providers should offer a “contactless” drive-up experience to pick up or drop off equipment that helps serve contractors faster and keeps them safe. 

Contractors should also have many options to order equipment to get what they need without going inside a branch. These include the ability to browse and reserve equipment online, on the phone or with mobile apps from smartphones.

Contractors need to check to ensure their equipment rental provider is taking the necessary steps to safeguard its equipment is sanitary and ready for use. Measures may include prerental safety and mechanical checks on equipment and additional cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

If the rental provider is dropping equipment off at a work site, be sure their drivers perform a “last touch” precautionary disinfecting of the equipment. They should use a government-approved disinfectant and spray or wipe the surfaces touched by the driver when delivering the equipment.


Having the right equipment at the right time is the name of the game when it comes to productivity.

Plumbing and mechanical contractors that rent top-quality, well-maintained tools find they boost productivity and streamline operations through on-site availability, decreased downtime due to tool failure, and lower loss rates. Renting also gives companies the flexibility to free up capital and invest in other areas of the business. It’s a smart strategy that reduces overall tool cost and lets contractors add dollars to the bottom line.  

Steven Anderson is sales manager – tools at United Rentals, based in Augusta, Georgia. Luke Fontenot is sales manager – tools at United Rentals, based in Austin, Texas.


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