The 3Rs for R&R during Hurricane Season: Repair, Replace, and Rent
The 2019 U.S. hurricane season has arrived, as Hurricane Barry recently confirmed by making landfall in Louisiana. With hurricanes come wind, rain, tornadoes, flooding, damage, destruction, blackouts—and a critical demand for R&R service firms to clean up the mess and get companies back in business fast.
The hurricane season runs from mid-May to the end of November, but devastating storms like Katrina and Andrew can occur any time during those months. For 2019, forecasters predict 13 storms, including five hurricanes and two major hurricanes. No one can control when and where a hurricane will hit, but you can prepare before the storm. R&R firms must have the right equipment on hand and be ready to deploy it at a moment’s notice. Before the hurricane season ever begins, you should stock up on parts for routine repairs, replace out-of-service units, and work with a rental service provider to create an emergency plan. These steps will ensure your firm will be able to handle the demand when customers need you desperately.
The 3Rs: Repair, Replace, and Rent
Every day of business interruption slashes your customers’ revenue. In an industrial facility, downtime can cost $1 million a day or more. In commercial real estate, retail tenants lose thousands of dollars a day. No one wants to be down for one minute longer than absolutely necessary. Businesses rely on firms like yours to have every piece of equipment needed to reduce downtime and lost income. If you do experience breakdowns or excessive demand for equipment, you need to decide which option will achieve your goals most efficiently and cost effectively: repair, replace, or rent.
When to repair—and how to know when it’s time to replace
Your R&R firm may find itself so busy helping customers that you spend little time or money on equipment maintenance until a unit fails. Then various factors influence whether you should repair or replace it. The age and condition of equipment are most important. You should make every effort to maintain more costly equipment, like generators, to extend usable life and efficient operation. Repairing expensive machinery usually saves you time and money over investing in a new unit. But if the unit has an extensive repair history, it’s time to consider investing in a new unit.
You also need to ask yourself what a repair requires and whether you have the necessary parts. If it’s a major component or you can’t perform the repair quickly, you may want to replace it with a new unit that will perform for years to come. Make sure you have the capacity to keep up with peak demands as well. If not, a repair may get you by for the short term, but in the long term you may want a replacement that can handle a larger load or provide new capabilities.
When there’s no time to repair or replace equipment, many R&R firms supplement by renting, because R&R jobs are so time-sensitive. Once the worst is over, you can reconsider the best option.
When to rent—and how to plan ahead
No matter how much equipment your R&R firm owns, you should always partner with a rental equipment provider who can deliver supplemental equipment during emergencies and work with you to get your customers back online as quickly as possible. The section below on Mandatory Equipment for Hurricanes lists the equipment you may require and whether to repair, replace, or rent it depending on your circumstances.
Renting equipment can provide more benefits that an outright purchase. For example, you can include rentals in your operating budget, reducing long-term financial risk. You get access to a range of new model equipment, including the latest technology, plus operator training. A quality rental partner will maintain and replace normal wearable parts per manufacturer instructions, respond to service calls 24/7, and promptly replace faulty equipment. If you’re operating in a disaster zone, you can even get rental protection to cover accidental damage and equipment theft. You also avoid the potential pitfalls of ownership, such as finance costs, warranty costs, regular maintenance and repairs, downtime, transportation, insurance, and storage.
For major customers, it’s best to collaborate with your rental provider in advance. Create a rental plan to help you navigate emergency situations, so R&R goes as smoothly as possible. Having a partner who can provide a range of flexible solutions and equipment will lower risk and ensure a solution tailored for your customers’ needs in every situation. At a minimum, consider the following four elements in your plan.
Risk: Identify potential issues of business interruption and their impact, ranked according to cost, likelihood of occurrence, and downtime.
Equipment: Document all the critical equipment needed to keep a facility running and proactively address how units can be replaced or backed up in an emergency.
Temporary equipment location: Identify where you can install temporary equipment and what accessories—hoses, cables, generators—will be required.
Power: Establish where you will plug in temporary equipment or how you will fuel units like generators.
Mandatory Equipment for Hurricanes
As an R&R company, you know that time is critical in a disaster recovery situation. Here’s the equipment every R&R company should have on hand to respond to a hurricane.
Pumps remove water and moisture to minimize damage. If a site has standing water, you may need dewatering pumps to remove fluid from the affected area and allow additional equipment to be brought in. Diesel pumps let you start work before you bring in generators.
An R&R firm should have smaller pumps in inventory but may not have larger pumps. For emergency situations, you should rent larger pumps or subcontract water removal work, because this typically requires an engineered solution.
Generators can power critical processes until utilities are restored. That’s essential for businesses sensitive to environmental conditions, like industrial/manufacturing and R&D.
An R&R firm should normally have several small- to medium-sized generators on hand. You can rent more if you need to supplement on larger projects. If you hope to grow your business by taking on more work, you should consider purchasing generators. But if you simply need additional generators for the busy season, renting may be a better choice—especially if you need larger generators. The cost of the generator, insurance, maintenance and repair, transportation, and storage make renting much more attractive.
Light towers enable round-the-clock recovery efforts when electricity has been knocked out. Your R&R company probably has several light towers on hand. If you need to supplement for larger projects or busy season, you should rent them; but if you’re trying to grow your business by taking on more projects, you should consider purchasing.
Dehumidifiers can reduce humidity to less than 60% within 48 hours and help avoid secondary damage like cracking wood and mold. Heaters and AC units help maintain temperature between 60° and 80°F. Most R&R firms stock numerous dehumidifiers and temperature control units. You may need to rent if demand becomes especially high and consider buying if that occurs regularly or you want to expand your business.
Air scrubbers and negative air machines use 2-, 3-, and 4-stage filtration to remove airborne contaminants in places impacted by water damage. Most R&R firms own an ample number, but you can always rent if you need more for a job.
Air movers work with dehumidifiers to lift moisture from materials and aid in drying. Your R&R company probably has many on hand but can rent for larger projects or to manage additional projects if you’re in growth mode.
Sweepers and scrubbers help with water removal, small debris pickup, and floor cleaning, both interior and exterior. Most R&R companies keep only one or two units on hand. If you need more, you should rent, especially if you handle R&R exclusively. If you also offer cleaning services, however, you should determine if the number of projects or square footage you clean yearly warrant purchasing additional units.
Aerial work platforms (AWPs) for both interior and exterior work let you inspect, clean, and repair elevated areas on a property. Your firm should always rent AWPs due to the equipment cost.
Scaffolding for both interior and exterior work also lets you access elevated areas. Most R&R firms have a range of scaffolding options on hand but can rent for larger projects. If you lack the expertise to install scaffolding safely and securely, you should subcontract the work or ask a rental company to provide, erect, and dismantle scaffolding.
Forklifts and material handling machinery help you stage and offload equipment on site, and also help remove heavy debris. You probably have material handling equipment in your inventory. If you need to supplement for larger projects or busy season, you should rent; but if you’re trying to grow your business by taking on more projects, you should consider purchasing.
Skid-steers, grapple buckets, forklifts, chippers, and chain saws give you the power to move heavy hurricane debris away from a customer’s business. Again, your R&R firm probably owns all this equipment but can rent for larger projects or to manage additional projects. If you’re in growth mode, consider purchasing the equipment you use most often.
Pressure washers wash away storm damage on either interior or exterior surfaces using hot or cold water. Most R&R companies own an ample supply but, if you need more, you can rent to supplement for a particular project or buy if you expect to grow your business.
The Competitive Edge
In an emergency, demand peaks and some businesses don’t get the equipment they need. R&R firms should partner with a rental company that can help develop and implement strategies to quickly respond to customers’ needs and ensure you meet or exceed their expectations. You’ll be able to send equipment to a hurricane site quickly and efficiently, and keep critical functions operating with minimal disruption.
Whether you repair, replace, or rent, time is the most critical factor when getting a business back up and running, keeping costs in check, and ensuring customers are satisfied. No matter which solution you choose, being prepared for hurricanes and other disasters will give you a time advantage and a competitive edge.
For more information on preparing for a hurricane and developing an emergency rental plan, please contact your Sunbelt Rentals representative. We’re here to help.