So how efficient are your machines? Go on take a guess. 60%? 80%? I think you’d be surprised at how little your machines don’t do in a typical season. For the purpose of this article I am only looking at ride-on mowers and tractors, which are both high value items and, in my world, need to be at least 75% efficient. The definition of efficiency in the dictionary is “a level of performance that describes a process that uses the lowest amount of inputs to create the greatest amount of outputs. Efficiency relates to the use of all inputs in producing any given output, including personal time and energy.” This basically means getting the most out of your operators and the machines they operate. So what’s the best way to measure it?
Measuring efficiency – not as easy as it sounds.
Read any manufacturer’s sales blurb and they’ll give some form of productivity output based on working width multiplied by forward speed to give a an idea of how the machine will perform. So 1.8m x 4 km/hr = 7200m²/hour. However in reality it doesn’t as none of our machines continuously operate in a straight line in an obstacle free environment. The figure is more likely to be in the region of 3500 – 4500m²/hr. You could use the hour clock on your machinery, check it’s working first, as this will tell you the time the engine has been operating at its optimum working speed. This method does have its drawbacks as you will need to differentiate between transport and operational work. There are some machines on the market which break this figure down by splitting the daily transport and cutting times which can make interesting analysis. I know of some machines which during the course of a year have completed around 450 hours work of which 60% was time spent travelling to and from site – hardly efficient.
On large open sites such as parks and playing areas the task is considerably easier, especially if you have accurate maps and measurements. However housing sites, verges and open spaces pose their own problems, relying initially on having the correct information available from the client or site agent from which an estimate can be based. And it’s not just grass cutting I’m talking about. Soil conditions, drainage, obstacles both fixed and temporary, all require accurate maps and site information for you to be able to begin any type of efficiency calculation. Do the site visits and don’t rely on Google Street View™, good as it is, it’s no substitute for getting out there and having a look for yourself.
Should I drive, carry or tow my machine to site?
With machinery and labour two of the biggest costs to our industry it is important that we get the most out of both by constantly reviewing how we do the job and asking – “could we do this better and if so how?” Driving machines directly from the depot may well be the best solution in congested areas, but if they spend an hour getting to a site then an hour getting back, is there an alternative route whereby they cut on the way out and again on the way back? Alternatively it may be better to have a transport crew take them out early and collect again late in the day so they spend all their time operating. Just a thought.
Measuring efficiency on a production line is easy as most parameters are fixed and very little changes; it’s not so easy when stone burying a former industrial site or grass cutting housing verges polluted with trees and parked cars. Additionally a machine with worn tyres, scrapes and dents may not be efficient or it may just be badly operated even if according to the operator it “works flat out”.
Angus Lindsay, Group Head of Asset & Fleet Management