This Bobcat E42 is fitted with a hydraulic breaker.
You’ve heard the old investment adage: "It takes money to make money." There’s a similar truism with construction equipment: It takes the right tools and attachments to grow a business.
If your company has already invested in a skid steer loader, compact track loader or a compact excavator, then you’re already strategically positioned to expand your operation. A well-paired attachment for one or all of those machines can improve versatility, create more project control, delay the purchase of a dedicated piece of equipment and — more importantly — open up new revenue sources.
Attachments can allow contractors to maximize existing machine assets for more than one purpose in a wide variety of applications.
"By simply adding new and different attachments, contractors can increase their duties, time and profits on any particular job. They will enhance utilization of capital pieces that they already own, without large additional cash investments," said Mike Fitzgerald, loader product specialist of Bobcat Company.
Specialists to Generalists
During the boom years when work was more plentiful, it was common practice for some contractors to specialize within specific construction markets. Today, many of those same businesses are finding success shifting away from specialization and capturing more work by repurposing their equipment for related projects within an application. With some well-chosen attachments, they’re able to expand their capabilities to compete for work ranging from utilities, excavation, demolition and paving, to concrete work, building and site preparation and even seasonal snow removal.
For instance, an additional attachment or two could allow a contractor to complete a key task that was previously subcontracted. According to Justin Odegaard, loader product specialist of Bobcat Company, an attachment can provide compact equipment owners the ability to do work that may be scheduled one or two weeks ahead or after a contractor’s standard part of the project.
"If you select the right attachments, you’re using your equipment longer to complete more work on a project before hauling it to the next job site," Odegaard said.
He also pointed out that as a contractor expands its capabilities, he can gain more control on a specific job.
"If a concrete contractor only does finish concrete work, he may be at the mercy of others who do all the prep work. If the prep contractor is behind and can’t get to your job, there is no way you will finish up on time," he added.
Getting the Edge in Competitive Markets
While augers and hydraulic breakers are two of the most highly demanded attachments for construction contractors, some manufacturers offer more than 70 attachments for compact equipment that can create distinct advantages in today’s competitive market.
An excavation contractor who only digs the basement or footings of a residential construction project may be missing some profitable expansion opportunities, said Fitzgerald.
"Contractors can easily perform soil preparation from rough through final grades with attachments such as a box blade or soil conditioner. They can continue working into the seeding or sodding phases with seeder and sod layer attachments."
A utility contracting firm with a skid steer or compact track loader likely already owns a trencher attachment and may complement its fleet with a planer, hydraulic breaker or wheel saw to assist with installations through concrete or asphalt.
An asphalt paving contractor that focuses on the installation of streets, highways, bridge approaches and parking lots can complement its planer and wheel saw attachments with cleanup tools. An angle broom is a handy attachment that can windrow millings in one direction so the material can either be picked up with a bucket or removed by a sweeper attachment.
When considering whether to take on new work, attachments can provide more versatility and profitability for the dollar compared to some other equipment acquisitions. With some manufacturers’ attachments, compatibility extends across loader and excavator lines for greater efficiencies and economies of scale. Some also have been designed to vertically integrate with the machine’s electronics and hydraulics. While each type of loader or excavator has its own set of performance benefits in certain conditions, some of today’s attachments are interchangeable to provide flexibility and convenience for an equipment fleet that needs to be responsive to multiple job sites.
"If a company’s excavator with an auger attachment is located on one job site, but the auger attachment is needed somewhere else, you don’t have to move the excavator just to be able to use an auger at a different job site. Your skid steer loader or compact track loader can do the job," Odegaard said.
It’s also easier to take a business into different directions when attachment changes in the field or shop are fast and simple. For example, instead of just using an excavator to dig trenches, demolition contractors find that they can use the machine’s reach to break up concrete in tight places that only an excavator’s arm can access. By attaching a hydraulic breaker to a compact excavator, it’s transformed from a digging machine into a concrete demolition machine.
To switch between the hydraulic breaker and a trenching bucket on an excavator, or replace a bucket with a pallet fork, landscape rake, auger, grapple and more on a skid steer, most machines offer quick-tach systems and accessories for their machines that allow operators to make exchanges without leaving the cab.
With the ability to tailor your capital investments to secure a greater share of construction work, attachments can empower even the most conservative entrepreneurs to explore new revenue sources. That makes good financial sense in any competitive market.