Welcome to the first post in our Due Diligence series, intended to help you make sure your capital expenditures end up being investments, not expenses.
Let’s face it: Capital expenditures are probably the second most significant line item in your budget, whether you’re a municipality or a contractor. The specialized equipment you use to perform pipeline inspections can represent a good portion of that amount, so doing your due diligence before making such a large purchase can be the determining factor in whether that purchase ends up being a foolish cost or an intelligent investment.
What Do You Really Need?
The first equipment consideration is to be sure that you understand what it is you’re buying. Be very clear in your mind about what you expect that equipment to do for you. Your expectations must be realistic, of course; no system is perfect or flawless, and never breaks down. All underground and some above-ground environments in which this equipment is used are extremely harsh, and no matter what you buy, it will eventually succumb to wear and tear.
The difference is in how long it takes to reach that point, and how repairs are handled when it does. We’ll explore those points later in this series, but at the buying stage, you need to ask yourself some important questions:
What special equipment considerations should you make for where you operate?
What are the most important features of the equipment you need?
For example, if you’re located in the Northeast, you must deal with freeze/thaw cycles, and so does your equipment. In the west, seismic conditions can be a test of both man and mechanical items. Extreme heat and dry conditions can be trying in the Southwest, while the muggy, tropical atmosphere of the Southeast can wreak havoc with mostly metal tools.
How Will You Use It?
- What are the applications in which you’ll be using the equipment?
- In pipe inspection or cleaning, what diameters and materials are your pipes going to be?
- Will there be roots and debris?
- How far from access point to access point?
All these equipment considerations will dictate rubber or friction tires or tracks, the type of lighting you require, and whether or not you can use a camera with an elevator.
If you’re in the market for locators, what type of buried utilities are you trying to find, and how deep do they tend to be buried? How far can the locator signal penetrate, and will it be aided or impeded by the type of soil and ground conditions you will likely be encountering?
While you’re responsible for the purchase decision, you may not be the one who’ll be using the new equipment. If that’s the case, it might be a good idea to consult the person or people who will be using it most often. They’ve likely developed some preferences for the type of machines they want to use, and can justify why. This can be invaluable in making sure you invest in a piece of equipment your crews happily use to help get the job done, rather than a non-starter everyone will avoid.
Share Your Equipment Purchasing Tips
We’re sure you have your own tips for making sure your next equipment buy is successful. We encourage you to share those tips in the comment section here, and on our Facebook page. After all, knowledge is power, and a rising tide lifts all boats. Happy sailing!