The term auger can have a number of different meanings within the equipment rental industry. The reference can be made to a wide range of products all designed to dig holes in a variety of soil classifications -- anything from a small, gasoline engine-powered, one-man machine to a hydraulically powered attachment that mounts to skid loaders, mini-excavators and even tractor-loader-backhoes.
The most popular machines within the equipment rental industry from inventory numbers and utilization rates are gasoline engine-powered, hand-held machines. Many years ago, the industry standardized on one- and two-man configurations for this type of product. The next most popular configuration is the hydraulically powered, towable units that have become quite popular in recent years. What contributes to their popularity is the fact that kickback is minimized when the auger strikes a buried obstruction. The design configuration also eliminates the need for an additional operator, especially when digging larger-diameter holes in tougher soil classifications.
Following up as maybe the least popular product (in terms of inventory numbers) are the hydraulically powered earth auger attachments that are used in conjunction with skid loaders, mini-excavators and tractor-loader-backhoes. Mounting an earth auger attachment to a prime mover is usually not the first solution selected because of complexity and cost. What is somewhat ironic is that the most productive method to dig a hole is with an earth auger attachment mounted to a skid loader, especially for larger-diameter holes in tougher digging conditions. Obviously, this method first requires the rental dealer to make the initial purchase of a skid loader or similar type equipment and then recognize the market demand that can justify the additional purchase of the earth auger attachment.
One of the great challenges of manufacturing hole digging equipment is that hole digging is a blend of both art and science. It’s usually not a simple and easy process. And, it can also be a very physically exhausting process. Add in the uncertainty of knowing exactly what is buried in the ground along with terrain concerns and now the process can be even more challenging. Another important factor is the same product can be utilized by both the weekend warrior and experienced professional contractors. Both customer extremes can have different demands and expectations and, for us as a manufacturer, the challenge is to try to provide a machine that satisfies both. One of the effects of this current economy is that more and more inexperienced homeowners are now tackling the jobs they once paid professional contractors to perform. That includes building backyard decks and privacy fences. How does the manufacturer best address experience and training issues, not only to minimize the normal product liability concerns, but also to make the hole digging process a positive experience that will lead the customer to rent again?
It is generally accepted that portable hole digging equipment consistently ranks within the top 10 rental products. We know from our discussions with both independent and national accounts that these products characteristically provide very high ROI rates because of utilization and low operational costs. Typical payback for a one-man, hand-held hole digger can be as low as 30 days with a practical service life of up to four to five years with proper maintenance. We have documented cases where a one-man, hand-held machine generated over $5,000 in revenue per season with only normal replacement wear parts and usual maintenance costs. Granted, utilization rates exceeded normal industry averages, but it does substantiate the popularity and demand for these types of products within the rental industry.