As with any product, the first thing that needs to be considered is the potential customer base. What percentage is homeowner or residential? What percentage is the professional contractor? Both segments have different needs they might not always acknowledge or understand. It’s critically important for the rental dealer to completely understand the needs of his customer segments. For both segments, experience, cost, manpower and transportation are common issues.
Experience - Less experience historically means the homeowner will choose a smaller, hand-held type machine. Contractors typically have much more experience operating powered tools and will select a solution based upon past successes and failures.
Cost - Everyone is looking to minimize project costs. Homeowners typically select the least costly alternative. Then if it doesn’t meet their expectations, they come back for the higher cost solution. Contractors typically select the solution that provides the highest ROI because time equates to money.
Manpower - Homeowners will typically chose the solution that requires the least number of people. The same can be said for contractors.
Transportation - If the homeowner can’t transport the solution back to his home, he can’t rent it. This factor is becoming a significant solution consideration and is already having a direct effect on our product design. Keep in mind that the vast majority of today’s automobiles have small trunks and are no longer equipped with a trailer hitch. Not everyone drives a SUV or pickup truck! With contractors, transportation is usually not an issue.
After first determining customer demands, the other driving force for product selection becomes features and benefits followed by support-related activities. What machines have the features and benefits that my customers want and ask for? Do they have preferences? What machines deliver the service life and ROI that I need as a rental dealer? What manufacturer best delivers the field support that I need? These are the questions that the rental dealer needs to ask rather than continue to just purchase the same machine over and over again entirely out of habit.
Economy vs. premium
There are very few manufacturers of hole digging equipment. The reasons are also few. It’s a specialized product with higher than normal product liability exposure. Demand is less than with many other products you see loaded in the back of a contractor’s truck. Machines are also typically well designed and constructed. Service life is long even with high utilization rates. Products being sold by today’s manufacturers have survived the evolution of the equipment rental industry. They all dig holes and provide their owners with ROI values that are very acceptable. There’s good competition. Over the years, several manufacturers have withdrawn from this specialty market simply because they could not meet the higher expectations and demands of rental.
What will distinguish and separate both machines and manufacturers going into the future will be how their products evolve… or do not evolve. Specifically, the challenge back to the manufacturer will be to combine advancements in technology and ergonomics into its product designs. That will include developing advances in one-man, hand-held machines that make the process easier and more productive to making changes in hydraulic components that enhance the capabilities of the hydraulic attachments. How products are transported back home or to a construction site from the rental dealer will be a driving force into future product design. We know cars will continue to get smaller. People in many parts of this world no longer want to work as hard as they once did. How does that social attitude affect performance and productivity? In other parts of the word, the challenge will be to make the people more productive by introducing mechanization rather than doing everything with manual labor. Their lack of education and experience then becomes very important. How does a manufacturer balance all those design requirements? The competitive nature of a global marketplace demands constant product improvement. The manufacturer that is willing to invest in new concepts and go beyond the preverbal comfort box will eventually shape and drive the market.