by Doug Amerman
October 3, 2011

Use these tips to find the right attachments 
and finish your jobs on time and on budget.

In this economy, you must carefully weigh every equipment purchase. Choosing the right attachment for a machine may seem easy, but anxious buyers often make avoidable mistakes.

“A lot of buyers make the mistake of trying to gain a certain productivity level without proper consideration of machine and attachment compatibility,” says Jamie Adams, product manager for JRB Attachments, a Paladin Construction Group brand. “Most operators are smart and know what their machine can handle, but even the most experienced operators run into trouble when switching between multiple applications and attachments on a regular basis. It’s important to know your application and machine, and then discuss it with a dealer you trust to ensure your safety and achieve the best productivity for your money.”

Common poor attachment choices include buying ones that are too small or too big, too low quality for your application and/or incompatible with your machine and application.

Every ounce of productivity squeezed from your equipment allows you to run your business more profitably. If you purchase attachments based solely on price, you might overlook critical issues that define the attachment’s true value. 

Dealers Often Know Best

Dealers know what will work on your equipment because they talk with customers like you every day and often work directly with multiple manufacturers. Attachments require service like all equipment, and every hour your attachment is not working will add up to wasted time and money. Dealers with strong service capabilities will move your projects along faster.

If you choose the low-cost route, you will often lose more money repairing a low-quality attachment. Before making your purchasing decision, consider using a reputable manufacturer and dealer for the lowest overall operating cost. 

Lighter Is Not Always Better

If you put more weight or stress on a machine than it is designed to handle, it could break. And your operators can also break attachments if they put small attachments on their larger machines.

“One of the problems that we see among operators is under-sizing an attachment for a host machine,” says Jim Koch, Paladin Construction Group’s marketing consultant. “Universal mounts can be deceiving because they portray a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality to operators. They save a little money by going with the smaller attachment. Then, a different operator takes over and tries to run the host machine at its full capability (which the attachment is not designed to handle), and the attachment breaks. In other cases, the machine’s hydraulic system is too powerful and can damage the attachments because it works them too hard.”

Recognize Your Needs

Gather the following information about your job and attachment requirements:

  • Application—Be aware of the material density, and bring a small sample to the dealership if possible. Also, know how you will be using the attachment.

For example, do you need it to work at specific heights or angles?

  • Cycle Time—Find out the required speed to get the task done on time and the estimated amount of travel needed to get around the jobsite with the attachment.
  • General Machine Specs—Get the equipment model numbers, tip load, lift/weight capacities and any other basic information for all machines the attachment will be working with. Also, be aware of each machine’s non-standard features (e.g., changes to hydraulics, tires, engine, etc.).
  • Hydraulic Capabilities—If your attachment requires hydraulics, find out your machine’s hydraulic flow (gpm) and pressure (psi) output capabilities. Also, understand your hydraulic plumbing, the number of outlets and its function capabilities. Not all machines have a 3rd or 4th hydraulic function capability, but many attachments require this.
  • Mounting Ability—Dealers may assume you have a universal coupler, especially for skid steers and compact wheel loaders. If you have a quick coupler, know the brand and model, and bring the coupler’s serial number if it is available. When possible, bring a photo. 

Beware of Manufacturer Shortcomings

Quality and reputation are always important. People know this but often do not dig deep enough or ask the right questions about the brand being purchased. Thinking ahead about what you might need in the future can save a lot of headaches down the road.

Find an attachment manufacturer that has a proven history for quality in your application and provides reputable attachments. A broad product line is also important. You will have a better chance of finding a lifetime attachment provider if the manufacturer makes and specializes in a lot of attachments. 

Find the Perfect Match

Many manufacturers and dealers compile guides that are sorted by brand, model or machine size, and/or attachment, which allow you to easily match the proper machine and attachments. Dealers are still the best source for help because they know other specialty information. For example, they might advise you to buy two or more attachments that will work together (e.g., thumbs and quick couplers) at the same time to avoid compatibility issues.

“Different attachments simply operate better with specific machines,” says Koch. “Snow blowers, trenchers and sweepers generally work better with machines that have hydrostatic transmissions like skid steers because the machine speed and attachment speed run independently of each other.”

When in doubt, using the rental avenue is a good way to decide the best attachment option for your business.

Using the correct attachments is the first step toward completing your job safely, on time and on budget.

Questions to Ask Your Dealer

1. Have you seen the attachment brand succeed or fail in other customer applications? If so, what applications?

2. What repair capability do you have on this attachment, and do you stock all replacement parts? If you do not carry the parts, how quickly can you get them?

3. Does the attachment manufacturer specialize in this application, or is this something they manufacture or buy to simply complete their line? And do they have a proven reputation for quality?

4. What is the attachment’s overall cost of ownership?

 

Construction Business Owner, October 2011