A KEANE EYE: Everything has a price

One of the things that has changed over the years is the attitude to durability. There once was a time (put your hands over your ears, children, this fable will shock you) when you had a limited range of clothing and shoes that had to last at least a year of regular use; when electrical goods were durable and repairable; when cars were simple to repair and rust was the biggest threat to durability; and it was common to repair rather than replace things. Technology has changed much more rapidly in recent times, and has brought many good things with it. Electronics have made engines more efficient by optimising them over a broader range of conditions than the engines of the past. Electronics have been used for safety improvements, and – yes – are being used to assist in diagnosing problems in the increasingly more sophisticated machines.Changing emission regulations have driven changes in engine technology, but it seems that when there is a new engine there is a substantially different machine introduced to house it, and the life cycle of a model of machine has got much shorter. The costs of developing new generations of equipment are not small, and the size of production run over which those costs can be spread is decreasing. That has certainly created a market for second-tier brands that may not have the tradition and instant recognition of the major brands, but which offer sharper pricing at the expense of a few “whiz-bangs”. It has also seen the advent of something that belongs more in the consumer society – the “throwaway” machine. In something that should be a durable good and is usually financed over a couple of years, this is not appropriate. There is an appeal in having something available on the market that costs less, is simpler to maintain, and can – in theory at least – allow smaller operators to own younger equipment and generate an economic return on the lower utilisation rates that many smaller and regional owners have.This is where it gets different to the consumer market. If you can go down to the local store and pick up a Chinese-made electric drill for $50, it doesn’t hurt too much if you throw it out after a year and get another one. It might hurt the local landfill if everyone does that, and I’m personally happy with my 20-year-old Makita that cost a bit more when I bought it but hasn’t given a moment’s trouble, but that’s just me.When it comes to a piece of earthmoving equipment, throwing it away after a year is not an option. No matter how cheap it is, it still owes you something, and if it has been parked up for a significant part of that year, then it certainly still owes you big-time. There are plenty of stories out there to suggest that a lot of equipment offered in the lower price range struggles to be fit for purpose.It really does not matter if imported engines or other major components are used if the weld quality is poor, or the assembly is substandard. An effective piece of equipment is a lot more than a chassis with a few brand name components plugged into it. Poor weld quality in the wrong area can be downright dangerous. Now some cranes have entered this country that are knock-offs of a well-known brand, down to stickers and plates. It appears that in some instances these may have been bought sight-unseen over the internet.Apart from casting a shadow over the integrity of the country from which the knock-offs came, it highlights the dangers of purchasing sight-unseen and points to a lesson that we should have learnt from our current financial malaise – that which seems too good to be true usually is. Buyer beware!!!

Send this to a friend