Photo by Sullair
Today’s portable air compressors are designed to cover a range of applications with a single unit.

Tips for an Efficient and Profitable Air Compressor Fleet

June 1, 2020

By Rus Warner

The North American rental industry has seen consistent growth over the years and predictions have reflected continued optimism. For 2020, ARA forecasted 2.3 percent growth in construction equipment rental; but that was prior to the recent and unexpected pandemic that has fundamentally changed almost every aspect of how business is done.

Admittedly, we are still in the early stages and do not yet have a clear picture of what the “new normal” looks like, but some basic assumptions can be made. Cash flow, utilization and asset management will be more critical than ever. During this time of uncertainty, rental companies will need to find ways to improve how their fleet is managed, streamline operations and ensure that customers are set up for success. Following are a few ways to ensure your air compressor fleet is optimized, and your operation can keep humming.

Invest in More Flexible Equipment

Cost of ownership remains a key factor for rental companies, regardless of the state of the economy. Ongoing improvements in product design have extended the range of applications a single product can serve. Just a few years ago, rental companies would have had to invest in three separate but similar portable air compressors to cover three different applications. The pressure and flow performance of a unit limited, and targeted, a specific application. A renter using pneumatic tools would need 100 psi; another air compressor that produced 150 psi might be needed for abrasive blasting applications; and yet another 200-psi compressor was required if the application was pipeline pressure testing or fiber optic line installation.

Today’s portable air compressors are designed to cover a range of applications with a single unit. This flexibility helps drive improved ROI for rental companies through increased utilization rates and a more consolidated fleet.

Manufacturers like Sullair have developed more flexible machines that produce a range of flow and pressure. For instance, the Sullair 375 Series compressors can shift from low pressure around 100 psi to high pressure at 200 psi, by easily flipping a switch. This creates additional opportunities for utilization, as the same machine can be rented for both low-pressure applications such as demolition or sprinkler blowout and high-pressure applications such as abrasive blasting.

The same machine can be used in different applications and even in different seasons. This helps cover a broader range of applications and drives ROI and fleet utilization.

Opt for Compressors with Enhanced Serviceability and Accessibility

Uptime and utilization are important metrics for the industry. It makes sense that rental companies are looking to improve the efficiency of their fleet maintenance and repair operations. A major factor to consider when making purchasing decisions should be ease of serviceability. We know time is money in the rental industry, so air compressor manufacturers are doing more to increase component accessibility and decrease downtime.

Serviceability is also a primary driver in how manufacturers design equipment. Some portable air compressors now include access (doors) on all four sides of the compressor. This allows a technician ample space to work on the machine and quickly and easily access every component.

On large compressors, such as the 1600 cfm, Sullair has eliminated the traditional center post between the large side doors and has moved to a nesting, push-to-close door design. This is a necessary upgrade from both a service and operator standpoint. For service technicians, they now have significantly greater access to the engine compartment. For machine operators, it promotes safety to prevent unexpected or unintentional door closure or pinches.

Ensuring the safety of the operator and longevity of the machine also play a key role in compressor design. For instance, on Sullair compressors, the fuel and DEF tanks are placed on the curbside, so machine operators and technicians don’t have to step into traffic when the machine is on roadside applications. The compressors also include a battery disconnect to help ensure that battery drain does not occur when the machine is in between jobs or not in use. Some compressors like the Sullair 185 cfm include a padlockable steel door over the control panel that protects the machine from vandalism and keeps random passersby from turning on the compressor and needlessly burning fuel.

Easy Interface Means More Satisfied Renters

With a new renter or machine operator potentially every day, an easy-to-use control panel is essential on portable air compressors. It’s a bit like the Goldilocks principle. The control panel needs to be informative but intuitive; and user friendly but not overwhelming.

Sullair has worked to obtain “just right” by providing just enough information to set the operator up for success and provide enough machine parameters but not burden the rental company with a need to provide unnecessary training.

Adopt Telematic Solutions to Make Informed Decisions

It is becoming more common for manufacturers to offer telematic solutions, or the use of diagnostic, monitoring and GPS technologies to log and transmit real-time operating data and parameters. Rental companies are viewing telematics as a fleet management tool to better track and leverage their assets and, simply, to better run their businesses.

Telematics provide rental companies with remote access to their equipment. Regardless of your location, you can be alerted if one of your air compressors has low diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) or fuel. You can also be informed of run time or fault codes. Maintenance reports/faults are transmitted electronically, meaning your air compressors will be better monitored and maintained.

With the air compressor’s operating data already available on your computer or smartphone, fleet owners can make more informed decisions and better plan their service technicians’ days. The days of clipboards, manual machine inspections and manually planning technician’s days are long gone, too.

Now, technicians can remotely troubleshoot the machines and have their days planned in advance. Technicians can now arrive to the jobsite already knowing what needs fuel, parts or service. This helps reduce downtime for both the renter and rental company and increases the efficiency and productivity of your service team.

The rental industry has always been resourceful and resilient. There is no doubt that we will weather this current storm and come out on the other side stronger and more efficient. When projects resume and we see growth from pent-up demand, I hope these tips will ensure the air compressors in your fleet not only satisfy your customers, but also help your rental company remain efficient and profitable.

Rus Warner is vice president, Americas - Rental & Infrastructure at Sullair. Since 1965, Sullair has remained a leading manufacturer of portable compressed air solutions for rental companies and on jobsites all over the world.

Latest from Compressors/Air Tools