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Interview with Tony Crandall: Better, Cleaner Power

July 9, 2020
Tony Crandall, sales manager for Buckeye Power Sales in Ohio, talks about Telematics benefits to equipment owners and rental users; enhanced equipment security; improvements in paralleling; the cost savings of energy storage; the effects of COVID; more.

Tony Crandall, sales manager for Buckeye Power Sales in Ohio, talks about  telematics benefits to equipment owners and rental users; enhanced equipment security; improvements in paralleling; the cost savings of energy storage; the effects of COVID; and more.

RER: How, in your view, has generator technology improved in recent years? What have been some key advancements and how have they helped the rental company and the end user?

Crandall: Generator technology isn’t any different than other modern equipment being produced; it is always advancing. The technology has made the equipment more precise with better cleaner power, and overall reliability is at an all-time high. Additionally, there is better safety equipment on board to protect the operators, the load source and the equipment itself.  

What are some of the technical advancements to come that you think will be significant? 

The use of telematics has become a significant technological tool to aid both equipment owners and rental users. Specifically, being able to put GPS fencing around machines from remote locations has increased the equipment security component tremendously. Additionally, having the ability to tell operation information such as run-time, load and fuel leveling have become a huge benefit for both owners and renters. By knowing this information, we are better able to plan for work such as servicing scheduling and sometimes even be able to see potential issues before they occur.

What are some of your key products you are excited about?  

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a product specifically, but for us having an expanded opportunity to work on paralleling type of projects is something we are focusing on readily. Technology has progressed as such making paralleling simpler to accomplish as we no longer need to work with “matched pair” type machines as we did in the old days. We are now able to accomplish paralleling with numerous machines of different brands and different sizes with the advancements that have come in recent years.  

Battery storage has become of much greater interest in recent years? Why is that, what are the benefits of energy storage technology?

Energy storage has created a scenario that allows for decreased emissions, operation and fuel costs and has created a scenario for both the customer and the rental owner to achieve decreased cost thus increasing revenue and profit simultaneously. It is a win for everyone and the environment as well.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an “above normal” 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. What should rental companies be doing to prepare for hurricane season in areas that are vulnerable to hurricane activity, and what are manufacturers such as yourselves doing?

Crandall: Hurricane and disaster response is a constantly ongoing operation in our industry. First and foremost, for our team it is all about training and readiness. We work to accomplish extensive training for our personnel regarding some of the things that will happen so we know what to expect and we work to train on how we will mobilize our equipment once a storm is identified and/or touches down. A literal whirlwind of activity is required to successfully support storm response. Second, we work on a constant basis to ensure both fleet mix and readiness is at a premium with the proper sizes and types of machines and ancillary equipment at the ready to deploy on a moment’s notice. Finally, we ensure our external support teams and vendors are established and at the ready to be able to support our needs at a moment’s notice. 

What advice do you have for general rental companies that want to expand both their fleet and their involvement in power gen rentals? What are the key areas of knowledge they need to emphasize?

Electrical equipment can be very dangerous if not used and operated properly by trained personnel. There is a great deal of electrical knowledge required for proper sizing, installation and operation of the equipment. There is also a great deal of ancillary electrical equipment and operations planning that is required in this industry. In many instances the installation itself may require licensed electrical contractors to be involved. Rental power is a solutions-based, complete-package driven field versus other areas that may be strictly commodity driven.

Obviously COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on all of our lives. What are the primary effects on the power-generation market? Obviously, events have come to a standstill, but how about the construction market, the rental market, the industrial market, the residential generator market? 

Wow, what a crazy environment we have been in over the past 75-90 days or so! The shutdown from COVID-19 has created a vast array of unknowns. Within the construction market initially there was a huge shutdown as many existing projects were halted and new ones on the calendar were postponed. Other were completely cancelled all together. Then with each step towards opening up things have come back around readily especially on the rental side. With the unknown of what is to come the equipment sales side has been much slower to get back in the flow but is now starting to pick up once again.

It was similar on the industrial side with smaller shorter-term projects being either delayed or cancelled; however, the large-scale projects seemed to continue without interruption. As you noted, the event market has seemingly dried up. At one point the reports I was hearing were as much as 90 percent of revenue were lost.

Fortunately, there have been some opportunities created by specifically supporting COVID-related functions with mobile testing facilities and event-style support being needed. It appears the residential market has done quite well with both activity during the lockdown and now coming out of it, things appear to be on the rise at a rapid pace. In talking with a local friend whose family owns and operates a general tool rental, their business has been booming with so many people being stuck at home and thus working on home projects that require equipment they do not have.    

Anything special your company has done to contribute to anti-COVID efforts?

Like most companies we have worked to meet all guidelines put in place with working remotely from home, social distancing, increased hand sanitizing, wearing masks, staying six feet from others and an increased focus on sanitizing equipment in an effort to prevent spread of the virus. We have also installed the plexiglass style dividers and many locations where frequent employee/customer activity occurs. Our road technicians and sales force are being proactive with advanced communications with customers regarding the requirements for being at their facilities and working to ensure we are following their guidelines. We have sent our numerous announcements to our customer base letting them know we are open for business and able to meet their needs and that we are putting forth efforts to meet all safety guidelines and policies to aid in keeping people healthy.  

The oil and gas markets have been hit hard. Do you have any expectations for this market area going forward as far as power generation needs?

It would appear the oil-and-gas markets will be much slower to recover from the lockdown than many others. I don’t have a great deal of information regarding the production side, however on the usage side a return to normal will take some time based on the other avenues that have been hit, such as airlines, transportation, the event industry. With summer being here the oil-and-gas markets have also been hurt with so many vacations being cancelled or altered as such that travel in some fashion is either eliminated or shortened greatly.  

What kind of impact has the developments in telematics had on the power generation industry?

As noted prior, telematics have become a bit of a game changer for equipment security, operation and maintenance. All of which decrease costs and increase reliability which ultimately leads to increased profit for both the equipment owner and the rental user.

Tony Crandall is sales manager, power & construction equipment, Buckeye Power Sales, Blacklick, Ohio.