Plant hire is a tough business; hard on people and even harder on machines. However, when a significant fleet owner reveals that his replacement parts bill came to less than R12 000 over an entire year for his 18-machine Komatsu fleet, one just has to sit up and take notice.
Theodor Kleynhans, owner of Marble Hall, Limpopo-based plant hire company, Rent-A-Dozer, explains that in 2015 it cost him just R11 400 in parts to keep his fleet of 18 Komatsu machines, excavators and dozers in perfect working condition.
To fully understand the background of what is for him a routine performance, one has to take into account that he knows the business from the bottom up, having been personally involved in every single aspect of this operation over the past 22 years.
Coming from a farming background with an agricultural degree, coupled with a lifelong interest in all things mechanical, Kleynhans asked his father if he could restore a dormant Komatsu D50-15 dozer back into working order. He met the challenge, and within four years left farming for plant hire – beginning with this self-same dozer.
He initially worked single-handedly as operator, mechanic and marketer. He lacked the luxury of a low bed trailer, so it was regular practice to tram a machine (very slowly) up to 20 km to and from jobs. Kleynhans made real progress, however, and in that time accumulated a fleet of a dozen used Komatsu dozers, which he personally reconditioned.
The Komatsu D65 EX-15 dozer forms part of the company’s strong 18-unit Komatsu fleet.
Understanding the art of plant hire
Rent-A-Dozer’s first new purchase came in 2004, when it took delivery of a brand-new Komatsu PC200-7 excavator which is still in service today.
It is from experience gained in these early years that created the pillars on which Rent-A-Dozer has built a well-deserved reputation for the quality and reliability of its equipment, and a work ethic that is cost-effective. Kleynhans’ strategy is based on correct choice of equipment to suit an application, a rigid servicing schedule and a deep-rooted respect for equipment.
“First of all, it is essential that a product be used in an application for which it was originally designed. Like aviation, earthmoving equipment is not designed to fail, it is mostly when it is abused or there is a pilot/operator error, that things go wrong,” he argues.
“We have never had a reliability problem with Komatsu equipment. Products are designed to perform and we have a servicing policy which ensures we carry out preventative maintenance every 200 hours and a full lubrication service, including engine, transmission and hydraulics every 1 000 hours.”
The mathematical equation speaks for itself. “If you take into account what a machine can earn working trouble-free between service intervals, the maintenance costs are negligible. Decide for yourself – do you want to run a mechanical breakdown workshop or a plant hire business?” he asks.
Maintenance activities are not restricted to regulated service intervals. Every time a machine comes in from site it receives a thorough inspection, is cleansed and the radiators and electrical harnesses kept free of dust and mud. Another individual touch is that Kleynhans insists on tracking every outgoing machine onto low bed trailers prior to despatch.
“This gives me an opportunity to inspect all the machines’ functions and I can also check if there are any engine noises or vibrations which might give warning of a potential problem.”
It has to be added that he trucked machines to site himself for 20 years, adding yet another dimension to the Rent A Dozer service offering. In fact, it has only been in the past two years that he has allowed operators to manage this task.
Theodor Kleynhans, owner of Rent-A-Dozer and his Komatsu D50-15 purchased in 1974.
Rent-A-Dozer’s Komatsu fleet
- 1 x Komatsu D50-15 (renovated in 1990, first purchased in 1980)
- 2 x Komatsu D51 EX-22 (since 2010, 2012)
- 2 x Komatsu D65 A-8 (since 1996, 1998)
- 2 x Komatsu D65 EX-15 (since 2008, 2010)
- 2 x Komatsu D65 EX-16 (since 2013, 2016)
- 1 x Komatsu PC 200-7 (since 2009)
- 2 x Komatsu PC 200-8 (since 2012, 2015)
- 1 x Komatsu PC 300-7 (2009)
- 1 x Komatsu WA320-5 (since 2012)
Rent-A-Dozer staff (left to right): Marie Kirstein, Marna van Nieuwenhuizen, Hercu Nortje and owner Theodor Kleynhans.
Respect of machinery
Respect for machinery is of paramount importance. Kleynhans insists that every new operator spends a minimum of six weeks working as a service cleaner in order to get to know the machinery, to appreciate the challenges it faces on site and the importance of its presentation to the customer.
“It’s not enough just to go through the motions; we have to learn to cherish our machinery,” he says.
Once the newcomer has completed his induction, he then works under the supervision of an experienced colleague who ensures that he does nothing to harm either the internal workings or external appearance. In Kleynhans’ eyes, both factors are equally important.
Respect for machinery also extends to respect for its manufacturer. “If you stand a Komatsu next to a competitors’ product, you can pick up detail differences. These include slightly thicker gauges of materials; doors and housings fit seamlessly to the main body of the machine and the attention to detail in the cab is outstanding.”
His obvious enthusiasm for the brand could also be due to the fact that a PC200-7 excavator he bought in 2008, was recently sold for its original purchase value despite delivering nearly 8 000 hours of fault-free service.
Equipment Africa says: It’s a rare sight in the plant hire industry to view an operation that keeps its machinery in immaculate condition, but that’s the way it is at Rent-A-Dozer. It’s also worth noting that pride of place in the machine park is given to the faithful old D50 dozer that began it all more than two decades ago.