Expert blogs

Rental: 5 tips for reducing costs in COVID times

In Covid-related uncertainty, here’s one thing you can count on: reducing business costs with a control system for your rental genset fleet.

We’re entering a new era. One which will require speed, flexibility, and continuous development for businesses to succeed.

For the rental industry, there’s an added way to cut costs and buffer the effects of an economic and construction market crisis. And that’s using a control system to better manage your rental genset fleet.

Curious? Read on to find out how using a control system could help you reduce overheads, help employees stay safer in Covid times, and keep your clients happy—wherever you are in the world. 

1. Save on fuel costs in these 3 ways

If you have parallel gensets, start with this: set a specific fuel consumption. This is the number of litres of diesel consumed per kilowatt per hour and the ideal or lowest consumption is usually at 80% of engine power. Adjust yours by using the Power Management and Run Hours Equalization functions to distribute the load between gensets so that they’re running optimally with regards to fuel consumption and generator wear.

Secondly, activate your Fuel Theft Alarm. That way, if there’s a sudden and unexpected fuel drop (greater than the limit you set), you’ll receive an alarm notification. You can then react immediately and effectively to a possible fuel leak if the fuel tank is damaged. Not to mention, keep your customers happy by being able to dispatch a mechanic the very moment it goes off. And, if fuel theft does occur, the exact time of the incident can always be traced back and the right conditions ensured, so that theft doesn’t recur in future.

Thirdly, you might be able to use ComAp’s dual-fuel solution for engine conversion. By substituting traditional diesel for gas, Bifuel can reduce your diesel bills by up to 70%. This solution is already widely used in the Middle East where there is no problem securing gas supplies, and can be used in combination with virtually any genset. In Covid times, it may become important for other countries in the world to do the same, in order to maximize both fuel opportunities, in case travel is restricted and prices rise.

2. Reduce travel, on-site maintenance, and possible infections

Commissioning and maintaining gensets during coronavirus travel restrictions poses a challenge. Thankfully, it’s not an insurmountable one. All you need is a remote control and monitoring system for your genset fleet. Whether you have one or fifty devices, a remote communication tool allows you to monitor and control your genset fleet, as well as change Setpoint settings from afar, saving you and your employees the hassle, cost, and risk of travelling to, say, 50 individual units to inspect status or problems.

In addition, controllers come with a Maintenance Scheduler, so you’ll know exactly what needs taking care of when (counting run hours to let you know when maintenance is necessary). And if that’s not enough, InteliConfig software and other PC tools can keep your entire rental fleet under constant supervision. Watchful alarms and notifications about the status of the units (via email, SMS, or directly in WebSupervisor) will be sent to you in real-time, so you can make fast decisions for your business, and keep your customers satisfied by maintaining your genset up-time. WebSupervisor; a cloud monitoring system, offers a range of management options, including application changes, settings changes, reporting, history, and an alarm list.

Having more detail on alarm types, provides a deeper understanding of the problem, and allows you to confidently decide whether to send an engineer on-site. If it is indeed necessary, such as for mechanical issues or faulty sensors, your technician can use the Maintenance Scheduler and Maps functions to make service trips more efficient. 

3. Prevention is protection—for your gensets, and your capital

Who can afford unforeseen costs at the best of times, let alone during Covid? Reduce what you can, by protecting your capital investment. Genset theft is a major problem in many countries, and the very reason ComAp created the Locate function 10 years ago.

Today, we’ve upgraded to a more modern GPS Localisation function (specifically geo-fencing) that allows you to define an allowed area of movement. When the first defined perimeter is exceeded, an alarm is triggered, which notifies your customer by phone that something is wrong. When leaving the second perimeter, the genset control unit is blocked. In addition, it’s possible to secure the controller with threefold encryption, preventing access by unauthorized persons. So that, in the unhappy event that someone does steal your genset, they’ll be unlikely to do much with it in the time it takes you to track and send the coordinates to the authorities.

Although there is no guarantee that customers will treat your gensets perfectly, remote access and the Localisation function will at least provide you with partial control (and peace of mind) over your fleet. And it’s not just theft you can prevent: when it comes to mechanical issues, like engine overload or insufficient cooling, your customers will be notified immediately with the best course of action, enabling them to handle your genset properly. Without a control system, any incorrect handling would only become apparent from the controller’s history, allowing damage to the generator. Damage that could easily have been prevented.

4. Be more flexible; you’ll keep more business

Now more than ever, responding flexibly to application changes and specific customer requirements is absolutely key to success, as is getting the most out of your existing fleet without having to expand it.

Set greater flexibility for any application by using “Communication and Extension modules” in combination with PLC logic capabilities. Basic switching between single genset settings, synchronization with the grid, or an island connection can be done easily by using so-called “Force values”, which saves time when connecting and commissioning gensets. Or, you can set an alternate configuration (e.g. different voltage or frequency).

These power management functions also help with parallel genset applications, allowing you to combine different sizes and brands of gensets so that you can be flexible in providing services, even if the number of generators within your fleet is reduced. Thanks to the CAN Redundancy and Emergency Droop functions, you’ll get greater application reliability for multiple gensets in parallel. It keeps the generators functional even if one or both communication lines are interrupted.

5. Spend less time on fleet management, and longer on analysis

Finally, time is always of the essence: simplify your fleet management admin with WebSupervisor. It can automatically generate all your fuel consumption and generator reports for you, in a variety of formats (yes, spreadsheet included). And you can even connect it to your company’s systems using an API, for full integration with your invoicing, ERP, CRM and other software systems.

More specifically, there’s an easier way to keep on top of contract renewal for your entire rental fleet. The Rental Timer, which has been especially integrated into our control units for the rental market. Instead of searching through your database, emails, or paperwork, it monitors genset run hours for you, and gets in touch via notification when the run hour limit has been reached (e.g. 1000 run hours). You can then swiftly contact your customer with an offer to prolong the run hours and business contract. In some areas of the world where timely payment can prove difficult, you don’t even have to waste time in arguments or sending out various comms to customers; if they don’t pay on time, simply turn off your gensets remotely.

And last but not least, you can use your control system to get an overview of all important History and Trends data about a unit, group of units, or the entire fleet over time, and avoid the hassle and management admin that could come with any future technical problems. In fact, the Alarm Analyzer is a great way to monitor where your main issues lie and where there could be future problems. For example, say you changed your supplier of fuel level sensors because you needed to reduce costs. But over a series of months, the Alarm Analyzer shows you that 60% of your gensets have needed to have their fuel level sensor replaced: it’s easy to conclude that your new supplier was not the right choice, and that cutting short term spending did not in fact save you money in the long run.

More efficient management and reduced costs: a control system is a must

In these times of few guarantees, creating added stability and efficiency is a powerful thing. A genset control system can truly affect the operation of an entire company at all levels, from protecting your generators, through to their maintenance, and even up to final invoicing. You can easily reduce costs and gain a competitive advantage, as well as peace of mind, by providing online monitoring to your partners from their own phone or with 24/7 supervision of the entire network. Most importantly, you can limit expensive and risky on-site visits, while still taking care of your fleet, and your business, from anywhere. Even when there are travel restrictions.

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