Down with downtime

Down with downtime

Tackle your maintenance to-do list now to avoid a spring slowdown.

February 14, 2017
Matt McClellan
Tough Tools by A.M. Leonard

Developing a solid preventative maintenance program will help your nursery avoid problems. Most of the typical maintenance tasks are best done during the slower time of the year. Make them part of your usual spring prep routine to ensure you aren’t facing downtime during the most critical part of the year.

Nursery or greenhouse owners and managers should work in close cooperation with their staff to ensure that all mechanical, electrical, plumbing and environmental control equipment have been serviced and are ready for use once spring production is in full swing.

The nature of the horticulture industry means that there is no room for error, said Pieter Joubert, vice president of nursery operations at Ontario-based Sheridan Nurseries.

“Our business is so exceedingly seasonal that just in terms of sales, for nine consecutive weeks we do about 70 percent of our total sales for the year,” Joubert said. “We can’t screw it up.”

The Canadian wholesale nursery’s engineering shop is busy all winter caring for diggers, backhoes, pickups and crew trucks.

February isn’t just a good time of year to knock those maintenance tasks off your to-do list. For many growers, it’s the only option.

“Quite frankly it’s the only time of the year we can do it,” Joubert said. “The equipment that makes us money had better run by then. Within a few more weeks, it’s going to get really crazy. By the end of February, you can hear the hum. By mid-March we are very busy.”

Your preventative maintenance checklist should include your roster of hand tools, as well. When spring shipping and production ramps up, the last thing you want to do have to stop to fix something. Slowing the momentum of your business at that point means lost revenue. Keep employees safe and extend the life of your tools with the proper maintenance. Here are some tips to help.

  • Avoid repair and maintenance costs by purchasing the best quality tools. Your tools will last longer and are less likely to be damaged from proper daily use.
  • Inspect tools for dull or damaged edges, and damaged handles or grips. Wooden handles must be kept free of splinters or cracks and be held tight in the tool.
  • Have a professional sharpen edges or tips of tools and blades.
  • Replace damaged handles or grips immediately.
  • If a tool breaks or malfunctions, report it to a supervisor.
  • Mark or tag damaged tools with “Do Not Use” to prevent someone from using the tool and getting injured.

Photo provided by Sheridan Nurseries