...have 200; smaller machines, like loaders, have about 50. Whenever a piece of equipment is shipped from job to job, shop to job or manufacturer to job, “the shipping jobsite is required to call the receiving jobsite within a week to make sure the equipment was received,” Pirtle explains. “It gets inspected, and deficiencies are noted.” Photos are taken, and reports are made available on an Intranet site.

After about five years of inspections, Traylor has brought up its company-wide equipment availability to 97.6% from about 90%. That may not sound like much, but every percentage point of uptime—or lack thereof—translates exponentially into profit or loss.

Any interruption equals lost time and money: “If it needs to be driving piling between Monday morning and Friday night, it needs to be available” for the entire period, Pirtle explains. “Would you rent a car from Avis if it was going to be broken down 10% of the time?”

The internal audit was difficult for Traylor because it required teams to “break down egos,” as Pirtle puts it. The cutting edge of a bulldozer blade used to be replaced all the time, even when it was partially worn down. “It is half worn out if I am receiving it, but it is half still good if I am shipping it,” explains Pirtle. “The key is it still has 50% wear left in it.”

As the company learned to communicate with itself better, it gained wider insights that are breaking down the egos of the industry’s equipment suppliers. “We got it internally tightened up, and we started hitting a brick wall,” says Pirtle. “We have raised the bar up so high that they are the ones holding us down now.”

The drive to take back those last few percentage points now is changing the company’s buying decisions. Welding machines are one example: Traylor used to buy Miller and Lincoln-brand welders. Now, the company buys exclusively Multiquip-brand machines. “They are 100% reliable,” Pirtle says.

Though they may be commodities to some contractors, welding machines are on Traylor’s critical path. “When a welding machine goes down, the welder stops, the piling stops, the whole chain stops,” Pirtle explains. “That is where we had our first problems.” The program is pushing suppliers: When ENR toured the Traylor shop, a shiny new welder from a now-barred supplier had just been delivered for free, trial use. “Show me the reliability,” Pirtle said with a skeptical laugh.

Traylor now can “see” how suppliers stack up across time. When the economy was booming, “we saw a decrease in quality of equipment,” Pirtle says. “And we have a real issue with all of our dealers and distributors with the quality of their maintenance and repair work.”

As the fleet continues its extreme makeover, Chris Traylor thinks the next challenge will be the workforce. “We need to ensure that our projects are staffed properly to handle the daily maintenance to keep it in the shape that it is now,” he says. “We definitely have a full plate.”