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Short-Term Equipment Rentals Offer Long-Term Payoff

AU surveying equipment rental program

In the ever-evolving world of geomatics technology, businesses must carefully consider the cost and benefits of investing – or not investing – in new equipment. The latest and greatest today may be outdated in the near future. This is especially true when one is in the business of investing in tomorrow’s construction and surveying professionals. For educational institutions, it may make better business sense to rent than to own. This proved to be the case for Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.

Change of Course in Surveying Equipment

Like many schools, the university’s McWhorter School of Building Science taught construction surveying and layout piecemeal over the course of a traditional semester using a mishmash of old gear. Dissatisfied with its inefficiency and lack of student enthusiasm, in 2003, the department overhauled its delivery method and put in place a short, intensive Survey Camp.

To support this pioneering change of course, the university also needed to explore new ways to equip camp students with the necessary tools of the trade, including high price-tag total stations. “I needed a lot of gear to accommodate the camp format,” says professor Paul Holley, who developed and teaches the camp. Holley not only needed quantity but also state-of-the-art quality.

The solution came in the form of a short-term rental agreement with Allen Precision Equipment (APE), a leading provider of surveying and construction equipment based in Duluth, Ga. “The university doesn’t have to invest in equipment that will be outdated in a few years,” says APE General Manager Tracy Foran. “With this yearly rental program, they can ensure they are training their students on the latest total station technology available.”

A Joint Effort for Equipment Rentals

The short-term rental program is made possible by a joint effort between APE and its premiere manufacturer, Leica Geosystems. APE helps the customer spec out the gear and facilitates the rental, and Leica Geosystems provides crucial educational subsidies. “Leica is willing to give me a discount to provide this gear to the university,” Foran explains. "That allows me to keep my rental rate low, and when I go to resell this equipment, it’s attractively priced.”

Auburn University participates in a four-month rental program, which spans the department’s May and August camp sessions. The amount of gear fluctuates based on camp enrollment. This year, Auburn University required 16 total stations and 16 automatic builder's levels. If purchased outright, Foran estimates that the cost of equipment would have approached $130,000 to $150,000. In contrast, the university’s yearly rental costs are less than 10 percent of that amount. “The payback period, if we bought it, would probably be 10 years or more, and the gear could be outdated by then,” Holley adds. “So we like being able to rent it.”

Collateral Benefits for Surveyors and Construction Professionals

Once Auburn University’s rental period is complete, APE recalibrates the gear, if needed, then passes the savings on to clients by selling the lightly used equipment under full warranty and at a significant discount. “They are saving at least 20 percent or more off the top,” Foran says.

In fact, the program has been so popular with APE’s regular surveying and construction consumer base that clients call up to a year in advance asking to be placed on a waiting list for the university’s used gear. And they keep coming back for more. “We’ve had a lot of repeat buyers based on the new condition of the equipment along with the full warranty,” Foran says.

Long-Term Payoff for Surveying Education and Business

Auburn University is the only educational institution that currently participates in the equipment rental program, but Foran hopes to see greater participation in the future. “The rental program is a good opportunity for these universities,” he says. “They’ll get new equipment every year – the latest and greatest technology – to train their students on.”

For Auburn University, the short-term rental program is an investment in the future success of Survey Camp and its building science students, as well as the field of construction, which receives its graduates. “Allen Precision looks forward to the opportunity every year,” Foran says, as does the company’s regular construction and surveying clientele. “I know that the manufacturers we represent look forward to it, as well.”

Allen Precision Equipment is seeking more universities to participate in its university rental program. For more information, contact General Manager Tracy Foran at 1-800-241-6223 or [email protected].