How Important Are Power Equipment Brands When Choosing Engines and Power Solutions?
When you’re about to make a big capital investment – like the purchase of a diesel engine or generator, for example – every detail matters. But then again, so does every penny.
Maybe that’s why we hear questions about the importance of choosing the right brand so often. Sometimes, customers come to us with specific brands and models in mind. On other occasions they simply want the lowest cost, or the power equipment that can deliver them the highest price-to-performance ratio on paper.
In other words, some business owners and executives are brand loyal while others are cost concerned. In fact, they might even think that bigger brands are less attractive because they entail higher costs.
Which side is correct? How much attention should you pay to branding, if any at all? Are diesel engines and power equipment from bigger, better-known brands actually superior to other products?
These are the sorts of issues we are going to address in today’s post. But before we get into different brands themselves, we need to take a step back and start at the point where all of these discussions should begin. That’s with the job that needs to be performed.
It All Starts With the Right Assessment
We have made this point before on our blog, but it’s a good one to revisit now. That’s because a discussion of diesel engine brands, or really any capital investment, should begin with an analysis of the tasks or roles that need to be performed.
In other words, before you think about the type of engine or equipment you want to buy, you should really be thinking about what you need it to do. You should also consider what sort of budget you can allocate to get that job done.
To illustrate this point a little more cleanly, think about three different scenarios. In the first, you have a construction company outfitting a short-haul truck. In the second, you have a fire department looking for a new engine. And in the third there is a private individual wanting to replace a marine engine on a yacht. Each of these would necessitate different solutions. Whereas one might prioritize power or reliability, another might think primarily of operating costs over time, or even the availability of replacement parts.
These are simple examples, of course, but they help illustrate the importance of the bigger decision-making matrix. When thinking about the purchase of a big engine, you should be asking questions like:
- What do I need to accomplish in terms of horsepower, distance, or watts generated? When at all possible, break things down into numerical terms (with a little bit of wiggle room) so you can make apples-to-apples comparisons.
- Which factors are most important in achieving these outcomes? Is it power, portability, reliability, or something else? In most situations you’ll want to consider all of these issues, but some will undoubtedly take precedence over others.
- Is it more important to save money on this investment or ensure I’m getting maximum performance? And how will operating costs differ over time? These are bottom-line considerations. Ideally you would think about performance and use cases first, but that doesn’t mean the figures don’t matter.
Why focus on these issues in a discussion of diesel engine brands? Because being clear about which needs and purposes have to be fulfilled is the first step toward making a good decision. It’s easy to choose the wrong brand, or fail to consider a viable option, when you don’t have a firm view of what your investment will be used for. Or to put this more simply, you shouldn’t be thinking about brands until you know exactly what kind of engine or equipment you need from a utility perspective.
Brands Are Really Reputations
With that introduction on utility out of the way, let’s get back to the issue of branding. After all, what you probably really want to know is: “Is XYZ brand really better than another? And is buying something from that brand worth the investment?”
The first thing to realize is that brands do matter. There is a reason we sell and service machinery from companies like Allison Transmission, Daimler, Detroit Diesel, Isuzu, Northern Lights, ValleyBuilt, and YANMAR (to name a few). It isn’t the brands themselves that make the products these suppliers offer more valuable. Instead, it’s the reputation behind them.
At the end of the day, that’s all a brand really is. It’s just a reputation that’s based on previous experience. Because a company like Detroit Diesel has made so many great products, you are assuming they will continue to do so.
Certainly, brands do fail and come up short from time to time, but in general betting on an industry leader is a smart thing to do. For one thing, they will have demonstrated in the past that they can produce high-quality engines that last a long time. And for another, they are going to provide you with warranties and other assurances that actually mean something. If they’ve stood by their products in the past, you know they are likely to do so again in the future.
There is also another detail about brands that can be easy to miss or overlook: namely that brand power tends to be self-reinforcing. That just means that the best brands tend to get better over time.
Suppose for a moment that you were to design the world’s best heavy-duty diesel engine for long-haul trucks. You would already be starting out ahead of your competitors. Because your product was superior, you could offer better guarantees and charge higher prices. Over time, that would lead you to more revenue that could be invested into new designs, experiments with more durable materials, a better customer support team, and so on. You could gradually build a better company that provided more value.
This, of course, is what we’ve seen playing out in the diesel engine industry again and again for decades. The leaders have moved to the front and consolidated their advantages over the others through incremental improvement. With each new model year, they produce more reliable and valuable engines than other suppliers do, with rare exceptions.
You Pay More for Quality Power Equipment
Most business owners and executives will have already known about the value and reliability of major brand diesel engine products. So, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Namely, that larger brands charge more for the engines and equipment they produce (as they should). Is it always worth it to pay the premium?
This is where reasonable business minds can disagree. On the one hand, you could certainly make the argument that paying a little bit more for better engines and equipment is always going to be a winning strategy over time. Not only will you get more efficient performance from a better engine or generator, but you should also incur fewer maintenance costs. And when your equipment does need service, you’ll find plenty of parts and technicians to deal with the issue.
On the other hand, you do sometimes have to ask yourself how much better the biggest brands are at producing diesel engines and heavy equipment. Because this industry is well-established, many different manufacturers follow the same essential designs and techniques. The engine you get from one supplier might not be drastically different from the one you could purchase from another. Modern factories feature all kinds of precise, computer-guided milling equipment that can operate on tight tolerances. That means the costs are down and reliability has been improved across the spectrum.
Moreover, there is a well-known phenomenon in business where established companies tend to innovate less than newcomers do. They get comfortable. They put more into marketing, promotion, and hype than they do in developing new products. So, you can sometimes find yourself paying more than you should for a name brand engine when there isn’t much innovation taking place behind the scenes.
Unfortunately, there isn’t always a good way for someone outside the industry to make this kind of decision without a bit of expert help. However, there are two good places you can begin. The first is to go back to the use case summaries we outlined before. Ask yourself what you really need the equipment to do, and why the premium you pay for a popular brand of engine is going to be worth it.
The second thing you can do is take a closer look at performance statistics and user reviews. These will help fill in some of the gaps between marketing hype and reality.
Even if you do so, however, you might be left with some questions. That’s when you need to think about a pair of factors that are frequently overlooked in the initial buying decision process.
Power Equipment Reliability and Resale Are Big Factors
It’s easy to think about what you want a piece of equipment to do, and then to compare different models and budgets side by side on paper. It’s something entirely different to actually invest in a piece of equipment and have it affect your bottom line for years to come.
Knowing that, and having decades of experience behind us, we have come to realize there are two factors business owners and executives tend to overlook. These are reliability and resale.
Although we have already mentioned reliability, it needs to come up again because it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t seem so critically important when it’s abstract. Having a truck go offline for a week (as an example) doesn’t seem like a huge deal when you’re looking at a spreadsheet. But when you have teams of workers who can’t finish a commercial construction project or flatten a jobsite, the costs and frustrations start to mount pretty quickly.
Often, the expenses associated with unplanned maintenance don’t seem that high. But when you consider the hit you take to productivity and cash flow as a result of your team not having the right equipment, things become a bit more direct. Trust us when we tell you that reliability in heavy equipment like diesel engines is probably more important than you realize. To us, that almost always makes it worth it to invest in equipment from a trusted brand.
A second detail that’s easy to miss is the importance of resale value in calculating capital equipment purchases. You don’t just get more time, use, and performance from a good engine. You also get the ability to resell it or take advantage of manufacturer incentives when it’s time to get the next model. In other words, it retains some of its cash value until the end of its lifecycle. The ability to recoup some of your expense can be a huge boost, particularly when you’re looking at making another big purchase down the road.
When you put these two factors together, it almost always tips the scale toward well-known brands in a heavy way. You get what you pay for, and it’s worth it to spend a little extra for the best when your business and bottom line are at stake.
Don’t Make a Blind Decision
Our goal in this article isn’t to convince you that any particular brand is or isn’t worth your investment. Instead, it’s to highlight the importance of price, performance, and warranty guarantees when choosing a piece of major equipment, such as a diesel engine or generator.
Luckily, you don’t have to make these decisions on your own. You can access a team of experts with experience across dozens of brands and use cases by calling the team at Valley Power. We don’t just know a great deal about engine manufacturers, but also have experience with many different clients and industries – from trucking and construction to fire departments and marine operations.
If you’re at all unsure about which piece of heavy equipment you need, or just want to verify that you’re making smart decisions for the future of your business, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a time to speak with one of our experts and learn more about what we do.