Many pest control professionals use some type of manual hand sprayer or backpack sprayers for general pest control, IPM and cleanouts. Are you doing everything possible to ensure you and your employees are getting the maximum results and value from your B&G sprayer / Birchmeier Backpack? Here are some suggestions to optimize your backpack investment.
Start with the right equipment.
Select a quality product that can stand up to long hours, harsh chemicals and rough treatment. Pay particular attention to the spray wand and the pump mechanism.
The best spray wands are made out of brass, which is more durable than plastic. Your spray wand should be rebuildable so you don’t have to throw it away when it has a problem.
We prefer sprayers that allow the use of readily available industry standard tips. The ability to change the tips allows you to use the sprayer for multiple purposes, products and applications. This in turn means the sprayer is more useful to you. Standard tips are usually cheaper than product-specific tips so you will save money as well.
The pump mechanism should be easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance. If it is difficult to service the pump, you will soon find a stack of sprayers accumulating dust in the corner, waiting for someone to throw them away.
The sprayer filter must be easily accessible to the technician for checking and cleaning. A clogged filter will cause downtime and can lead to damage and repair expenses. We know of one backpack sprayer that has the filter inside the chemical tank. If the filter clogs, the technician has to stick his/her hand into a tank full of chemical to retrieve the filter. This is crazy.
Availability of repair and replacement parts is critical. If you can’t fix it, you are wasting your money on a disposable sprayer.
Train your technicians in correct operating procedures.
Check It Out – Have your technicians do a quick check of their equipment before leaving their starting point (e.g., home or office). This can be as simple as a quick visual inspection then pressurizing the unit and a quick spray to ensure proper operation. If you don’t want to discharge the product, have your techs team up and spray into each other’s sprayer. Our philosophy is if you are going to have a problem, have it somewhere you can do something about it, rather than out in the field.
Clean the Filter – Make sure spray technicians check and clean the filter frequently. This will save money and prevent downtime. Many technicians do not even know where sprayer filters are located, so training is required.
Take it Easy – Make sure spray technicians are not over-pressurizing sprayers. Over-pressurizing will cause parts to fail, lead to downtime, missed appointments and increased repair expenses. If the sprayer isn't spraying, don't pump it up more. You will break it. It is easy to turn a simple
o-ring replacement into a major repair. Don't overpressure sprayers! Backpack sprayers are particularly sensitive to this issue.
Take the Pressure Off – You will get longer life and fewer problems from your manual spray equipment if your technicians relieve the pressure in their unit. Certainly the pressure should be released at the end of the day, and optimally at the end of each stop. Leaving your sprayer under pressure for extended periods will reduce the life of components such as hoses, gaskets, o-rings, etc. Just like your body, which needs recreation or relaxation to relieve the stress of the workday, your sprayer needs relief or something will blow. Relieving pressure will also reduce the risk of damage in freezing temperatures.
It’s a Spray Wand not a Crowbar – Our repair shop sees many spray wands and tips that are damaged from opening gates, moving trash & debris, being dragged on the ground and other inappropriate uses.
Tip Cleaning – Follow manufacturer directions for cleaning tips. This usually includes using a soft bristle brush and mild cleaner. Wire brushes, pins, pocketknives, etc. will destroy tips.
Freezing – From our Department of the Totally Obvious, do not expose your sprayer to freezing temperatures. It will cost you money. Spray technicians in moderate climates, where freezing is not a regular occurrence, also need to be sensitive to this issue.
Keep It Clean – Chemical and other debris build up in sprayers. Eventually this debris will cause problems. Rinse sprayers out with clean water. Run clean water through hoses, wands and tips.
You may be surprised at what you find in the unit. Aside from chemical buildup, our repair techs most commonly find labels and caps from herbicide bottles. (Side note: the most frequent debris found in manual sprayers: the paper liner from the chemical bottle cap, and the chemical bottle label.)
Report It - Make sure technicians are comfortable reporting problems. Too many times we see techs working with equipment that needs service. Instead of asking for help, they push the equipment past the breaking point, turning a small repair into a major rebuild.
Tip Wear – One study reported that brass tips wear out at about 10% per year. This means every year your tip is putting out 10% more product than it was last year. New tips are cheaper than a 10% increase in chemical cost. Plastic tips probably wear out even faster than brass ones.
Be Prepared – Don’t Wait for Problems
Preventative Maintenance equals money in the bank. Don’t wait for your sprayer to fail and cause you to lose productive time. Perform the required preventative maintenance (PM). Keep moving parts properly lubricated. The main challenge to good PM is that it requires finding and reading the owner’s manual.
Preventative maintenance on manual sprayers usually involves:
- Tear down
- Thorough cleaning of tank, filter and all parts
- Replacement of o-rings, gaskets & worn parts
- Lubrication of moving parts.
Proper storage – Make sure trucks are set up to provide a secure place for your sprayer. We often see damage caused by sprayers bouncing around, or being placed where they are stepped on or damaged by other equipment.
Training – Just because you trained the techs on their first day of work doesn’t mean they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Provide periodic reinforcement training to emphasize good practices.
Eyes Open – Despite the best training, technicians don’t always follow company procedures. Supervisors should conduct ride-alongs to observe employees equipment use in the field. Conduct truck inspections to ensure equipment is properly used, stored and maintained.
Tracking – Track equipment failures to see which parts are failing, which replacement parts need to be stocked or which equipment is not appropriate for your service program. Track failures by technician to identify training opportunities.
Hand sprayers and backpacks are critical to your Company’s success. Start with quality equipment. Invest the time to train employees on proper use and maintenance of your equipment. Perform inspections to ensure it gets done. This will keep employees productive and on schedule, downtime and repair expenses to a minimum, and most importantly, customers happy.
Comments? Your ideas?