8 Tips to Improve Your Tree Injection Operations
A Practical Perspective from My Experiences in the Field
By Zach Stewart, Rainbow Territory Manager and Former EAB Injection Crew Lead
April 30, 2018 – Minneapolis, MN
As we all know, time is money, and the less time we can spend at a specific site, the more money we make. Leading one of the largest Emerald Ash Borer tree Injection divisions in the country for the last two years has helped me to find the most efficient methods to get consistent, predictable results which reduced the time my technicians spent on site. I’ve put together a list of 8 tips that I’ve learned over time to help you improve your tree injection division’s efficiency and productivity.
“An experienced technician can visit up to 25 sites with a well routed stack of work orders.”
This can be one of the most important things you can do to help increase efficiency for your tree injections. Let’s face it, it’s never a question of if something goes wrong, but a question of when will something go wrong. Being prepared can really help reduce your breakdown time. Here are some ways you can be prepared for tree injection breakdowns and be set for success:
- Have a stock of repair materials for your system, and keep it replenished
- Keep good inventory of the products you use so you know when you are running out
- Have an organized area to store equipment, PPE, and product that grants easy access for technicians to grab their stuff and get on the road
- Route your sites for optimal performance, remember an experienced technician can visit up to 25 sites with a well routed stack of work orders
2. Have 2 Kits for Each Technician
This is key! A technician with only one kit can only treat one tree at a time, and only has the capability of treating up to a 20” tree. With two kits a technician can treat up to a 40” tree or can have 2 trees (20”) set up at a time. Your technicians are no longer waiting for product uptake to set up the next tree, but are keeping product moving into a tree. If you are on a large site (like a municipal contract), 2 or more technicians with 2 kits can leapfrog each other completing trees at a fast pace.
Training is probably the single most important aspect of maintaining high caliber technicians. This includes everything from proper training on set up techniques like drilling and tee insertion, to maintenance and repairs. Knowing your equipment and how to use it well goes a long way to increase your uptake times, and will also reduce your set up times. It’s a good idea to keep track of your technicians training using a “training checklist”. The checklist should include:
- Tree identification
- Set up and tear down
- Knowledge of equipment parts
- Common breakdowns and how to fix them
You can contact your local Territory Manager to help properly train your staff here: My Territory Manager
4. Injection Sites
Using the right injection sites on the tree could be the difference between being at a tree for 15 minutes or an hour. You want to inject into the root flare of the tree because of the larger amount of sapwood present there. The tissues in the root flare have better lateral movement between cells and have larger uptake abilities than those further up the trunk. This is imperative for quick even distribution into the tree’s canopy. Another thing to look out for is decay pockets. If you drill into the tree and you have dark crumbly sawdust come out, you have hit a poor injection site and need to find somewhere else to drill.
5. Sharp Drill Bits
Rainbow has been saying this for years, “Use Sharp Drill Bits!” We want to be cutting the vascular tissue, not ripping or cauterizing it. We recommend using high helix drill bits and changing every 5-10 trees. You want to have those nice cream colored pigtails at every drill site.
6. Know How to Repair Your Equipment in Field
Not knowing how to repair your equipment can be a huge breakdown for your technicians in the field. Sometimes, there are things that cannot be fixed in the field and you need to send in your equipment for repairs. Most of the time, however, it’s not an issue to fix your equipment right there in the field. Knowing how to do so could be the difference between a technician continuing their day producing, or packing up and heading back to the shop. Some easy things to fix in the field include:
- Clogged tees
- Damaged O-ring
- Kinked or scored tubing
- Leaky Schrader valve
- Leaky Duckbill valve
- Leaky Pressure Release valve
The maintenance you perform can really extend the life of your equipment. Doing daily maintenance on your equipment is crucial. This will help prevent build up at connection sites and inside the different valves of your system. If you don’t use your system very often it is critical that you use an alcohol solution to clean your equipment to keep it clear of buildup. If the system sits for too long with residue inside you can cause clogging and faulty valves which may be harder to open or close, or even not be able to close at all. If you are using your equipment at a high volume, you want to make sure to do a thorough cleaning at mid-season, as well as at the end of the season. This would include a scrubbing with soapy water, a dip in an alcohol bath, and a rinse with clean water.
8. Product Formulation
The last, but certainly not least tip I have for you revolves around the product you choose. One of the more common products used with micro-injection is Emamectin Benzoate. There are a few different formulations that are on the market, but some have better uptake times than others. Products that are water soluble are going to have better uptake times than those that are micro emulsions, which require more viscous carriers. Uptake times with the water soluble products like ArborMectin have pretty consistent uptake times from 3 - 15 minutes. Having a consistent and fast uptake time can really help you ramp up your production times on each site, putting more money in your pocket!
Zach Stewart is a Territory Manager for Rainbow Treecare Scientific Advancements. His role includes supporting Rainbow clients through science-based education and training. Zach has worked for Rainbow Tree Care (Rainbow’s Twin-Cities based service company) on the emerald ash borer treatment crew and also on a variety of other tree health care related services teams.
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