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Landscape and Irrigation recently asked a wide range of equipment manufacturers about equipment trends for the landscape market. Their responses are included below in our Equipment Guide Q&A. For more information about equipment for the landscape industry, visit www.EquipmentMartOnline.com

Equipment Guide 2010

Landscape and Irrigation recently asked a wide range of equipment manufacturers about equipment trends for the landscape market. Their responses are included below in our Equipment Guide Q&A. For more information about equipment for the landscape industry, visit www.EquipmentMartOnline.com


 


What trends are you seeing in terms of equipment sales to the landscape market?


We continue to see the excavator’s role expanding in the landscape market. Many are using excavators to complement their equipment lineup as they discover the capabilities of the compact excavator in excavation, grading, and material placement tasks that might typically have been associated with other types of equipment. We also see those customers that have been using compact excavators in the landscape market; expanding their attachment fleet.


— Tom Connor, excavator product specialist, Bobcat Company


 


What we’re continuing to see from landscapers is a demand for value when choosing a product. For us, that means expanding the size of the deck without expanding the size of the product. It used to be that 60-inch decks were only reserved for large-scale, premium machines. Now, customers can find them on entry-level units.


— Allen Baird, product marketing manager, Cub Cadet Commercial


 


Economic conditions — specifically the housing crisis — have slowed sales considerably in this market segment. Customers are valuing the dollar more than ever, and are evaluating equipment more stringently than ever. Over the last several years customers have reduced inventory levels and focused on repairing instead of replacing their equipment. But with aging fleets, upkeep can be significant and the amount of downtime can be frustrating and costly. For most customers, when it is time to replace or expand their fleet, they will be more cost conscious than ever before. They will of course still be looking for productivity and reliability but they will be specifically searching for “value.”


— Matt Collins, compact product manager, Ditch Witch


 


Overall we have been seeing encouraging sales to commercial cutters across the nation, many of whom have backed off of new purchases the past couple of years because of economic or drought factors.


— Eric Bernsee, communications and public relations director, Dixie Chopper


 


The landscape market has been unusually slow over the past couple of years. We have been seeing guys hanging onto their equipment longer, and, instead of buying new machines, they have been looking into adding attachments to their fleets. This has allowed them to bid a wider variety of jobs and keep busy during the slow times.


— Robert Gilles, segment application marketing manager, Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment


 


We are seeing a much better selling environment than in 2009. 
— Shelley Lujano, marketing/public relations, Excel Industries, Inc., Hustler Turf Equipment and BigDog Mowers


 


By our estimations, the landscape contractor market is making a very strong comeback in 2010. The excessive snowfall we experienced throughout the U.S. this past winter created tremendous opportunities for landscape professionals who also offer snow removal services. As such, we believe that many landscape contractors entered into this spring with the necessary working capital to invest back into their mowing services.


In addition, there seems to be a general optimism related to the stabilization of our national economy especially in some of the harder hit areas such as California, Michigan and Florida; all of which have shown positive growth in the last several months. If we continue to experience consistent moisture patterns and average regional temperatures, we are confident that the remainder of 2010 should produce positive growth in the landscape contractor segment.


— Daryn Walters, director of marketing, Exmark


 


I believe we are seeing some movement in this sector. From what I’ve observed, the focus is primarily on the rental side of equipment.


— Chris Osswald, president, Extend Manufacturing


 


Equipment sales have improved as compared to last year. People seem to be a little more confident and more willing to upgrade and/or add equipment. Some customers are adding equipment because they have more business than their current equipment can handle, and they’re missing out on too many jobs. Others have held off so long in buying new equipment that they feel like they can’t wait any longer without hurting their business.


— Carla Severe, marketing manager, Finn Corporation


 


Contractors want lower-cost, simpler ways of getting jobs done with better equipment to improve productivity. Loaders that can use a vast variety of attachments add versatility in the landscape market.


— Kelly Moore, product manager, Gehl Company


 


Productivity skyrockets when the operator can remain fresh and focused on producing a smooth, level cut with minimal effort in mowing so there is increasing interest in operator ergonomics and quality of cut. We’re seeing a growing appreciation for the durability and low maintenance requirements of diesel models.


— Ruthanne Stucky, marketing director, Grasshopper


 


Although it is difficult to predict what consumers will want, and what the economy will hold for power equipment manufacturers in 2011, we are hopeful that an increase in lawn and garden product sales may be seen. In today’s recovering economy, consumers and landscape company owners remain interested in investing in dependable, reliable and high-quality power products for long-term lawn and landscaping work. In relation, we feel durable lawn and garden power products will see small gains in overall sales.


— Sara Pines, public relations, Honda Power Equipment


 


Buyers are looking for products that help make their jobs productive; whether it’s reducing downtime for periodic maintenance or fatigue that often leads to inquiries or poor quality work. Those products that deliver more ROI are more often on the jobsite.


— Gary Hardee, program manager, hand held, Husqvarna


 


Cautious optimism. We have seen several fleet purchases in 2010. However, many contractors are only purchasing necessary equipment to keep their fleet optimized with plans for major fleet overhauls in 2011.
— Chase Tew, tactical brand manager, commercial mowing, John Deere


 


We listen closely to what our dealers, OEM customers and end users tell us. After closely evaluating their input and studying available research from sources such as OPEI, we are very comfortable that the market appears to be heading upward. Kawasaki is increasing many of its OEM forecasts as a result of strong retail sales early in the year. We are seeing both professionals and homeowners responding to the halt in the economy’s decline and again beginning to spend.


— Tiffany Young, marketing supervisor, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.


 


Landscape budgets tightened these past couple years. Machine life expectancy and life-time operating costs are growing as deciding factors when purchasing equipment. Price-point machines that were once purchased are reaching a point where maintenance and service expenses now outweigh the initial purchase savings. Purchasing value at the start may cost a little more up front, but will save money in the long run.


— Kyle Hagen, product manager, Kubota Tractor Corporation


 


Landscapers are looking for performance, reliability and durability, comfort, and value in terms of total cost of ownership. They are reacting negatively toward the overly complex and unproven technologies. Fuel efficiency will become increasingly more important.


— Jeff Hallgren, Schiller segment director grounds care, Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.


 


New equipment sales are picking up after two years of aerator users making do with existing equipment.


— Nick Cusick, president, SourceOne


 


We’re seeing contractors trying to use their equipment more efficiently – getting more use out of one piece of equipment rather than using equipment dedicated to one purpose. Looking more specifically at the turf and golf markets, the use of electric-powered equipment is becoming more favorable. Contrast that with hydraulics where a broken hose or leak can burn right through the turf. Another trend is toward more accuracy in material applications, so that there’s less wasted seed or fertilizer.


— Mark Hall, director of sales & marketing, TurfEx (a division of TrynEx International)


 


We continue to see an increase in the mini skid-steer market as the economy shows signs of improving. Customers continue to buy these models in order to improve productivity on the jobsite by minimizing the amount of manual labor needed to complete a variety of tasks.


While new construction remains somewhat stagnant, many customers are rehabbing their existing landscapes or incorporating new features such as patios, hardscapes and installing new confined spaces such as backyards because of their size, maneuverability and visibility.


— Jon Kuyers, utility products segment manager, Vermeer Corporation


 


 


What are a few key factors that landscape company owners should consider when adding to their equipment fleet this year and into 2011?


Those considering adding equipment to their fleet may want to revisit prior seasons and evaluate where limitations arose on job sites. What were the bottlenecks of the prior season, and is there opportunity to minimize those past bottlenecks with additional appropriate equipment? Are there labor-intensive tasks that could be accomplished more efficiently, at lower cost with select equipment? Also, look forward to anticipated work load for the upcoming season. Evaluate what machines or attachments will allow you to finish jobs quicker, at lower cost or allow you to take on jobs that you wouldn’t be able to without additional equipment.


— Tom Connor, excavator product specialist, Bobcat Company


 


Before simply heading to a dealer to look at new equipment, landscapers need to ask themselves one simple question:


Am I paired up with the right manufacturer that can give me the right tools I need to grow my business?


While mowers are a big part of the fleet, a full line of products and dealer support can sometimes make or break a business. Landscape companies need to make sure they are paired up with the right manufacturer that can provide great products, a wide range of products, superior service and even parts. Knowing that you can go to one place for several different products will make the buying process that much easier.


— Allen Baird, product marketing manager, Cub Cadet Commercial


 


When considering “value” customers should also keep in mind the versatility of each piece of equipment. Purchasing on price alone may not always be the best fit for long-term profitability.


Look for machines that can do more than one task on the jobsite. You might spend a little more money for versatility, but quite often versatility can allow contractors to do more in a day’s time, therefore increasing uptime and generating more revenue.


An equipment purchase is a big decision; make sure you find a reputable dealer that can support you after the sale. Downtime costs money so find a dealer that has the parts, service and support to keep your equipment running smoothly.


— Matt Collins, compact product manager, Ditch Witch


 


Quality, reliability, warranties, fuel options, cost savings via alternative fuel sources, impact of “going green” in terms of PR value in the community, as well as a manufacturer’s track record of providing support for its dealers and end users.


— Eric Bernsee, communications and public relations director, Dixie Chopper


 


Operating costs and job diversity are still going to be important going into 2011. Purchasing machines that aren’t dedicated to specific tasks will still be in landscapers’ best interest as not to limit themselves to specific types of jobs. One should consider product reliability and longevity as they look toward the future. Serviceability and maintenance are becoming important factors in machine purchases since customers are looking to keep their equipment longer than they have in the past. Therefore, if they are looking to purchase a new machine now, they should consider investing the extra money to get the options they want/need, which will save them money in the long run.


— Robert Gilles, segment application marketing manager, Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment


 


Look for innovation, outstanding quality, industry-leading warranties and superior customer care.


— Shelley Lujano, marketing/public relations, Excel Industries, Inc., Hustler Turf Equipment and BigDog Mowers


 


A term that was often used in business in the late 1990s and early 2000s was Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Although this may not seem on the surface to be a very original statement, one could argue that it has never held more importance then it does today.


Landscape professionals must overcome the natural instinct to buy what appears to be the lowest cost and remind themselves of the stark reality; everything purchased comes with a long-term ownership cost. This does not just include standard parts replacement and general maintenance, but also the very painful cost of catastrophic failures and excessive downtime. Business owners should seek products that they know are reliable, rugged and supported by the dealer and manufacturer — regardless of the potential issues.


— Daryn Walters, director of marketing, Exmark


 


Versatility and value. I feel a business owner should look at equipment that can do several types of jobs, and be able to be used in multiple applications. It’s much more efficient to have one versatile piece of equipment verses multiple pieces. And what company isn’t looking to increase efficiency?


— Chris Osswald, president, Extend Manufacturing


 


One thing they need to look at is how many more jobs could they get and complete if they had newer, more efficient and reliable equipment. Sometimes this goes a long way to justifying the purchase. Also, adding certain pieces of equipment can increase a company’s versatility. New equipment could add a new service to their current business model, or the equipment can do more things, thereby opening up new markets. Obviously, they also need to consider the economic condition and outlook of both their company and their market area. They might also research any government stimulus dollars that are scheduled to be spent in their area where they would have the opportunity to bid.


— Carla Severe, marketing manager, Finn Corporation


 


Take a look a many alternatives in equipment – alternative brands, types of machines whether it be a changing from a skid loader to a compact wheel loader or maybe track loader. Check the types of attachments available to interface with the new machine and its abilities.


— Kelly Moore, product manager, Gehl Company


 


Landscape company owners are responsible for employee safety and they should be sure to have training programs in place for operators of the new equipment they add to their fleet. They should be rigorous in insisting on use of safety shields, including discharge shields, and make certain to purchase new mowers equipped with ROPS.
Versatility to accommodate customers’ needs is a key factor to consider. Having a mowing deck that can easily convert to mulching to return the nutrients in clippings to the soil and/or collect clippings for composting with the same deck is something to look for. Landscapers that can use one power unit for a number of groundskeeping jobs in addition to mowing — such as aeration, spraying, sweeping, blowing — find they can do four times the work with 1/4 the labor.
With various regulations coming into play in the next year, it makes sense for landscape company owners to insist on current production models that meet future requirements rather than buying carryover inventory that is being phased out.


Fuel efficiency will contribute to profitability in the long run. And so will the labor savings and economy of implement usage that keeps your “mower” working in every season.


— Ruthanne Stucky, marketing director, Grasshopper


 


When looking to purchase new lawn and garden equipment, several factors are important. Fuel efficiency, lifetime cost of ownership, reliability, and environmental impact are a few areas of concern to consider. Selecting the right product that is fuel efficient with long run times, and reduces product down-time and costly repair expenses can truly save a considerable amount of money savings that go directly to a company’s bottom line. Additionally, selecting power products that meet stringent emission regulations for all 50-states (CARB compliant) will allow for more flexibility in product operation across the country.


— Sara Pines, public relations, Honda Power Equipment


 


Increasingly, professionals are looking for products that help them save money such as reducing fuel consumption or increasing cycle times between maintenance.


Landscapers should consider a product’s power-to-weight ratio. Power is important but if the machine is too heavy it will slow a landscaper down and reduce productivity. A machine can be very lightweight but if it lacks power it will also slow productivity.


— Gary Hardee, program manager, hand held, Husqvarna


 


Uptime — many often feel this is purely product related. However, the dealer relationship plays a critical role in this equation. Considerations should include parts availability, repair and warranty turn around time, parts on-site, and access to loaner equipment when timely repairs can’t be accommodated.
Access to credit — keep bank lines of credit open is critical for payroll and other business expenses. When making equipment purchases, don’t be so fast to time up those bank lines of credit with equipment assets. Rely on the equipment finance arms to bear the weight of the equipment purchases.


— Chase Tew, tactical brand manager, commercial mowing, John Deere


 


It’s key for professionals to be able to consistently field quality, performance-oriented equipment — without suffering downtime that eats into their profitability. Dependability should be a key component of their search when making a purchase.


— Tiffany Young, marketing supervisor, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.


 


Purchasing value over price-point remains a key factor for landscape company owners as they make decisions about adding to their fleet in 2011. Operating costs need to be considered for the life of the machine. Once the lifetime cost of the machine can be estimated, value overcomes price-point.


— Kyle Hagen, product manager, Kubota Tractor Corporation


 


Performance above all it must work effectively in all conditions. Consider total cost of ownership, which includes fuel consumption, cost of maintenance and service in time and materials, and the cost of “un-reliability” or breakdowns. Ease of operation — is it intuitive, straightforward, and effective enough to get the job done quickly?


— Jeff Hallgren, Schiller segment director grounds care, Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.


 


Return on investment, of course, is key for any equipment purchase. Select equipment that will last, costs little to maintain, and is efficient to operate.


— Nick Cusick, president, SourceOne


 


The first thing would be to evaluate the equipment they already have and see how they can get more use out of it. That’s what we’re tapping into with the zero turn mowers — providing complementary attachments that turn that mower into a multi-tasker. With new equipment, they should consider flexibility. Does the equipment have adjustable features to match various applications and job requirements? Is it a complete tool that can adapt and achieve precisely what’s needed?


— Mark Hall, director of sales & marketing, TurfEx (a division of TrynEx International)


 


It is essential for the owner to demonstrate the machine before making a purchasing decision to determine if it will perform in the type of work the owner wants to accomplish and if it has the capability to improve overall productivity.


Potential buyers should evaluate the proposed piece of equipment based on the specific or known current or future need. If the owner often contracts large areas of open space commercial work, it may not make sense to buy smaller equipment to minimize the initial investment in the equipment. Potential buyers should also consider whether a machine may be too large to work on the majority of jobs even if the price may be too good to pass up. The potential for underutilizing the machine relates to a less desirable return on investment.


Potential buyers should also consider attachments that can create new revenue streams in their current service offerings, as well as those that represent new services to expand income potential.


— Jon Kuyers, utility products segment manager, Vermeer Corporation


 


 


What should professional users keep in mind when deciding whether to purchase eco-friendly power equipment?


Prospective buyers should evaluate overall efficiency of the equipment. Can one larger machine accomplish the task that two smaller machines would do? This can dramatically improve transportation efforts to and from job sites. Also look for emissions-compliant equipment, and features such as auto-idle.


— Tom Connor, excavator product specialist, Bobcat Company


 


Whether it’s bio-diesel or LP, choosing alternate fuel options isn’t just about making an impact on the environment, it’s also about making an impact in your business. Professionals should be sure to pick a fuel source that is effective and affordable for both their business and the environment. Liquid propane is a great example since it can be purchased at a lower price than most petroleum-based fuels with the same performance benefits. If LP is the solution, professionals need to take an active role in getting their business and local LP provider on the same page to readily have the fuel in stock or setting-up some type of cylinder exchange program.


— Allen Baird, product marketing manager, Cub Cadet Commercial


 


If propane or compressed natural gas (CNG) options are used, fuel availability can be an issue in some areas. However, that can be resolved by proper planning, such as having extra propane or CNG tanks filled and on the trailer for those 10- or 12-hour summer mowing days. That slight inconvenience is certainly overshadowed by environmental positives, along with fuel cost savings and equipment maintenance savings that are inherent in the use of propane- and CNG-powered engines, as well as the ability to use such mowers on days when use of gasoline-powered equipment is restricted in cities. Meanwhile, those considering any electric mower should make note of limitations in both horsepower and mowing duration.


— Eric Bernsee, communications and public relations director, Dixie Chopper


 


The Hustler Zeon will mow up to 80 minutes on a single charge. It is an excellent choice for areas that would benefit from less noise when operating equipment such as retirement communities, hospitals, and libraries.


— Shelley Lujano, marketing/public relations, Excel Industries, Inc., Hustler Turf Equipment and BigDog Mowers


 


From bio-diesel, propane and natural gas to hybrid and electric, we have experienced tremendous innovation in our industry over the last several years. As manufacturers continue their quest to provide commercial-grade environmentally conscious products, our customers must remind themselves of tradeoffs that this equipment may require. This includes new methods for transporting fuel such as propane and natural gas, as well as reduced run times of battery-powered products. In addition, these new systems may require a different set of operator skills and experience in order to maintain and service.


Finally, as with most new technologies, customers should expect to pay a premium for these new systems/products until these various systems become higher in demand, thus reducing manufacturing costs.


— Daryn Walters, director of marketing, Exmark


 


There are many factors that come into play in an eco-friendly definition. From an equipment standpoint, I believe fuel efficiency is crucial. And it’s important not to get too caught up in the eco-friendly aspect; the equipment being purchased must still be useful, versatile and able to handle several tasks. This will increase efficiency while eliminating the hassle and fuel costs of transporting multiple pieces of equipment to a jobsite. So really, a smart equipment purchase can make a business more eco-friendly when you factor in these savings.


— Chris Osswald, president, Extend Manufacturing


 


In addition to actually helping the planet, the purchasing of eco-friendly equipment is something that can be incorporated into their marketing plan and publicized to generate community goodwill. 
— Carla Severe, marketing manager, Finn Corporation


 


Consider the alternatives available carefully and the cost efficiencies associated with them. Ensure one’s operation and support people can readily work with power equipment that is eco-friendly.


— Kelly Moore, product manager, Gehl Company


 


Efficient use of power is key to reducing consumption and emissions. Diesel delivers significantly more power using less fuel, allowing work to be performed efficiently with reduced consumption and corresponding reduced emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, technological advances and stricter guidelines have evolved diesel into one of the cleanest burning fuels available.


— Ruthanne Stucky, marketing director, Grasshopper


 


Environmentally friendly products are an important addition to a professional landscaper’s business. Customers are increasingly interested in working with professionals that are also environmentally aware. In fact, becoming an organization that values and promotes the use of environmentally friendly products can be an important sales and marketing tool.


— Sara Pines, public relations, Honda Power Equipment


 


Property owners are becoming more selective in choosing service providers and are now requiring their landscapers to use reduced-emission products because they are concerned about the environment.


For handheld equipment, landscapers should keep durability and reliability in mind. Four stroke and “mixed” engines are one way to go for reduced emissions but they can be less reliable, cost more to maintain and their weight reduce productivity.


A landscaper could have a very unique marketing strategy in their area if they took on a fleet of eco products. They could position themselves as the “green alternative” in the marketplace which could really drive a niche business.


— Gary Hardee, program manager, hand held, Husqvarna


 


Does the cost-benefit equation work in your favor? When evaluating eco-friendly products, understand whether the offerings are truly eco-friendly or simply a fad that appears on the surface to have perceived environmental impacts. In addition, one should consider additional insurance costs, trucking costs, storage costs, and DOT standards for transportation of propane equipment.


— Chase Tew, tactical brand manager, commercial mowing, John Deere


 


Everyone needs to do their part to protect the environment, and this industry can play a leadership role in that effort. Professionals still need to have commercial-grade equipment to perform their jobs properly, and as that category ultimately transitions to broader opportunities inclusive of non-gas-powered equipment, they should be strongly considered.


— Tiffany Young, marketing supervisor, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.


 


Efficiency is key, and professionals should ask questions about low fuel consumption. Emissions and low sound levels should be top of mind as well. Sound levels in particular should be a big concern, as there are variances, and prospective buyers should always ask a sales person what’s best for minimizing fuel consumption for the type of work at hand.


— Kyle Hagen, product manager, Kubota Tractor Corporation


 


Calculate the total cost of operation, fuel, and new power into the decision. In many cases, liquid propane may prove to be cost effective as other petroleum-based fuels rise in price; and also consider new gasoline engine technologies that conserve fuel, running longer on a full tank as that can save landscapers hundreds of dollars a year. In the near future, Tier IV regulations may make us all reconsider the value of diesel engines in commercial lawnmowers, as their weight, power pulse issues with drive lines, and excess costs with catalysts to meet emissions requirements will make other technologies such as liquid propane more attractive. Going forward, compressed natural gas will become more attractive as delivery solutions are created.


— Jeff Hallgren, Schiller segment director grounds care, Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.


 


It’s easy to forget that aeration is, by its nature, an eco-friendly process as it reduces water and fertilizer usage.


— Nick Cusick, president, SourceOne


 


How the equipment is powered is an important consideration. Electric products don’t require the fuel consumption that gas-powered equipment would. Also in terms of applying chemical, fertilizer and those types of things, the equipment should allow precise control to avoid wasting material and deliver only what’s needed.
— Mark Hall,

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