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Landscape and Irrigation magazine recently asked a wide range of equipment manufacturers and suppliers to share their insights about the equipment market, and how the trends they are seeing will impact your equipment decisions.

Equipment Trends 2011

Landscape and Irrigation magazine recently asked a wide range of equipment manufacturers and suppliers to share their insights about the equipment market, and how the trends they are seeing will impact your equipment decisions. Their observations are as follows:


 


What trends are you seeing in terms of equipment sales to the landscape and irrigation markets?


 


We are seeing an increase in equipment inquiries, which is most likely being driven by the lack of used equipment in the marketplace.
— Chris Osswald, president, Innovative Equipment


 


Snow contractors are continually being asked to raise the bar in service and performance while running efficient operations. Our new products present new approaches to specific job or lot applications that make snow removal more efficient and effective than the standard plow approach.
— Mike Holihan, director of marketing for Pro-Tech Manufacturing and Distribution


 


More than ever, landscape and irrigation professionals are interested in making the most of their existing equipment. Rather than buying dedicated pieces of equipment to spread, dethatch or do other tasks, they’re looking for attachments that can be used on the mowers and utility vehicles they already own.
— Bruce Carmichael, national sales manager for TurfEx


 


We see contractors looking for products that will help them increase their gross sales. That means they may either have to expand what jobs they can do, or just try to be more efficient and the best in their field.
– John A. Bentley, general manager, Earth & Turf Products, LLC


 


When contractors look at their fleet today, they commonly look at this equipment in their yard and try to find ways for it to generate new revenue. The best way to increase machine utilization and gain a significant competitive advantage is to put an attachment on the end of a machine. If they can find an attachment that sets them apart from all of their competitors, they will get the work.


Also, many rental companies are offering special rental purchasing agreements that provide contractors with another purchasing option. Because the volume of work is low, contractors are hesitant to buy equipment of any kind, including attachments. They may want to consider talking with their rental dealer to develop an agreement that lets future jobs pay for the attachment instead of it coming directly from their capital all at once. Smaller host machines are being used more frequently: Many contractors are turning to smaller skid steers, mini-excavators and compact loaders in place of larger host machines.
— Doug Amerman, director of marketing and business development for Paladin Construction Group


 


Contractors require high horsepower and high lift capacity loaders to handle the demanding tasks they face. Landscapers and irrigation contractors are attracted to large-frame vertical lift units to meet their particular jobsite needs. An exception to this rule is if the landscaper has snow removal contracts in the winter, which may push them into a mid-sized unit to clean narrower sidewalks and pathways.
— Jamie Wright, product manager, Terex Construction Americas


 


Our customers are taking their time in making a purchasing decision. The best way to describe it is that they are being cautious, and rightfully so. Purchasing a commercial mower is a significant purchase, and the return on investment, as well as the efficiency of that piece of equipment, needs to be carefully considered to make sure the decision is correct.
— Rebecca E. Butler, director of sales and marketing, Dixie Chopper


 


Equipment sales into these markets have improved over the past couple of years and I expect them to improve with improvement in the overall economy providing increased disposable income.
— Jon Kuyers, Vermeer


 


We see that spending is down. Even customers with budget approval prefer to hold the funds if possible. We see more and more that customers that usually did equipment purchases every five years putting off replacements purchases for six, seven, even eight years. We think that there is a pent up demand for machines, but, for the moment, customers are getting by with limping machines along as long as possible.
— Paul Hollis, executive vice president, Redexim North America


 


Equipment sales appear to be trending more toward homeowners and do-it-yourselfers.
— Mike Hale, sales manager, Little Beaver


 


Now more than ever, landscapers need equipment that helps them get more done with less. Contractors are having a very difficult time raising prices, and their top line revenues and costs are rising rapidly, so they need equipment that helps them get more done with less — less fuel, less labor, less time. While this isn’t anything new, advanced technology coupled with smart, less-cluttered product design is making equipment not only faster for increased productivity, but more fuel-efficient and easier to use and maintain too.
— Pat Cappucci, president, Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.


 


As we see the economy recover, we are seeing a much stronger trend in sales of track loaders versus wheeled skid-steer loaders. This may be a result that as new equipment is being added to fleets, the owners want machines that can provide the most flexibility in job applications and uptime, even in poor weather conditions. If you are going to buy one piece of machinery, make sure it can be highly utilized.
— Todd Lynnes, product solutions manager – compact loaders, building construction products, Caterpillar Inc.


 


Companies are doing their homework and researching product investments much more than in the past. Every company has tightened their belts and is trying to maximize every dollar spent. This requires equipment manufacturers, distributors and dealers to be on top of their game in order to capitalize on equipment sales when the customer is ready to purchase.
— Jason Showers, product manager, Morbark, Inc.


 


Contractors are looking for ways to set themselves apart from the competition by defining service niches. Consequently, we’ve seen the industry leaning toward equipment and solutions to help them do business more efficiently. For example in mowing products, there’s a trend in the demand for superior quality of cut and solutions that can maintain a variety of grasses and leave behind a superb cut, without the need for double cutting.


Second, we’ve noticed a movement in the industry for equipment that helps to improve labor efficiency. Since labor is the number one cost with any green industry service provider, effectively managing and measuring labor costs is critical to a contractor’s bottom line. Today’s reality is that many contractors are actually charging less per man hour than they did four to five years ago. Maximizing the ROI on labor and overall labor efficiency is key to a contractor’s profitability.
— Ken Taylor, general manager- corporate business division, John Deere


 


The trends in design, at least what we’re seeing, all revolve around efficiency. Companies are trending toward multi-functional pieces, but also equipment that is easier to operate and faster in terms of speed and productivity. One example is traditional walk-behind blowers. We’re seeing more riding blowers entering the market. It’s all about bigger, faster, more functional — and, bottom line, more efficient. Doing the job quicker and with less people and equipment, so reducing labor and operating costs as well.
— Brad Murphy, vice president of sales and marketing, Subaru Industrial Power Products


 


Pros have become more discriminating in their larger-ticket items. When they do decide to pull the trigger, they are choosing products that will help them increase productivity and reduce downtime. That’s why we have made it easier for pros to perform certain maintenance tasks in the field or in the shop without having to send equipment to a dealer.
— John Marchionda, VP, marketing, Husqvarna


 


There has been some general improvement in the marketplace after two to three years of softness. Professional landscapers are becoming more optimistic about the future.
— Nick Cusick, President of SourceOne Outdoor Power Equipment


 


Buyers are becoming more savvy. Where there has been a price crunch due to the economic downturn, we are beginning to see buyers who are considering value and not simply price when making a purchase. Fuel savings, productivity and low maintenance costs all figure into greater ROI for equipment buyers who do their homework.
— Pat Penner, marketing coordinator, The Grasshopper Company


 


How have major world factors and events — such as rising gas prices, the housing market, the Japan earthquakes and tsunami, the tornados and flooding in the southern United States, unrest in the Middle East, etc. — impacted the landscape industry in 2011 from the standpoint of equipment manufacturing, distribution and sales?


 


Equipment Trends 2011: User Survey

While equipment manufacturers and suppliers weighed in on trends that are shaping the industry, equipment users provided us with feedback about their equipment decisions in 2011 and going forward. The results are as follows:


 


What equipment do you plan to purchase during the next 6 months? (check all that apply)

String trimmers           58%
Blowers           55%
Hedge trimmers          40%
Work trucks    40%
Commercial zero-turn mowers            38%
Chain saws      32%
Spray equipment (or other chemical application equipment)  31%
Commercial walk-behind mowers      28%
Edgers 22%
Snow and ice management equipment           16%
Turf aerators    13%
Stand-on mowers        11%
Utility vehicles            11%
Vacuums         8%
Dethatchers     7%
Stump grinders            7%
Chippers/shredders     6%
Loaders           6%
Propane-powered mowers      5%
Trenchers         5%

 


During 2011, how have you approached your equipment needs? (check all that apply)

Purchased new equipment this year to fill specific needs      55%
Used only the equipment from our existing fleet       34%
Rented equipment this year to fill specific needs       22%
Purchased used equipment this year to fill specific needs      14%

 


During the next six months, which of the following would you be most likely to do should a specific need arise?

Purchase new equipment        36%
Purchase replacement parts for existing equipment    36%
Rent equipment           20%
Purchase used equipment        8%

 


When purchasing new equipment, which of the following factors is most important to you?

Product specifications and features    39%
Serviceability/support 27%
Brand  18%
Price    17%

 


Source: Landscape and Irrigation reader survey, June 2011.

The sales process has defiantly been lengthened, but response time for the needs of equipment has elevated.


— Chris Osswald, president, Innovative Equipment


 


The snow and ice management industry is very much affected by the weather. The number of snow removal equipment sold is directly affected by how much it snows, and last winter it snowed in almost every area of the country. However, because of the uncertain economy, people have been delaying their equipment purchases as much as possible. Instead of buying products in September, the start of the traditional buying season, people are purchasing in December.


— Mike Holihan, director of marketing for Pro-Tech Manufacturing and Distribution


 


Because of the tough economy, people are looking for ways to stretch their equipment dollars, and they’re making wiser purchase decisions. This means they’re buying attachments, rather than dedicated pieces of equipment to perform certain tasks.


Furthermore, the big push to go green has affected the industry quite a bit. We’re seeing lots of interest in our electric-powered equipment not only because it saves on fuel costs, but also because it’s environmentally friendly.


— Bruce Carmichael, national sales manager for TurfEx


 


The U.S. markets are slow due to the low level of housing starts and the fact that unemployment is still so high. Contractors are buying only the equipment they need to get the job done, and are extending the life of their existing equipment until they see a more of positive economy.


— John A. Bentley, general manager, Earth & Turf Products, LLC


 


As mentioned, the cost of fuel and the poor economy have diminished the landscape and irrigation contractor’s ability to use larger equipment efficiently. They are switching to smaller, more compact host machines that are more agile and require less fuel consumption. In addition to fuel saved on the job site, using smaller host machines saves on the fuel required while transporting the equipment between job sites. In many cases, this switch to smaller host machines requires that same contractor to rent or purchase new attachments to fulfill the job requirements.


— Doug Amerman, director of marketing and business development for Paladin Construction Group


 


Demand is definitely on the rise as a result of natural disasters in the U.S. We are seeing opportunities for additional sales to rental yards grow, as well as retail units for contractors that are being contracted for cleanup and rebuild work.


The global market demand for our equipment is also on the rise, largely due to infrastructure initiatives implemented by local and federal governments to improve transit, tourism and residential and commercial buildings.


— Jamie Wright, product manager, Terex Construction Americas


 


We believe that all of these factors have slowed down the anticipated brisk spring market. From a practical standpoint, we had customers who were not able to get to the grounds they would normally be cutting because of weather-related issues. We also believe that all of the factors you mention have a psychological effect on our buyers, as well as ourselves. With all that is going on, it is very easy to become depressed or, at the very least, not put you in the mood to spend any money. Some of these concerns are real, but many are the result of the fact that it just kept heaping on this spring. Once these factors and events return to normal, I think all of us will also.


— Rebecca E. Butler, director of sales and marketing, Dixie Chopper


 


I think we all have seen the impact of the global events through increased prices that are being passed through the supply chain on many levels. From rising fuel prices due to the Middle East conflicts to increased demand for products coming out of the recession to disruptions in the component supply chain due to the earthquake/tsunami in Japan, each has its own unique imprint on the current economy. In some cases, there is a limited supply of products since some manufacturers have resisted increasing their output for fear of another dip in the economic recovery, and remain very cautious.


— Jon Kuyers, Vermeer


 


We believe that the rising gas prices and the unemployment rate are the key factors impacting our industry. The number of people out of work directly affects the revenues of our customer base. Fuel costs drive up the costs of manufacturing in various ways from the cost of raw materials to the shipment of finished goods to distribution.


— Paul Hollis, executive vice president, Redexim North America


 


The economy has hurt everybody, us included. And it’s a combination of several things, including the housing market, lack of jobs, the financial industries, etc. The economy in general has been a huge negative. Rising cost of fuel and insurance are both large factors that have negatively affected the industry. We’ve definitely seen a drop in sales; we just haven’t yet recovered from the economic downturn of 2008. Sales have just maintained a low.


— Mike Hale, sales manager, Little Beaver


 


This is one of the great things about our industry. All of the above mentioned factors have been going on throughout history, and are still happening today — floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, economic turmoil, you name it. But, despite all of this, the grass continues to grow, and people continue to want to live in a beautiful natural environment. In short, the demand is there, and continues to grow, but the one constant is change. The companies that stay deeply in touch with, and take action on, the latest trends and developments will be successful. Right now, people are more budget- and environmentally conscious across the globe. So greater fuel efficiency, lower cost of ownership, and greater productivity are needed.


— Pat Cappucci, president, Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.


 


From the manufacturer’s perspective, we see increased costs in materials, delayed delivery of purchased components, increased logistics expenses and reduced equipment consumption. All of these factors impact equipment cost and are either absorbed by the manufacturer, or passed along through the distribution channel.


— Jason Showers, product manager, Morbark, Inc.


 


Economic instability and high fuel costs continue to put pressure on contractor pricing. As a result, contractors are still closely evaluating every purchase decision, and looking for creative ways to improve the bottom line.


— Ken Taylor, general manager- corporate business division, John Deere


 


I think what’s having a big impact is how these events are affecting manufacturers in terms of their supply chains. Some manufacturers are reconsidering how much on-hand component inventory is necessary to manage their production lines, in the event regular shipments of supplies are delayed due to a natural disaster. I’ll use an example I recently heard about: a company in our industry announced it’s adding a warehouse facility. This particular company realized how dependent it is on supply from vendors to keep production going, and is taking a major step to ensure it won’t be shut down in the case of something like a tornado or earthquake. And I think more and more manufacturers will move in this direction as well. I think this is a trend, certainly.


— Brad Murphy, vice president of sales and marketing, Subaru Industrial Power Products


 


There is a fair amount of uncertainty out there as it relates to the economy and there has been an up tick in people taking on tasks that they might have hired out for in the past. This has a domino effect that ripples throughout the supply chain. Outdoor power equipment has seen some of this but, not to the same level as other industries. As a manufacturer, we can only produce products that our audiences are looking for and continue to support the channel.


— John Marchionda, VP, marketing, Husqvarna


 


As a domestic manufacturer, we have seen little disruption in our supply chain but have benefited from competitors’ sourcing problems.


— Nick Cusick, President of SourceOne Outdoor Power Equipment


 


There have been some short-term supply glitches due to the effect of the tsunami on engine suppliers. Sales are certainly affected locally by the severe weather and resulting flooding that has occurred. These types of devastating events can impact sales in affected locales for years to come. The unrest in the Middle East has spurred greater interest in fuel efficiency and domestic fuel production.


— Pat Penner, marketing coordinator, The Grasshopper Company


 


What factors should landscape and irrigation company owners/managers keep in mind when adding to their equipment fleet during the next year?


 


Versatility. Having equipment that easy to use and that can be used in a number of applications is critical to success.
— Chris Osswald, president, Innovative Equipment


 


Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when looking for the right equipment and attachments to handle a specific job. Snow storage, zero tolerance surface requirements, lot size/type, average snowfall amount and type should be factored into the equipment purchase decision. Equipment purchases should also be based upon quality, availability and price. Quality is important because downtime is very costly in this industry. Next, the manufacturer should always have products and parts available when needed, especially in the winter months. And, finally, the equipment should be sold at a reasonable price. Quality and price do not have to be at extreme odds with each other.
— Mike Holihan, director of marketing for Pro-Tech Manufacturing and Distribution


 


It’s important to buy commercial-duty equipment that will last for a long time. Especially in tough economic times, it’s tempting to go the cheap route when purchasing new products, but durable, reliable equipment will always produce the best return on investment. Solid warranty programs are also important when considering the next equipment purchase.
— Bruce Carmichael, national sales manager for TurfEx


 


They should be looking for equipment that will increase their efficiency or equipment that will allow them to perform tasks that may be more into the niche markets, but provide them with a higher net profit.
— John A. Bentley, general manager, Earth & Turf Products, LLC


 


When compared to host machines, attachment purchases are a lot less risky. The overall cost difference isn’t as large between the “cheap” brands when compared to the brands known more for quality. There are a lot of very small companies building “cheap” attachments that look good on the surface. Once you start using them, they require more maintenance and often fall apart very easily. While you may enjoy the discount price, you will suffer shortly after. Before buying, ask yourself where these attachments and/or couplers are manufactured and whether this company can offer the parts, support and service you will need. Research whether the company you’re buying from will be able to stand behind the product you’re buying. If you’re unsure, try renting the attachment first. If you like it, it may be possible to work with your rental company to determine a payment plan that is easy on your cash flow.
— Doug Amerman, director of marketing and business development for Paladin Construction Group


 


Equipment management is the key to success. When assessing current and future needs, owners and managers should consider factors such as scope of jobs that are ahead of them, new tasks that need to be performed, existing transport available to haul equipment, dealer proximity to job sites, fuel economy of their fleet, and the operational expense of existing equipment.
— Jamie Wright, product manager, Terex Construction Americas


 


They need to ask themselves who builds the best equipment? Who has the best warranty? Which equipment will give me the greatest return on my investment? How long will the equipment I am considering last?
— Rebecca E. Butler, director of sales and marketing, Dixie Chopper


 


Landscape and irrigation company owners need to keep in mind that in 2012 many of the diesel engines 75 horsepower and above will need to meet new emissions standards and may come with an increased price. This requirement will also occur for engines in the 25- to 74-horsepower class in 2013. Owners should carefully consider and manage their fleet based on these upcoming emissions requirements. If the company works in a non attainment area they may need to have the latest emissionized product and should plan to upgrade their fleet accordingly. Owners should also consider the ROI on replacing equipment. Used equipment values have increased due to improved demand and it may make sense to upgrade or replace the equipment while they can get the maximum value for it.
— Jon Kuyers, Vermeer


 


This may sound cliché, but look for added value in niche markets. If companies can look to offer an extra service to the customer at a reduced price because they are already on site, then it adds to the revenues coming from an existing customer base, versus looking at expansion of sales by dropping prices to gain new clients. Diversifying services to an existing customer base should be considered when adding new equipment to a fleet.
— Paul Hollis, executive vice president, Redexim North America


 


Be sure to add equipment from a reputable company that produces quality products. Consider their brand, how long they’ve been in business, their service record and maintenance schedule.
— Mike Hale, sales manager, Little Beaver


 


I would say that, like everyone else, they need to look at the big picture of their businesses. The payoff from equipment and automation comes in the form of greater productivity and excellent results in the jobs that they are doing for their customers. If a piece of equipment helps you get more jobs done with excellent results and fewer call backs, it almost always leads to greater profits. Also, keep your workforce in mind. Quality workers are harder to find and train today — despite the unemployment picture. Find equipment that makes the job both easier for them from a usage and service standpoint, and also produces a great result.
— Pat Cappucci, president, Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.


 


Make sure that the machine meets all current and future job requirements. Purchase machinery that can be used in a wide variety of applications, so that the overall equipment expense can be minimized with fewer machines doing more work. Consider the attachments to be purchased, and match the machines to the attachments and the jobs to be performed. If you are going to buy one piece of machinery, make sure it can be highly utilized.
— Todd Lynnes, product solutions manager – compact loaders, building construction products, Caterpillar Inc.


 


It is important that a company’s core business remains in focus while looking for ways to strategically diversify their offerings. This strategy allows the company to offset a downturn with another product or service, maintain positive cash flow, discover new markets, or penetrate existing markets with their expanded product and service offerings. In addition, a company should perform a fleet analysis on current equipment downtime and maintenance costs, and compare with replacement cost and new warranty. This type of analysis will allow a company to utilize a fact-based approach when exploring new equipment purchases.
— Jason Showers, product manager, Morbark, Inc.


 


My advice would be to buy equipment that offers a high level of support, especially when a purchasing decision is being made between several high-quality equipment manufacturers. There will always be several options in any given product category, and many good options in terms of product quality. But many people forget the value of good, old-fashioned service and support, and buying from a company that offers it. So buying from a brand that is well-supported in a company’s area, and has a long history and record of providing support is key.
— Brad Murphy, vice president of sales and marketing, Subaru Industrial Power Products


 


Understand the principles of “Better, Faster, Cheaper,” and understand that cheaper does not always mean the lowest up-front cost. Think operating cost per hour and measure it. Benchmark your business, think about fleet optimization, think about the right product for the right job, and understand the principles and metrics of your efficiency factor
— Ken Taylor, general manager- corporate business division, John Deere


 


Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” A number of companies have been able to effectively get the most from their equipment purchases by keeping them in top running condition, and it is important that they do the same with new equipment.
— John Marchionda, VP, marketing, Husqvarna


 


While price is important, operational costs per year or per acre are of greater importance. Productivity, customer satisfaction, downtime, and maintenance cost are as important as up-front costs.
— Nick Cusick, President of SourceOne Outdoor Power Equipment


 


When making mower purchases, buy the equipment that will produce the results you want over the long term. Consider whether time or labor could be saved by adding a mower that performs equally well as an aerator, sprayer or snow removal unit. Pay attention to the balance of power between the efficiency of the hydro system, the engine and the cutting deck or implement. The proper balance can add longevity to the equipment, productivity to your daily operation and revenue to your bottom line. In this economic climate, it’s important to get the best value for your equipment dollar.
— Pat Penner, marketing coordinator, The Grasshopper Company


 


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