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Equipment Trends 2015

 

 

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:

 

L&I: What is new or different with your company for 2015?

 

We’ve really been listening to the changing needs of contractors. Although we’d like to think the TurfEx line is perfect, we realize that responding to the requests from our customers is good for both them and us. That means tweaking our base models to better fit contractors’ requirements. A good example is that we made some improvements to the 7200E spreader/sprayer product line in terms of the boom assembly.

— Patrick Dietz, vice president of marketing, Douglas Dynamics on behalf of TurfEx.

 

Redesigned FasTrak, FasTrak SD, and the new FasTrak SDX. Completely redesigned from the ground up: 1.5 inch x 3 inch welded tubular frame; 22-inch drive tires; 13 x 6.50 caster tires; Kawasaki engines; premium internal suspension seats; new 5-inch-deep deck; Hydro-Gear transmissions; new 54-inch Super Z with choice of two engine options, Vanguard 810 EFI or Kawasaki FX; new Vanguard big block engines, 36 hp. available on the Super Z HyperDrive and Super 104.

— Brad Unruh, senior product manager, Excel Industries (Hustler and BigDog).

 

Ryan small2015 has been an exciting year for the Ryan brand. We recently introduced a new Ren-O-Thin power rake this winter with Honda and Briggs & Stratton Vanguard engine options. We also introduced the models with a seed box — and new to this unit — a spring tine reel option. We continue to receive customer feedback and work to innovate and bring solutions to our end users that will save them time and money, while living up to the Ryan brand promise: long life and quality products. We have an exciting new product plan that we are executing based upon what we learn in speaking with our customers about their needs.

— Steve Relaz, product manager, Ryan.

 

At Vermeer, we continue to expand our offerings to the landscape and irrigation markets and we’ve recently released several new models. New models include the CTX50 mini skid-steer, which boasts a rated lifting capacity of 600 pounds. This is a lot considering its small footprint. The CTX50 is the first Vermeer mini skid-steer to adopt vertical-lift geometry, and it is this geometry that allows the load to be kept closer to the machine’s center of gravity, so it can lift more.

We also just recently launched the SC40TX 40-hp. stump cutter. The SC40TX is the first stump cutter that you actually ride to the stump on. Its stand-on design is an industry first, and the increased speed and maneuverability will allow you to get to the stump quicker and reposition easier than traditional walk-beside models.

Another new product that should really pique the interest of landscape and irrigation professionals is the PTX44 ride-on plow. Riding on the unit provides excellent visibility and the articulating and oscillating frame allows for positive ground contact with all four over a variety of terrain.

Finally, we’ve responded to customer feedback resulting in several enhancements to our BC900XL 9-inch brush chipper. This chipper is a great size unit for landscapers who also get into tree care but maybe not full-tree takedowns. Improvements include a centrifugal clutch to engage the cutter disc and an overpressure switch to allow the feed rollers to reverse slightly to clear material that may get behind the feed rollers.

— Jay Sunderman, strategic business unit manager, tree care/rental & landscape, Vermeer Corporation.

 

Toro has introduced several new, innovative products to the professional landscape and lawn-care markets. First, Toro’s new Horizon Technology, available on select Z Master Professional 6000 EFI models, helps operators maximize fuel efficiency and productivity. The onboard intelligence platform enhances communication between the mower and key systems on the machine to increase equipment performance.

Primarily, the operator can easily match the performance mode to mowing conditions. Toro’s Horizon Technology has three modes to handle essentially any condition: max mode for maximum power in the most demanding conditions; economy mode, for most normal mowing conditions, to reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and machine wear; and, finally, low mode to reduce deck packing and discharge clumping — ideal for mowing in wet conditions.

Toro has also recently introduced the 8000 Series Direct Collect Z. This new product line shines in situations where a clean, manicured appearance is critical. The rear-discharge deck allows for trimming on both sides of the deck and can reach ground speeds of up to 7 mph. The large, powerful blower moves more air, allowing large volumes of clippings to be thrown into the 9.5-bushel hopper.

A third new offering for professional landscape contractors is a new line of Toro 21-inch commercial heavy-duty mowers, built on a track record of proven performance with a host of new features to do even more. All five models are equipped with the latest commercial-grade components, as well as the Recycler cutting system and a wide, easy-empty bag to ensure optimal performance. These models feature premium engines and maintenance-free transmissions to help operators stay productive.

— Chris Hannan, marketing manager, Toro.

 

BOB-CAT launched its first stand-on family of mowers, the QuickCat. The BOB-CAT QuickCat comes in three different deck sizes including 48, 52 and 61 inch. Rugged and durable, the stand-on mower is setting a new standard in the stand-on mower market. BOB-CAT also launched a new zero-turn mower, the XRZ Pro, a professional-grade sit-down zero-turn mower. In addition, our new Boss Vac collection systems mount onto the BOB-CAT Predator Pro, ProCat or FastCat mower models, depending on bushel size. Two options are available — a more traditional bagging system or the DFS (Dump from the Seat) version.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT.

 

2015 is a relatively quiet year, as far as product introductions for Bobcat compact excavators. With the recent launch of the complete line of M-Series excavators, much of the focus here is working toward next-generation product. The Bobcat Depth Check, new for 2015, is a new accessory for select Bobcat excavators. This is a depth guidance system designed to help operators sustain a grade and achieve a minimum cover; and, with inclusion of laser components, it can guide the operator to sustain a slope when trenching. The Bobcat Depth Check system is uniquely integrated into the machine’s instrumentation panel, eliminating the need for additional display screens.

— Tom Connor, excavator product specialist, Bobcat Company.

 

At Terex, we polled a variety of different customers that use competitive loader models and found many attributes that are extremely important during the buying-decision process, because they contribute to higher productivity and a lower cost of ownership. With this customer input in mind, our loader lines offer attributes that match or exceed existing competitors — including reach, lift height, operating capacity and serviceability, to name a few.

In addition to the features already mentioned, customers asked us to make the cab environment more comfortable and intuitive for the operator. Specific features included fingertip controls to operate the unit and attachments, pressurized cabs and roominess for the operator. Excellent visibility was also high on the list of customer wants.

Owner/operators demand production, higher bucket capacities and improved lifting capabilities because they are directly related to how much can get done in a day. We believe the trend will be slow to increase because of the additional costs related to the implementation of Tier 4 interim engines. The added cost may lead owners/operators to invest in smaller units that are not required to comply with Tier 4 until later this year.

New developments in the Terex compact equipment line — including excavators, wheel loaders, backhoe loaders, site dumpers, skid-steer loaders and compact track loaders — include Tier 4 final engines for increased productivity at a lower operating cost. Terex compact loaders, for example, come equipped with Perkins EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) diesel engines. EGR technology is well suited for lower-horsepower engines operating in high-duty applications, and Terex loaders, which operate in high-duty cycle environments, will generate enough heat during operation through passive regeneration. Terex skid-steer loaders offer increased fuel capacities, which translates to longer operating times between refueling.

— Gregg Warfel, district sales manager, Terex Construction Americas.

 

We continue to expand our offerings and as a result, add value to Oregon’s overall product line. We’ve added the 40V lithium-ion-powered, handheld BL300 blower, and will be refreshing our chain saw offering with the cordless, 40V lithium-ion-powered CS300 in late summer. We have an opportunity to continue adding products to the range that all utilize our premium battery system, while at the same time taking advantage of the improvements in technology like brushless motors, to offer the customer an improved experience.

— Josh Huffman, director of global product marketing for Oregon Outdoor Power Equipment.

 

Product development at Crysteel is focusing on efficiency and economy with new products being introduced in 2015 including an all-new Aluminum A-Tipper and an all-new Aluminum Landscape Tipper.

— Nikki Kyle, marketing manager at Crysteel Manufacturing.

 

Our EarthWay EV-N-SPRED Flex-Select Series of broadcast spreaders.

— Jeff Kendall, vice president, sales & marketing, Earthway Products, Inc.

 

For 2015, Exmark has expanded the breadth of its product offering to include two new utility vehicles, a Stand-On Spreader Sprayer, and an EFI propane-powered Vantage S-Series stand-on riding mower. We’ve introduced redesigned Turf Tracer X-Series and S-Series intermediate walk-behind mowers. In addition, the popular UltraCut rear-discharge cutting deck is now available on the Pioneer S-Series zero-turn riding mower.

— Daryn Walters, director of marketing, Exmark Manufacturing.

 

Gravely has expanded EFI products among our platforms, as well as engine sizes. In addition, upgraded features and components on our Pro-Turn 400, Pro-Turn 200 and Pro Stance equipment. The launch has been very positive for our new UTV, the Atlas JSV, and we are looking into upgrades and enhancements on that machine as well. We continue to drive resources into the dealer network, as well as NALP to provide education and relative information to our end users. A great example of this is our partnership with industry consultant Marty Grunder. Included in the three-year partnership with Marty are several exclusive opportunities for Gravely users. Gravely customers will have access to discounts on registrations for Grunder’s annual GROW! conference, access to a Gravely learning summit lead by Grunder, a quarterly e-zine authored by Grunder containing industry insight and best practice and more. In addition to the advantages the partnership brings directly to Gravely landscapers, the collaboration will provide valuable insight into the wants and needs of today’s landscape contractors. This will help ensure that we are designing machines that meet the industry’s demands. We’re excited to be looking into even more opportunities where we can bring relevant content to our end users in 2015/2016. We think that growing that relationship is really important, as we can learn from them while they learn from us. It’s really a win-win.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely Brand for the Ariens Company.

 

Kubota smallIn 2015 Kubota will dedicate more resources to further developing its outdoor power equipment business, with a dedicated team based in Suwanee, Ga.

Product-wise, Kubota introduced several new mowers in the last year. Among them are three new models in the Z700-Series: the Z724X-48, Z724X-54 and Z726X-60, powered by Kawasaki’s industry-proven FX engines and engineered to deliver superior results day in and day out. With a Parker TorqPact GT 14 transmission, the most power-dense transmission available for commercial turf applications, this series puts more torque and more power on the ground where lawn care and landscape professionals need it. Each model in the series is equipped with an 11.6-gallon fuel tank for more operating hours, less downtime and superior productivity, making the Z700-Series the must-have tool for turf care professionals in 2015.

Kubota also introduced the ZD326H zero-turn mower, which is designed for turf care professionals and large-property owners alike. The new model features a powerful balance of performance, affordability and comfort with a 72-inch-wide, 6-inch-deep mower deck engineered specifically to handle large jobs with greater efficiency. The cutting height can be easily adjusted by the turn of a dial for a clean, professional cut every time. The new model boasts a 26-horsepower liquid-cooled Kubota diesel engine and a heavy-duty twin hydrostatic transmission (HST) with a power-take-off clutch for reliable and smooth operation.

— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota Turf product marketing director.

 

As for skid-steers, multi-terrain, and compact track loaders, we have exciting new models to introduce in 2015. Four new small-chassis models, 226D, 232D, 239D, and 249D all receive the D-series badge, which has earned a reputation for class-leading comfort, visibility, and security. The skid-steer model 226D is an upgrade for the 226B3 that enjoys 10 percent more horsepower and torque while achieving 14 percent better fuel efficiency than before. The new 232D is a 67 hp., 1,850-lb. ROC, vertical-lift-path machine that packs all that D-series customer value into a small SSL and features extended reach. The compact track loader models, 239D and 249D, are new models that combine D-series features with the tried and true Cat suspended CTL undercarriage, known for its long track life, smoother ride, and low operating costs. What’s more, the 239D and 249D will be available from the factory with an optional wide, bar-tread track that delivers better traction in snow, more flotation and less ground disturbance.

Additionally, the largest models in the Cat family change to D2-Series and include the 272D2 & 272D2 XHP, 297D2 & 297D2 XHP, 299D2 & 299D2 XHP. These models make up the highest performance level of Cat skid-steers, multi-terrain, and compact track loaders and receive upgrades in the areas of emissions, ROC, and debris protection in 2015.

— Jeff Brown, compact construction product specialist, Caterpillar.

 

For 2015, Grasshopper expanded its line of economical V Series mowers with new models 125V and 225V. These compact power units are powered by 747cc Kohler Confidant engines and feature fully hydraulic, “no gears” drive systems for powerful performance, smooth operation, long-lasting durability and lower operating costs. The response to these new models has been exceptional, and they were included in Landscape and Irrigation magazine’s “Twenty for 2015” product list, showcasing the best of the best in the commercial landscape market.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, The Grasshopper Company.

 

The largest area of growth is professional handheld tools for tree and landscape maintenance. This is followed by zero-turn mower and battery-powered OPE demands.

— Pete Love, national sales director America for Husqvarna.

 

Rather than what is new or different, in 2015 we continue to listen to what our customers are saying — through the voice of the customer and lifetime owner loyalty studies. Identifying what our customers value most through the distinct phases of their ownership lifecycle gives Honda Power Equipment the opportunity to develop products that provide long-term durability, maximum efficiency and minimal operator downtime. In addition, we always are looking at opportunities to leverage developments on a global basis for applications in the U.S.

In 2015, Honda Power Equipment also continues to place high priority on the design of outdoor power equipment products that incorporate the most durable components possible. On the manufacturing front, our company has seen a shift to more localized production in order to meet customer demand for product faster — all while providing more flexibility in our product manufacturing mix. Honda produces the majority of our lawn and garden products in at our manufacturing facility in Swepsonville, N.C.

— Alex Torre, Honda Power Equipment, manager, marketing and market research.

 

John Deere smallAt John Deere, we are excited for the optimism that resonates throughout the industry. Many of the products that we first unveiled in 2014 are available to the market, and new programs are giving us an opportunity to better serve our customers.

At GIE+EXPO in October we unveiled the innovative Michelin X Tweel Turf, an airless radial tire that provides a revolutionary solution for professional landscape contractors. Available exclusively for John Deere B, M and R series ZTrak mowers, the Tweel virtually eliminates downtime and is nearly maintenance free, unlike traditional pneumatic tires.

We also launched the Z997R ZTrak mower at GIE+EXPO. The new Z997R provides a solution for professional landscape contractors that need a powerful large zero-turn mower for all mowing conditions. For increased performance, the Z997R is equipped with a Final Tier 4 diesel engine and 7-gauge fabricated deck with the option of a 60-inch or 70-inch side discharge, 60-inch MOD or 60-inch rear discharge.

Additionally in 2015, John Deere launched its Military GreenFleet program. As an American-based company, it is important to John Deere to support the U.S. military and our veterans. This new program offers special equipment deals to members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard or National Guard with active, reserve, retired or veteran status.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing.

 

We are continually working with customers to meet their needs in landscaping, irrigation and water well drilling. This year we launched a series of maintenance videos on our website, for fast and easy upkeep of the earth drills. The how-to videos walk the viewer through preventative maintenance procedures, such as clutch servicing, throttle inspection, and auger blade and point replacement.

— Mike Hale, Little Beaver sales and marketing manager.

 

 

What trends are you seeing with regard to equipment for the professional landscape and lawn care markets?

 

Especially in the last few years, contractors and outdoor professionals continue to look at profit margins as a major factor when considering equipment purchases. An ideal equipment purchase can be paid off in the short-term and boost their bottom line. In the landscape industry, liquids are a major growth area. Although granular products will always have a time and place, increasing demand for liquid applicators has meant a boost to sprayers, both conventional and self-propelled.

— Patrick Dietz, vice president of marketing, Douglas Dynamics on behalf of TurfEx.

 

Continued focus on fuel-injected engine options and ways to reduce overall spend on equipment while not sacrificing value and comfort.

— Brad Unruh, senior product manager, Excel Industries (Hustler and BigDog).

 

We keep hearing that well-made products that stand the test of time are what our customers want. In our new product development process we make sure that we are meeting and exceeding our users’ expectations. We will continue to make sure that what we develop from a product standpoint is going to last — and gives the best time-value proposition for our customers.

We would like to stress the importance of aeration for the overall health of a lawn. With continued droughts in the west, aeration has proven to improve drought resistance, as well as improve the depth of penetration of rainfall that is received. Communicating the benefits of aeration is something we are focusing on for the Ryan brand, this year.

— Steve Relaz, product manager, Ryan.

 

Professional landscapers are becoming increasingly focused on productivity and profitability in their businesses. The more production they can squeeze out of a day adds up to completing more jobs in a season. Of course, this leads to more revenue and, if they’ve managed their job quotes and expenses properly, more profit hits the bottom line. When we ask customers what the number one challenge is to their business, probably 80 percent of the time they reply that it is getting and retaining good employees. Because of this, any equipment solution that helps them do more with less manpower makes real business sense. It’s no secret that this is a primary reason why mini skid-steers are experiencing exponential growth in the landscape industry.

— Jay Sunderman, strategic business unit manager, tree care/rental & landscape, Vermeer Corporation.

 

Key trends we see continuing are regarding EFI / fuel efficiency and productivity. Toro has an extensive EFI offering on Z Masters and GrandStand models (and Horizon on select models) delivering fuel efficiency beyond a typical carbureted engine. Toro’s TurfMaster 30-inch walk-behind mower, offering a wider cutting path, directly addresses the need for enhanced productivity on the job site.

— Chris Hannan, marketing manager, Toro.

 

Equipment needs to be reliable in this market, as our customers demand it: quality-made products that can take the punishment landscapers put on their equipment, while at the same time, having what the customer needs without the frills. A durable, well spec’d machine for the application, and at a fair price is what our customers have come to expect, and what we deliver.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT.

 

We continue to see increased utilization of attachments on the excavator. Popular attachments in the landscape market include the flail mower, clamp, grading bucket, hydra-tilt, grapple and plate compactor. Attachments that reduce manual labor or improve quality of work are appealing.

— Tom Connor, excavator product specialist, Bobcat Company.

 

The trend in the last decade has been increasing popularity for larger units with more capacity, faster speeds and longer, wider wheelbases.

A compact loader’s ability to lift higher and reach farther are some of the key changes in the past five to seven years. The capability to lift higher gives the operator the ability to do tasks such as production loading easier. Additional reach capabilities enable operators to better center load a truck, as well as to place pallets on scaffoldings.

To compensate for both additional reach and lift capacities, wheelbases on skid-steers have also increased. A longer wheelbase helps to give the operator a more stable platform when lifting weight to full height.

In addition to the other features, customers asked us to make the cab environment more comfortable and intuitive for the operator. Specific features included fingertip controls to operate the unit and attachments, pressurized cabs and roominess for the operator.

Improving visibility is always at the top of the list when speaking with customers, as well, which greatly influenced the low tower design on the Terex units.

— Gregg Warfel, district sales manager, Terex Construction Americas.

 

We’re definitely getting more and more requests for handheld, cordless products. Many landscaping firms are getting the request from their customers to “go green” (or quiet/low-noise) and battery-powered tools fit that need. Also, we’re seeing more and more brands enter the market.

— Josh Huffman, director of global product marketing for Oregon Outdoor Power Equipment.

 

Feedback we get from the field drives much of our product development. Products that have better durability, are easy to maintain, and have weight efficiencies are in high demand by contractors. Functionality is also an important consideration, especially within the landscape/lawn care market. Bodies that do more or have productivity-enhancing options are high on the list for landscape contractors.

— Nikki Kyle, marketing manager at Crysteel Manufacturing.

 

Our new models are selling very well — typical users are excited about the new application technology and have embraced the multi-season and multi-material use aspect of the series. Dealers love it because it reduces their inventory assortment and increases sales opportunities.

— Jeff Kendall, vice president, sales & marketing, Earthway Products, Inc.

 

An increasing number of landscape professionals are seeing the value in paying a little more up front for equipment that can decrease costs and/or increase productivity on a daily basis. Exmark’s RED Technology is a good example of this. While a RED-equipped mower costs a little more up front, the owner will be able to quickly recoup the additional cost through increased fuel efficiency, reduced downtime and longer equipment life.

We are also seeing significant growth in the sales of stand-on machines, including mowers, aerators and spreader sprayers. Increasingly, landscape and lawn care professionals are turning to stand-on machines to increase productivity and profitability, decrease operator fatigue, and deliver better service to customers.

— Daryn Walters, director of marketing, Exmark Manufacturing.

 

The biggest trends are those that are counter-intuitive. First, there is a desire for more power out of engines that can respond to heavy loads when needed, while also having the power to mulch and bag effectively. Engines with more horsepower have been something that we’ve seen increased demand for. Deck size was also a trend last season, and seems to not be as big a priority this season. With that being said, reduction in the use of fuel or alternative fuels continue to be topic of discussion. At Gravely, we’re always researching the best alternative fuel technologies and coming up with ways to incorporate those into our product lines.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely Brand for the Ariens Company.

 

At Kubota, we are preparing for future trends that involve optimizing engine power using technology, increasing efficiency of the hydrostatic transmission design in terms of transferring power to the wheels, and smart cutting systems designs that consume less power and fuel. Like other industries, technology will continue to evolve as customers experience the efficiency and effectiveness benefits it can provide.

— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota Turf product marketing director.

 

Safety and asset protection are important considerations for the professional landscaper. Lower your risk of job site accidents, insurance rates and repair costs with Cat’s industry-leading standard safety features that include excellent sight lines, horn, rearview mirror, work lights, backup alarm, two emergency exits, safety interlock system, hydraulic accumulator, dead engine lower valve, lift arm brace that can be operated by single person, hydraulically released parking brake, and patented engine exhaust airflow. Add an optional rearview camera for enhanced jobsite safety. As for asset protection, all Cat D-series models come standard with an anti-theft system.

— Jeff Brown, compact construction product specialist, Caterpillar.

 

The total cost of operation of mowing equipment — from initial purchase to final cut — continues to be point of focus for landscape contractors. The purchase price is only part of the equation. Contractors want to know how much a mower will cost in maintenance, downtime, labor, replacement parts, convenience, etc., as they understand that there is more to the overall cost of equipment than the initial purchase price.

Grasshopper manufactures mowers that save contractors time and money, not only in the field with superior performance but in the shop with simpler maintenance procedures and longer service intervals.

And nobody wants to go home exhausted at the end of the day, so improving standard comfort features is also a key focus area for new equipment. Landscape contractors who use Grasshopper mowers say they can do their best work on every property — whether the first job in the morning or the last job in the evening — and still have energy left at the end of the day. That is because Grasshopper makes comfort a standard feature on every mower; our integrated comfort systems and multi-point suspensions — iso-mounted seats, footrests and operator platforms, as well as ergonomically designed controls and instrument consoles — keep their crews fresh throughout the day.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, The Grasshopper Company.

 

The introduction of battery-powered products to commercial product lines and the increase in intuitive features to support lower operating costs and simplify maintenance.

— Pete Love, national sales director America for Husqvarna.

 

In terms of landscaping product trends, we have found commercial users to be focused most on how to get the most value from their machine investment while helping them effectively complete their work. So, when it comes to designing and producing products such as lawn mowers, pumps, tillers, and trimmers, an integral part of our portfolio development strategy at Honda Power Equipment is addressing the right balance between technological innovation while offering products with the least amount of downtime, greatest efficiency and durability, along with the best fuel economy possible.

I’ll add that, these days, we see more landscape professionals performing frequent evaluations of their fleet to determine the production or yield of every unit in inventory — so as to calculate what products are working hardest for them. In this way, it may be possible for these customers to trim fleet size or change the model complexion of the fleet to maximize profitability. With the development and growing use of analytics, landscape professionals are better able to measure the utility of their fleets and workforces in order to close gaps and capitalize on areas of opportunity.

— Alex Torre, Honda Power Equipment, manager, marketing and market research.

 

Overall, customers are selecting equipment that allows them to improve the efficiency and performance of their businesses. More manufacturers are offering equipment to meet this need, implementing innovative offerings to transform equipment. From electronic fuel injection (EFI) to Mulch On Demand (MOD) technology, John Deere, like other manufacturers, has ramped up offerings to allow customers to complete jobs efficiently without losing performance quality.

Mowers powered by an EFI engines offer customers a multitude of benefits, like more horsepower, better fuel economy and lower emissions. Another technology offering is Mulch On Demand. John Deere’s exclusive offering enables the operator switch between mulching and side-discharging without ever leaving their seat, cutting down on unnecessary time spent manually switching.

For increased uptime, John Deere also exclusively offers the Michelin X Tweel Turf for its B, M and R Series ZTrak mowers.

One benefit that John Deere offers is that customers can purchase a mower that is equipped with all three offerings, creating a powerful machine that runs more efficiently and at a higher performance level than the competitors.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing.

 

Landscape contractors are pursuing versatile landscaping equipment so they can tackle a variety of applications. We achieved this at Little Beaver with our earth drills’ replaceable blades and points that can tackle soils ranging from loamy soil to compact rock. The blades and points are mounted on our regular and heavy-duty snap-on augers using bolts or screws. Some operators may keep the standard and carbide blades on hand if they are moving to multiple sites with the earth drills. This increases productivity and prolongs the life of the blades and augers. And, they are easy to replace when they become worn or dull. With a common adjustable wrench, the blade can be changed in just minutes, so that users can keep drilling.

Our Kwik-Trench is another versatile product that we manufacture. The compact unit can complete many projects from landscape edging and root pruning to installation of plumbing and drainage lines, low-voltage wiring and sprinkler systems. It’s available in two models and can trench as fast as 30 feet per minute. Like the earth drills, Kwik-Trench blades are easily changed between the Super Blade Plus and Super Xtra Rock Teeth to adjust for different soil conditions. The Super Blade Plus cuts through loam and sand, while the Super Xtra Rock Teeth are ideal for dense clays and rocky soils.

Specifically for irrigation projects, we offer two kits that allow users to easily convert the mechanical drills into horizontal boring machines. The sidewalk auger kit includes a 5-foot extension with a universal joint and a 5-foot auger, which makes it ideal for drilling as much as 4 feet under sidewalks. The water drilling kit is for applications like plumbing, electrical and water lines. It includes a water swivel and achieves horizontal drilling distances up to 40 feet.

— Mike Hale, Little Beaver sales and marketing manager.

 

 

What do you feel are the key factors impacting equipment-buying decisions of landscape/lawn care company owners and operators this year?

 

It boils down to profitability: If I buy this, will I make money? A lot of that is dealer driven, but financing plays a part, too. In addition to the equipment’s ROI, these guys look at strong dealer partners, as well as solidifying favorable financing options.

— Patrick Dietz, vice president of marketing, Douglas Dynamics on behalf of TurfEx.

 

Cost — getting value out of every dollar they spend.
— Brad Unruh, senior product manager, Excel Industries (Hustler and BigDog).

 

Budgets and resource constraints are always a factor. Making sure that crews are working efficiently as possible is always a concern.

— Steve Relaz, product manager, Ryan.

 

I would say that many in the industry are remaining optimistically cautious with regard to the economy. However, a growing backlog and the need to produce often justifies adding the tools necessary to get the job done. I also believe that reliability and after-sale support are going to become even bigger criteria check boxes when considering one brand against another. There is a lot of parity in the quality of equipment. What can set the “men apart from the boys” is the level of dealer support available. They have to be making money when the sun is shining; and the shorter the season is, the more crucial this becomes. Service and parts availability is critical and should be a key factor in any buying decision.

— Jay Sunderman, strategic business unit manager, tree care/rental & landscape, Vermeer Corporation.

 

Fuel efficiency is a big factor for landscape contractors, and technology supporting alternative fuels is consistently on the rise. For example, Toro has been offering propane power for the past few years on select Z Master professional 5000 Series mowers. Toro also has incorporated electronic fuel injection (EFI) technology on select Z Master and GrandStand models. All Toro EFI models are equipped with Kohler closed-loop engines that automatically adapt to load, weather, and altitude changes for up to 25 percent better fuel economy. In addition to being a catalyst for fuel savings, EFI technology is better for the environment than standard carburetor counterparts.

Contractors are always looking for ways to make their time on the job site more productive without sacrificing quality. Any technology that can support that is very well received. The 8000 Series Direct Collect Z is a good example. It allows the operator to collect more clippings in the 9.5-bushel hopper, which minimizes downtime and essentially contributes to the profitability of any job — all while delivering a high-quality cut.

— Chris Hannan, marketing manager, Toro.

 

In this information-now age, customers are more knowledgeable than ever on the market and what manufacturers have to offer, so technology plays an important role in understanding the specifications of equipment and what potential deals are available. More importantly, however, is knowing that the manufacturer stands behind its equipment. Customers want to know that the product they are purchasing will last. Also, in these challenging financial times, price points are very important as customers watch their bottom line.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT.

 

One key would be the health of the housing market. This seems to play a big role in compact equipment buying decisions. With confidence in the growing housing market, buyers see opportunity to acquire and utilize equipment in their business.

— Tom Connor, excavator product specialist, Bobcat Company.

 

The types of equipment purchased and used by contractors today have not changed much from five years ago — compact track loaders, skid-steer loaders and excavators are still the top compact equipment models of choice among contractors.

What has changed is that many contractors are now relying more and more on rental versus buying. This is largely due to the need to reduce operating costs, as well as to have the ability to bid jobs tighter knowing what the costs will be on the front end. That said, many contractors still choose to buy equipment to refresh their fleets. The balance of fleet inventory versus rental possibilities affects what equipment they are choosing to buy versus which ones to rent. For example, smaller, specialized equipment is more likely be rented, whereas mid-sized and larger equipment is more likely to be added permanently to their fleet.

We have noticed that the modern contractor has become much savvier about managing their fleet inventories, especially as it pertains to skid loaders and track loaders. Most contractors have a balance of both in their fleet; however with the operational cost of track loaders being higher than skid-steers, contractors are getting better at managing when these units go onto the jobsite and when to take them off a project. Track loaders are extremely productive, but if used in the wrong application can cost the owner more money per hour to operate than the skid-steer. Managing these fleets is vital in the success of the company, and managing equipment in the field, along with determining rental versus ownership, affects the bottom line of every contractor.

We have seen that most contractors are looking to purchase skid-steer loaders and track loaders with a rated operating capacity between 2,000 lb and 2,700 lb. The reason for this is these machines’ ability to handle most pick-and-carry applications, as well as the majority of digging jobs. These units will also be lower in weight, so hauling the equipment does not require a larger truck and trailer, or special permits, to move them from job to job. This philosophy holds true for compact excavators as well.

— Gregg Warfel, district sales manager, Terex Construction Americas.

 

The question for the landscaping companies, as it relates to our business, is, “Is this the year we invest heavily in battery?” We know many, if not most, landscaping firms have considered battery-powered tools or have added a small number of units to their portfolios. The question many of them have is whether or not to follow the trend or get in front of it and offer battery operation as a standard offering. The problem is that today, battery requires a more significant upfront investment, and landscaping firms are giving up some performance compared with gas. However, the more they use battery-powered tools, the more likely they are to see a payback on their initial investment, therefore justifying the upfront expense.

— Josh Huffman, director of global product marketing for Oregon Outdoor Power Equipment.

 

Owners are interested in return on investment. What used to be a decision based heavily on initial purchase price, now is a decision based on longer-term ROI of the equipment. Owners want their equipment to last and they want their equipment on the job, working.

— Nikki Kyle, marketing manager at Crysteel Manufacturing.

 

Durability and accuracy — this will keep the LCO in operation and on schedule — the key is to not have to repeat treatments or fix problems.

— Jeff Kendall, vice president, sales & marketing, Earthway Products, Inc.

 

As the price of fuel continues on an upward trend, more and more Exmark customers are investing in technologies that help them reduce their overall fuel expenditures. Some contractors are looking to alternative fuels such as propane as the solution, while others are sticking with gasoline as their fuel. But instead of buying traditional carbureted machines, more and more contractors are investing in machines equipped with engines that employ Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) or RED Technology to reduce fuel consumption without compromising productivity.

— Daryn Walters, director of marketing, Exmark Manufacturing.

 

Downtime is by far one of the biggest factors that I think influences buying decisions. It’s crucial that buyers have the confidence that our products will reduce and limit downtime, so their profitability isn’t affected. Another important factor is dealer knowledge about the products and their capabilities to service the equipment (parts availability plays a role here), so that if a piece of equipment does go down, they know how to service it in the shortest period of time. Since downtime can impact profitability so drastically, we do think that this is a huge buying factor. That’s also why we’ve started offering programs like our Gravely Assurance Plan (GAP), which guarantees 100 percent uptime service to commercial clients.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely Brand for the Ariens Company.

 

Comfort, durability and serviceability remain the top factors considered during purchase of lawn equipment. For Kubota, diesel-fueled mowers remain popular among professional landscape and lawn care markets because they are easier to maintain, have a longer service life, and run quieter for a more comfortable ride.

— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota Turf product marketing director.

 

Equipment utilization year round is crucial, especially for the many landscape/lawn care companies that do snow removal in the winter months. The new optional wide, bar-tread track available from the factory on the Cat 239D and 249D is suitable for year-round use because it grips in the ice and snow. Landscapers will appreciate its minimal ground disturbance in the summer months, which means less re-work before seeding a new yard.

— Jeff Brown, compact construction product specialist, Caterpillar.

 

The economy continues to show sluggish growth and fits and starts, which demonstrates that the weather impacts equipment purchases more than anything. So far, weather patterns have been favorable for the commercial mower market, as growing grass means demand for mowing equipment.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, The Grasshopper Company.

 

Productivity, operating costs and the overall quality of the support network are all things impacting. More and more companies choose based on the full solution, not just the product, but the support and service behind it.

— Pete Love, national sales director America for Husqvarna.

 

Not unlike other years, value, fuel economy, durability, reliability and equipment downtime are some of the top buying considerations for landscape managers and lawn care companies interested in making the most of their investment. We’re also seeing that landscape professionals have a tendency to choose products that offer easy-to-perform minor maintenance and straightforward scheduled services — so that no unplanned maintenance expenses arise. That said, Honda has a responsibility to produce products that consumers want to buy — dependable products that not only help get the job done, but also help make our customers more successful.

— Alex Torre, Honda Power Equipment, manager, marketing and market research.

 

Landscapers are looking for more than an equipment manufacturer. They want a partner that will help them increase the productivity and profitability of their business. We are dedicated to developing programs that help our customers improve their businesses. For example, downtime is a concern of customers that can cost them time and money. Our Parts OnSite program makes restocking parts simple. The program works with the customer to determine the best parts inventory for their operation, enabling the customer to keep the parts they need in stock, eliminating time spent waiting on parts to arrive. Once the program is set up, the landscaper can have products quickly reordered and delivered, so their business never skips a beat.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing.

 

Safety is always a key factor for landscaping and lawn care companies, which is why we incorporate our exclusive torque tubes into our hydraulic and mechanical earth drills. Our torque tubes transfer digging torque from the drill head to the engine carrier, which virtually eliminates dangerous kickbacks and reduces operator fatigue by minimizing vibrations. To further enhance operator safety, all drill models feature a centrifugal clutch. If the drill encounters a buried object or the auger is overloaded, the clutch automatically slips to protect the operator from serious injury, as well as the drive cable and transmission gears from damage. For the Kwik-Trench, the operator pushes the machine forward for optimal view of the trenching area, while competitive trenchers make it challenging for operators to view potential hazards because they require the operator to pull them while walking backwards.

Productivity is another key factor. Users are pursuing equipment that is easy to use and efficient. Our hydraulic drills tackle the most challenging soils, including frozen ground and rock soil, because of their rugged bodies and powerful torque. At 150 rpm, the controlled, low speed and high torque allows for accurate, clean holes for installing signs and planting trees. When using a 12-inch-or-smaller-diameter auger, the drills achieve 30-foot depths, depending on soil conditions. The units also handle larger augers that drill holes as wide as 16 inches in diameter. The mechanical drills operate at 360 rpm for high-speed auger rotations and quick, clean holes. These drills are best suited for use with small-diameter augers, and due to their high speed, are ideal for projects requiring several, narrow holes, such as fitting fence and deck posts and planting decorative plants. For projects needing small, narrow trenches, the Kwik-Trench is the ultimate productive unit with rotation speeds up to 800 rpm, while minimizing backfill and cleanup time. This is because the mini-trencher deposits the soil beside the trench for easy removal.

— Mike Hale, Little Beaver sales and marketing manager.

 

 

How is 2015 shaping up so far; and what is your overall outlook for the remainder of the year?

 

So far, it’s been good. Retail activity has been strong. Snow season was good across much of the “Snow Belt,” so contractors who were profitable have money to spend on turf equipment. Early indicators have been that the rest of 2015 should shape up to be a strong year in the landscape industry.

— Patrick Dietz, vice president of marketing, Douglas Dynamics on behalf of TurfEx.

 

2015 is shaping up to be a great year for Hustler. We are seeing gains throughout all product lines. Continued growth in the dealer base is resulting in additional brand exposure.

— Brad Unruh, senior product manager, Excel Industries (Hustler and BigDog).

 

2015 had a little bit of a slow start with the extended cold throughout the Midwest and the heavy snowfall in the New England region. We are seeing improvement now that spring has finally arrived and grass is growing and we have a very positive outlook for 2015.

— Steve Relaz, product manager, Ryan.

 

Vermeer is off to another good start, and we look to finish strong. While growth may slow a bit from the hectic pace we’ve been on over the past couple of years, that’s not an altogether bad thing. Managing for success is important to all of our businesses, and it takes focus and the time necessary to do so. Vermeer is grateful to everyone who’s put their trust in our equipment and dealerships, and we wish the landscape and irrigation industries many years of growth and prosperity.

— Jay Sunderman, strategic business unit manager, tree care/rental & landscape, Vermeer Corporation.

 

We have a generally positive outlook for the rest of 2015, and now that we are in the prime mowing season, we look forward to continuing to provide top-quality equipment solutions to landscape contractors across the globe.

— Chris Hannan, marketing manager, Toro.

 

2015 has been a very good year to date, even with the late spring season, especially with our new line of products. We anticipate a strong year, and to continue to build momentum for BOB-CAT mowers and the name it represents.

— Ron Scheffler, product manager, BOB-CAT.

 

2015 is moving along quite nicely for the Bobcat Company and the entire compact equipment industry. The outlook for the remainder of the year appears to be quite positive.

— Tom Connor, excavator product specialist, Bobcat Company.

 

We believe 2015 will be a big growth year for the compact equipment markets thanks to steady economies in both the U.S. and Canadian markets, as well as the introduction of Tier 4 final units by the end of 2015. We predict that non-diesel particulate filters (DPF) units will be in demand, and rental companies along with general construction contractors will be buying to get ahead of the added cost of Tier 4 final solutions (particularly electronic engines) before all new units under 100 horsepower will have to be Tier 4 final at the end of the year.

— Gregg Warfel, district sales manager, Terex Construction Americas.

 

Oregon smallSo far, so good. Our new 40V cordless product offerings (including the BL300 blower) are being very well received, and we’re seeing higher conversion and adoption rates than in previous years. The conversion to battery is happening faster than we think.

— Josh Huffman, director of global product marketing for Oregon Outdoor Power Equipment.

 

Crysteel’s light- and medium-duty dump bodies are selling well this year. Medium-duty truck bodies are also on the upswing, a trend that is likely to continue, as Class 5-7 chassis demand continues to be strong.

— Nikki Kyle, marketing manager at Crysteel Manufacturing.

 

Looks good, spring is slightly later than prior years.

— Jeff Kendall, vice president, sales & marketing, Earthway Products, Inc.

 

2015 has been a very good year so far. Whereas 2014 was defined by the late start to the season across the country, 2015 has been a much more traditional year for contractors in most locations. With ample rainfall in many parts of the U.S., and a decent overall economy, we’re seeing an encouraging level of optimism throughout the industry.

— Daryn Walters, director of marketing, Exmark Manufacturing.

 

So far, the contractor has been more conservative with his purchases this year compared to years past. But if the weather turns favorable, we expect to meet our goals and expectations.

— Bill Engler, director of Gravely Brand for the Ariens Company.

 

Among other factors, mower sales are dependent on rainfall, the general economy, new-home sales and fuel prices. The current state of U.S. economy is very robust with record low unemployment rates and new home sales rebounding back to healthy levels. Therefore, 2015 is so far proving to be a good year for mower sales.

— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota Turf product marketing director.

 

2015 to date has been a great year. There still remains positive impetus in the economy from resolving pent-up demand from the recession. Housing starts, municipal expansions and infrastructure activities have contributed to a positive GDP year to date. As we look at the rest of 2015, we see two driving factors. First is the attractiveness of fuel prices. For any type of contractor, fuel can be a large cost, so these low fuel prices and Caterpillar’s use of technology to lower fuel consumption provide contractors a tool to stay competitive on job sites and bids. Second is interest rates. The cost of borrowing money is still attractive, and allows for continued expansion of private investments. The FOMC in their April 29 press release indicated the current federal funds rate is appropriate. This results in a continued supply of funds for development of residential and commercial properties. In summary, though we don’t see accelerated high growth through the rest of 2015, we still see positive strong growth.

—  John Janes, account manager for Caterpillar’s Building Construction Products division.

 

Our outlook remains positive, as long as the weather remains consistent for the remainder of the year. And, if the economy can really get going, and consumer confidence picks up, in addition to favorable weather patterns, then it could be even better for contractors, equipment suppliers and equipment manufacturers.

— Mike Simmon, communications specialist, The Grasshopper Company.

 

Excited about how our year has started; our program and product offering are being met with solid results. We think we have a solid line-up, good dealer network and broad offering, we are confident to finish the year strong.

— Pete Love, national sales director America for Husqvarna.

 

Since most outdoor power product sales are tied closely to general U.S. economic indicators, it is somewhat difficult to predict what the balance of 2015 will hold for overall product sales. That being said, the industry predicts small but steady growth in the lawn and landscape products marketplace. Also, I’ll mention that unusual weather patterns continue across the country; wet and stormy weather across Texas and the Midwest has been prevalent, and hurricane season also is upon us, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw an up tick in pump and generator sales, for example.

— Alex Torre, Honda Power Equipment, manager, marketing and market research.

 

The beginning of 2015 has been positive for us, a trend we anticipate will continue. We expect to see an increased interest in alternative fuels like propane as fuel costs continue to rise in the summer months. Additionally, we anticipate added-value benefits like equipment and loan programs to drive more purchase decisions.

— Nick Minas, product manager, John Deere Commercial Mowing.

 

We had a strong showing at The Rental Show in March and believe this is indicative of a positive forecast for the remainder of the year. The economy is continuing to improve since the downturn in 2008, and more people are looking to expand upon their landscaping areas in a variety of markets from golf courses, to deck building and fencing. With Little Beaver, the landscaping projects will run smoothly because the equipment is powerful and reliable, creating maximum project productivity.

— Mike Hale, Little Beaver sales and marketing manager.

 

 

Responses are presented in the order in which they were received.

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