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Equipment Trends 2017

We recently asked equipment manufacturers for their insights regarding the outdoor power equipment market, and how the trends they are seeing will impact equipment-purchasing decisions. Their responses to each question are presented here in the order in which they were received May 24-June 15, 2017:

 

L&I: What new or different equipment offerings do you have for 2017, or what new products/upgrades do you have coming soon?

The Ranger XP 1000 features a new ProStar 1000 engine, with an unprecedented 80 horsepower, 17 percent more power than its predecessor. To balance the hard-working power, the vehicle also comes with an exclusive Three-Mode Throttle Control, with Performance, Standard and Work settings. Performance mode unleashes full power with minor throttle input, while Work mode enables precise throttle control for working situations. Standard mode enables smooth, controllable throttle response for everyday riding.
— Donna Beadle, senior public relations specialist for Polaris

The redesigned Hustler X-ONE features a larger fully tubular frame, Parker unitized transmission, simplified deck-lift system, increased fuel capacity, and bolstered seat with internal suspension and rubber-isolated seat mounts. The new X-ONE is available with a Kawasaki FX or Kohler EFI engine. New to the X-ONE lineup is a 72-inch deck option. With new attractive price points, the X-ONE offers an even greater value to large-property owners and commercial contractors.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler Turf)

In March of 2017, Bobcat Company released the E32 and E35 R-Series excavators. They feature a bold, distinct design geared toward increasing operator productivity and comfort, as well as machine uptime protection. Operators benefit from a 15-percent increase in over-the-side stability with the new dual-flange track roller system. Also, an optimized integrated rear counterweight design further enhances the machine’s stability. There is 29 percent more floor space and 15 percent more glass surface area, which includes an improved top window and narrower side pillars for visibility that’s never been better.
— Christopher Girodat, marketing manager, Bobcat Company

KIOTI Tractor introduced two new special-edition cab models to its CK10SE Series tractor line. The CK3510SE HC and the CK4010SE HC feature the same hydrostatic transmission and minimal vibration experience that low-maintenance operators know and love about the CK10 Series with added features and benefits of a factory-installed cab. The CK3510SE HC and the CK4010SE HC provide a power take-off of 29.4 and 31.9 hp., respectively, with a rear PTO of 540 rpm and advance with a powerful engine gross of 34.9 and 39.6 hp., respectively.
— Tim Phillips, KIOTI Tractor eastern regional sales manager

The new Spider 3RIDER is a unique ride-on mower that can be can be operated by a seated driver on slopes of up to 15 degrees and then, when the slope becomes too extreme, the operator dismounts from the mower and continues to control it by remote control from a safe position away from the machine. Following the initial development, long-term testing has been carried out to determine the robustness of the new mower in real conditions. The Spider 3RIDER should be launched on the market at the beginning of 2018.
— Lubor Hladik, international sales manager at Dvorak-Spider, manufacturer of Spider dedicated remote-controlled slope mowers

All hydraulic-feed Echo Bear Cat chipper models now feature a Digital Display Controller (DDC) system. The DDC offers the user: digital TFT screen for easy viewing; soft key menu selection buttons for simple user navigation; pre-programmed maintenance schedule reminders; hydraulic system diagnostic capabilities; troubleshooting screens to provide in-field help; and is pre-programmed with English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Norwegian, Russian and Chinese.
— Kurt Kainz, marketing manager, Echo Bear Cat

In 2017, Turf Teq is updating our operator controls to be more ergonomic and improve the ease of use for our customers.
— James Day, general manager, Turf Teq

The most recent machine we launched was the VT-70. It is a 2,350-pound ROC machine with a vertical-lift loader that we designed with serviceability and performance in mind. The VT-70 is a great product for owner/operators, as well as rental customers.
— Bill Wake, director of product development, ASV Holdings Inc.

As stand-on mowers become a more popular and preferred method of mowing, we continue to raise the standard of comfort, durability and productivity in our new-generation designs.
— Ed Wright, vice president of engineering, sales & marketing, Wright Mfg.

On our Classen line of turf care products, the biggest change this year will be on the TA25, our flagship professional aerator. We’re increasing the ground speed to 3.4 mph, a 13-percent improvement, which increases productivity to 32,850 square feet per hour. We also are enhancing the padding on the TA25’s handle controls to improve ergonomics and reduce operator fatigue. In addition, we’re upgrading the look with a new, sleek belt shroud. The updates will hit the market this fall.
— Denis Bedard, vice president of sales, Schiller Grounds Care

Toro continues to place an emphasis on product innovation. For 2017, we recently launched the Titan HD zero-turn mower series, now featuring increased comfort, durability and industry-exclusive utility. Consumers can attach common tools, such as a weed trimmer, blower or 5-gallon bucket, to the Titan HD Series of mowers, so they can get more done, on or off the mower.
— Chris Vogtman, marketing manager for landscape contractor equipment, Toro; and Ross Hawley, senior marketing manager, residential and landscape contractor equipment, Toro

Kubota’s latest introduction in its zero-turn line is the Z400 (Kommander Pro) Series. The Z400 is targeted toward commercial customers and estate owners. It fits perfectly in between Kubota’s residential Z100 (Kommander) Series and our Commercial Z700 Series. The Z400 is equipped with premium Kawasaki engines and comes in deck sizes of 48, 54 and 60 inches. This unit features an exclusive ZT-3600 series transmission with steel-cut gears and larger charge pump. Over the next few years, expect Kubota to launch several new products to complete our lineup and enable our dealers to offer landscapers a one-stop destination for all their lawn maintenance needs.
— Tom Vachal, Kubota senior product manager, turf

We recently rolled out an extensive line of gasoline-powered products built with the landscape professional in mind. Designed for optimal performance on the job, these new products have been engineered for easier use, less maintenance and longer run times. The launch included new string trimmers, edgers, KombiMotors and a bed redefiner — all designed with larger fuel tanks, providing 30 percent longer run times than the previous models. Other Stihl products introduced this year include nine battery products, which launched as part of the new Stihl Lightning Battery System, and nine additional gas-powered models, including a new line of Stihl pressure washers.
— Steve Meriam, director of sales at Stihl Inc.

In late 2016, Honda Power Equipment expanded its popular Honda HRC commercial product line from two models to three, with an all-new model — the Honda HRC216K3HDA. This self-propelled commercial mower features superior performance and reliability combined with reduced cost and weight; better maneuverability; and rugged, durable construction.
In 2017, Honda Power Equipment launched Miimo, the company’s first robotic lawn mower for use in the United States. Two Miimo models, HRM 310 and HRM 520, maintain lawns with a continuous cutting system. The robotic lawn mower marks the company’s first entry into the battery-powered product market. Miimo represents an integral part of Honda’s overall corporate strategy to reduce emissions and introduce new technology continuously to our product lineup.
— Mark DiPietro, assistant vice president of Honda Power Equipment

One of our three brand pillars is “quality of cut,” and that’s really the most important part of a mower’s performance, so we’re excited to introduce a new commercial mowing deck for our Predator-Pro and ProCat 61-inch models, the DuraDeck XF mowing deck. The deck is 3/4-inch deeper, allowing for more airflow and better dispersement of clippings. The airflow and enhanced baffle system also improve the vacuum and lift of the grass, providing an even better quality of cut, and leave the deck cleaner at the end of the day.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, Bob-Cat Mowers

In January, we released the new Steiner 450 tractor, which brings productivity and versatility to golf courses, turf maintenance operations, landscapers, snow contractors, hobby farms and small landowners.
We also have a new, improved Steiner Flex Deck contour mower that will be introduced in late 2017. We’ve increased the blade torque for stronger cutting performance through heavy loads, and enhanced belt alignment will provide lower operating temps, longer component life, and more efficient transfer of engine power to four 21-inch cutting blades.
Through a new partnership with Superior Tech, Inc., we’ll have a new line of TerraKing spreaders available for the Steiner 440 and 450.
— Matt Donohue, business manager, Steiner Tractors

Our latest product is the Ryan Lawnaire ZTS stand-on aerator, which includes multiple innovative and patent-pending designs. We have many other new products and advancements underway as well.
— Kyle Nelson, product manager, Ryan Turf

On the ZTrak Z915E commercial zero-turn radius mower, the deluxe comfort seat and the deluxe seat with isolation now include a factory-installed fore and aft seat slide, which enhances ride quality and reduces operator fatigue.
The 652E QuikTrak stand-on mower features a 52-inch 7-gauge-steel deck, delivering a high-quality cut in varied terrain.
One announcement that we have been excited to discuss this year is the offering of the Michelin X Tweel Turf as a stand-alone purchase for existing John Deere models.
— Ruben Peña, product marketing manager, zero-turn mowers at John Deere

John Deere recently introduced the powerful new G-Series skid-steers and compact track loaders. The 330G and 332G large-frame skid-steers and the 331G and 333G compact track loaders were developed using extensive customer feedback. The G-Series machines have horsepower that is comparable to a small backhoe or crawler dozer, and they also work comfortably in tight quarters.
Our JDLink telematics technology has resonated with our landscape and irrigation customers as well. JDLink is available as a factory-installed option on all new large-frame G-Series skid-steers (330G, 332G) and compact track loaders (331G, 333G).
— Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager, skid-steers and compact track loaders, John Deere Construction and Forestry

In 2017, we launched our complete family of mini skid-steers: the SK600, SK800, SK1050 and SK1550. With the updated lineup, underground construction and landscape operators can find a mini skid-steer that will fit their unique jobsite needs. These jobs can include smaller landscape projects or larger tasks traditionally suited for a skid-steer loader. In the second quarter of 2017, we also launched our new pedestrian, vibratory lawn plow: the VP30. This product is uniquely designed to do fiber-to-the-home drop work, as well as plow in a 1-inch-diameter irrigation line.
— Chris Thompson, Ditch Witch product manager for compact equipment

We’ve been really busy the past year, introducing innovative technologies that keep equipment in the field or on the jobsite longer. For example, our Vanguard Oil Guard system extends oil maintenance intervals to 500 hours, instead of the typical 100 hours. This translates not only into a 60-percent savings on oil maintenance costs, but a significant reduction in downtime.
We also have continued to expand our Vanguard EFI product offering, which now includes seven models across four different engine platforms serving four very diverse markets.
We also have new engine offerings for the commercial turf market for 2017, including engines in the 16-, 18- and 20-gross-horsepower range with an optional rewind start.
— Jim Cross, marketing manager for Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power

Cub Cadet launched a new line of professional zero-turns this year with the PRO Z Series. We went beyond our robust product development process and engaged 100 professional landscapers in thousands of hours of rigorous, real-world testing over the spring and summer months. Their feedback impacted final product design, addressing common setbacks landscapers experience over long seasons of demanding work, making the PRO Z Series uniquely positioned to address the specific needs of landscape professionals.
There is more to come. We remain dedicated to expanding the line and working with landscapers for input to continually improve our product offerings.
— Allen Baird, senior product marketing manager, Cub Cadet

This year, we announced Milwaukee Tool’s introduction into outdoor power equipment solutions with the introduction of three core landscape maintenance tools: the M18 FUEL string trimmer, M18 FUEL blower, and M18 FUEL hedge trimmer. These new tools have the power to outperform competitive 18V-and-higher voltage solutions, and are fully compatible with more than 125 solutions on the M18 System.
— Andrew Lentz, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

In 2016, we redesigned and relaunched Gravely’s entire line of professional zero-turn mowers, and they’ve been extremely well received by the market thus far. For 2017, we’ve continued to look at these new machines, and have come up with accessories to complement them. Gravely’s commercial bagging system is new this year, and makes bagging even easier and more efficient for commercial landscapers. We continue to look at our newly launched lineup to assess where improvements can be made.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

L&I: What equipment trends are you seeing in the professional landscape/lawn care market?

People are purchasing tools that make jobs more efficient and more cost effective.
— Donna Beadle, senior public relations specialist for Polaris

There is a focus on comfortable and economical machines. People want a quality, well-built-but-affordable mower that is simple to maintain.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler Turf)

There is an increased use of compact track loaders in landscaping applications, particularly among landscaping companies that perform grading and hardscaping work. The shift from rubber-tire skid-steer loaders to compact track loaders enables contractors to extend their work schedules, getting back to work sooner after it rains, as well as work earlier and later in the season. This is particularly helpful in the northern portion of the United States and Canada, where there is a more limited season than the warmer southern states. Compact track loaders have proven to be worth the additional investment of a tracked undercarriage because they not only allow owners to work longer, they offer more power and performance to complete projects more efficiently.
— Christopher Girodat, marketing manager, Bobcat Company

There is definitely a demand for easier operation, easier maintenance and service; and, without a doubt, usage of remote-controlled equipment is on the increase.
— Lubor Hladik, international sales manager at Dvorak-Spider, manufacturer of Spider dedicated remote-controlled slope mowers

Finding and retaining quality employees continues to be a challenge for landscapers and tree service providers. Even harder can be finding employees that have a valid and current CDL certification. We’re seeing a growth in businesses needing smaller — 5- to 9-inch-capacity — chippers that can be towed with a standard-axle-weight pick-up or tow vehicle.
— Kurt Kainz, marketing manager, Echo Bear Cat

We are seeing more customers look at multi-use equipment that can be utilized all year. They like the benefit of operating and maintaining a single power unit with one engine and one transmission that has the ability to drive multiple attachments throughout the year.
— James Day, general manager, Turf Teq

Customers are looking for machines that are compact, simple to use, and easy to service. The need for heavy-lifting machines is growing, but in tandem with that, customers have a focus on the ground pressure and weight distribution to avoid turf disturbance.
— Matt Hutchinson, product manager, Vermeer

We see many customers needing higher performance out of their auxiliary hydraulic systems. We purpose designed the ASV RT-120 to provide best-in-class hydraulic performance, and our cooling system ensures that this performance can be used all day in the hottest conditions.
— Bill Wake, director of product development, ASV Holdings Inc.

We see a movement toward a focus on reliability and productivity. This has moved many landscapers from zero-turn riders to stand-on mowers.
— Ed Wright, vice president of engineering, sales & marketing, Wright Mfg.

We are seeing an increasing number of landscape professionals choosing ride-on equipment — especially aerators and spreaders/sprayers — as a way to increase productivity. Not only are lawn care companies accomplishing more this way, but they’re seeing enhanced profit potential and ROI, as well. With a stand-on aerator, a contractor can easily aerate 10 to 15 lawns or more a day than they can with a walk-behind unit.
— Denis Bedard, vice president of sales, Schiller Grounds Care

Professional contractors continue to focus on productivity, as labor shortages remain a key issue. The Toro Company is continually striving to offer increased product innovation to meet the productivity demands and needs of the pro consumers.
— Chris Vogtman, marketing manager for landscape contractor equipment, Toro; and Ross Hawley, senior marketing manager, residential and landscape contractor equipment, Toro

The overall market is healthy and growing, and the housing market is strong. Landscape professionals are always getting more sophisticated in terms of running their operations efficiently, and they are looking forward to technology advancements such as fleet monitoring and telematics to reduce downtime and monitor efficiency to improve overall profitability. Because gas prices are low right now, efficiency and quality of cut are the two main purchase drivers for landscape customers. In addition, commercial customers are looking for durability and performance.
— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota product marketing director, turf/RTV

We continue to focus on fuel efficiency in gasoline-powered products, as well as improving overall ergonomics, including reduced vibration and power-to-weight ratios in all product segments for user comfort. Ultimately, our growth will be driven by the evolving needs and demands of our customer base.
One of the biggest industry trends is the influx of battery-powered products among the professional landscaping market, particularly for pros within municipalities requiring low-to-no exhaust, lower noise and even indoor projects.
We plan continued improvement and growth in alternatives to petroleum-based fuels, such as Lithium-ion battery technology with our Stihl Lightning Battery System.
On the technology side, the machines we produce today parallel the automobile industry in that they have all gone to more advanced electronic engine management systems that require more tech-savvy technicians. In this area, I believe Stihl is on the cusp of significant industry breakthroughs, and will continue to develop advanced technology.
— Steve Meriam, director of sales at Stihl Inc.

Outdoor power products with reliable performance and minimal downtime are the key to the professional landscape market. Other product trends that have stayed constant for landscape managers and lawn care companies are efficiency, ease of operation, and return on investment. With all this in mind, Honda produces dependable tools that not only help get the job done, but also consistently perform well through the life of the product.
The professional landscape market also is benefiting from increased technological innovation. Honda believes, as battery life continues to increase, that battery electric products will become more prevalent in the industry. Honda has a distinct advantage for this trend with the research and development other parts of the company have invested in the technology.
— Mark DiPietro, assistant vice president of Honda Power Equipment

Efficiency seems to be a driving factor. And that doesn’t just mean fast. It means fast and high quality. It’s all about getting the job done right and moving on to the next one.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, Bob-Cat Mowers

We’ve seen product specialization become more prominent. There are more and more products available that serve one purpose, and they do that job very effectively. With the Steiner 450 tractor with all of its attachments, we satisfy the other side of the coin with a highly versatile product that can do it all. That being said, we have heard that many of our customers use our tractors because they handle slopes better than any other machine.
— Matt Donohue, business manager, Steiner Tractors

An advancing trend in professional landscape/lawn care equipment is efficiency. Time is money, and the more efficiently a job can be completed, the more profitable a company will be. The goal of increasing efficiency while maintaining a high-quality performance will continue to be more and more important.
— Kyle Nelson, product manager, Ryan Turf

There are two important aspects of commercial mowing equipment that professional landscape contractors continue to demand: operator comfort and equipment uptime. Machine reliability and operator comfort are pivotal to maintaining a successful operation. Understanding these factors is top of mind for our product teams, and we are always looking for new solutions to help solve this.
— Ruben Peña, product marketing manager, zero-turn mowers at John Deere

We’re seeing strong growth in the compact equipment market as compact excavator and tracked loader sales are booming. These types of machinery are easy to transport and easy to operate, making them attractive tools for landscape business owners. The versatility of the machines is also a big plus.
— Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager, skid-steers and compact track loaders, John Deere Construction and Forestry

One major trend we are seeing is the continued utilization and acceptance of the mini skid-steer. This market continues to grow year-over-year at a very fast pace. Landscape operators and contractors continue to comment on the versatility of these compact units, increased jobsite visibility, and ease of access compared to traditional ride-on skid-steers. The variety of available mini skid-steers is giving operators more choices as they face compact jobsites or larger, more extensive projects.
— Chris Thompson, Ditch Witch product manager for compact equipment

Landscape contractors are continually looking for ways to increase their productivity. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen EFI become widely accepted by the industry, delivering better fuel economy, chokeless starting and improved load governance for a more consistent cut. We think the next evolution will be features and technologies that reduce downtime.
— Jim Cross, marketing manager for Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power

The professional mower category continues to grow, and that’s where we are focusing our efforts now. We have a strong landscaper testing program through our local dealer partners that allows pros to test products. They provide us with feedback that helps us design and build products tailored to exceed their needs and expectations. Pros rely on these products every day, so providing products with unmatched strength, comfort and durability is extremely important.
— Allen Baird, senior product marketing manager, Cub Cadet

There’s definitely been an increased focus on cordless solutions due to numerous benefits. First of all, cordless outdoor power equipment provides a large reduction in noise, especially blowers. This offers many advantages for the professional: they are able to start earlier without disturbing clients; it increases communication levels in crews; and it provides a solution in municipalities that outlaw gas blowers.
— Andrew Lentz, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

This year, we’ve been seeing an increase in demand for our lower-price-point zero-turn models. We think this could be due to several factors, but, largely, we feel that contractors are doing everything they can to stretch their dollar and increase their bottom line. With Gravely’s quality lineup of commercial mowers, there are plenty of options at all price points, and we do our best to accommodate every type of business owner.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

L&I: What key factors are impacting equipment-buying habits this year?

Weather and the housing market.
— Donna Beadle, senior public relations specialist for Polaris

The economy seems to be improving, and there is plenty of moisture throughout most of the U.S.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler Turf)

The continued improvement of the U.S. housing market seems to play a large role when landscapers are in the market for compact equipment. As the housing market continues to improve, so do sales for compact equipment and attachments. In addition, as housing values recover from their lows during the last recession, homeowners are investing in their properties to install new hardscapes or landscape features.
It is also worth mentioning, for some landscaping professionals, leasing compact equipment is an attractive option to minimize out-of-pocket costs while gaining advantages of operating new machines that are under warranty. Monthly fixed costs with little or no downtime help landscaping professionals stay on schedule.
— Christopher Girodat, marketing manager, Bobcat Company

Key factors affecting equipment buying are overall quality of equipment, amount of standard features, and equipment warranty coverage. Buyers are also interested in a variety of purchase options that best suit their individual needs. These include cash purchase options, financed purchase options, and leasing.
— Tim Phillips, KIOTI Tractor eastern regional sales manager

Our customers are struggling to hire competent operators, and there is a limited number of them on the labor market. They are looking for a dependable solution, so they can finish their work in timely manner.
Safety rules and requirements are also impacting buying habits, and should strengthen our position going forward. People can operate our machines safely on slopes up to 55 degrees, they are not exposed to any dangers when the machine is operated correctly, and previously unmaintained areas can now be cut.
— Lubor Hladik, international sales manager at Dvorak-Spider, manufacturer of Spider dedicated remote-controlled slope mowers

The industry as a whole continues to focus on the uptime and efficiency of their equipment. It’s less about how much the product costs and is more about “Can this product add money to the bottom line?” They have to maximize productivity to be profitable.
— Kurt Kainz, marketing manager, Echo Bear Cat

Customers are looking at equipment that will reduce the amount of labor required to complete a job. As labor becomes more difficult to find, we are seeing more customers look at equipment options that will complete a task with less labor required.
— James Day, general manager, Turf Teq

New housing developments and city development will drive demand for efficient and productive equipment. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the home building market is up 2 percent, and there are developing cities throughout the U.S. growing rapidly, causing the need for quick development plans.
— Matt Hutchinson, product manager, Vermeer

Construction activity is up, so that is a big factor, but that is being offset by lower ag prices.
— Bill Wake, director of product development, ASV Holdings Inc.

It seems that many landscapers are having a hard time recruiting reliable help, and I’ve seen more purchase decisions based solely on productivity than I’ve seen in the past.
— Ed Wright, vice president of engineering, sales & marketing, Wright Mfg.

The solid economy, particularly relating to new residential and commercial construction, is a key factor in shaping buying habits when it comes to lawn and turf care equipment. Increasing real-estate values is another contributing factor; as more homes and buildings are constructed, the need for grounds care equipment rises. Also, as real-estate values climb, we see more homeowners and commercial building owners investing in high-quality lawn care equipment. The weather, as always, also plays a major part. This year’s late spring delivered lots of moisture throughout most of the U.S., which had a mixed effect.
— Denis Bedard, vice president of sales, Schiller Grounds Care

Similar to years past, strong dealer relationships, product innovation, and world-class fleet and financing programs are the key drivers when making purchasing decisions.
— Chris Vogtman, marketing manager for landscape contractor equipment, Toro; and Ross Hawley, senior marketing manager, residential and landscape contractor equipment, Toro

One of the factors impacting equipment buying this year has been a shift in purchasing habits of landscapers and homeowners toward value products that still meet their needs and allow them to lower their operating cost. Also, with gas prices being low, landscapers are not necessarily leaning toward EFI engines as they were a couple years ago. EFI engines will continue to see a positive trend as customers get educated on the many benefits of EFI engines in addition to fuel savings.
— Tom Vachal, Kubota senior product manager, turf

Every year, we see more and more professionals are including battery-powered products in their fleets. However, there is still a strong professional presence on the gasoline side of the marketplace. While the overall market for battery is expected to grow, gasoline is expected to be relatively stable.
We are seeing that landscape professionals continue to buy the vast majority of their equipment from servicing dealers. This is one of many factors contributing to the growth of our more than 9,000 Stihl servicing dealers.
As usual, the key factor influencing buying habits is the weather.
— Steve Meriam, director of sales at Stihl Inc.

The state of the U.S. economy and the uptick in construction have affected equipment-buying habits. In light of the resurgence in residential and commercial construction, the need for additional lawn and landscape maintenance services is on the rise. Further, there is a growing consumer trend toward “do it for me” as opposed to “do it yourself,” which is a positive indicator for an increasing demand in commercial power products among landscape and irrigation companies.
— Mark DiPietro, assistant vice president of Honda Power Equipment

For us, our Mow With Confidence warranty is something that people really look to. They want to know that you stand behind your product. We’ve continued to improve and go above and beyond when it comes to quality components and mower performance, but in the end, people want to have that warranty in their corner.
The market also looks for a great price for a great piece of equipment.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, Bob-Cat Mowers

In each of our key markets, the idea of versatility truly impacts a buying decision. From homeowners and hobby farmers to facility managers, they want to know that the tractor will help them complete tough tasks. They also want to know that their investment goes a long way, with all the available attachments.
— Matt Donohue, business manager, Steiner Tractors

Reliability is huge for us across the board. Our customers — especially landscape professionals — want products that will work every time, and work in the same way they always do. People look for durability and consistency. Total cost of ownership is also extremely important. Budgets are always tight, but manufacturing products that are more reliable, more durable, last longer, and reduce maintenance intervals help our customers reduce the cost of ownership over the entire life of the product.
— Kyle Nelson, product manager, Ryan Turf

Cost continues to be a key factor that drives equipment purchases, as professional landscape contractors need to maintain a manageable cost of operation to ensure business remains successful. One of the key factors that impacts operating costs is machine maintenance, which translates to equipment downtime, and we have introduced new service offerings to minimize this.
Financing is another service that helps professional landscape contractors better manage cost of operation.
Have a conversation where you discuss your equipment needs, as well as maintenance and financing, ensuring that you have the ability to focus on what is important — growing your business.
— Ruben Peña, product marketing manager, zero-turn mowers at John Deere

Landscape contractors are looking to increase productivity and maximize the return on investment on their equipment. In particular, they’re looking at how machines are helping the operator have a more comfortable experience, because a comfortable operator is a productive operator. Buyers are paying for premium features like pressurized and climate-controlled cabs, heated seating, and air ride suspension because they know it will help their bottom line. We’ve also been hearing a lot of positive feedback from our customers who appreciate the flexible control choices.
— Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager, skid-steers and compact track loaders, John Deere Construction and Forestry

One of the key factors impacting equipment-buying habits is the increased demand for fiber build-out across several major cities. Utility operators are seeking out equipment that helps them complete fiber installation faster, while saving time. And vibratory plows are increasingly being used for fiber installation on residential lawns as they have minimal surface disruption. Overall, this demand has led to an increase of equipment purchases in 2016, and that trend has continued well into this year.
— Chris Thompson, Ditch Witch product manager for compact equipment

As far as commercial engines are concerned, most of the options out there are reliable and well built, so customers are looking at things such as reduced maintenance, simplified service and dependable support. Vanguard is continuing to find opportunities to expand upon our support, and improve the overall productivity and experience for our end users. This includes a robust service and support network, complete with next-day parts for 99 percent of U.S. customers, as well as the training and technical support that customers need. Additionally, productivity is always a driving force behind equipment purchasing decisions, so we are always looking for ways to help our customers be more efficient.
— Jim Cross, marketing manager for Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power

The biggest factor continues to be product performance. Professionals continue to evaluate professional mowers that can provide their business with the best value and longevity.
— Allen Baird, senior product marketing manager, Cub Cadet

Certainly, the industry’s focus toward cordless solutions and how they can supplement professionals’ equipment today. In addition to the cordless benefits offered on outdoor power equipment, organizations that range from maintenance to landscape architecture are excited about the battery compatibility offered across a wide range of their tools and equipment — such as saws, drills, impacts, string trimmers, hedge trimmers, and blowers.
— Andrew Lentz, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

Again, we think economics is playing a big role. Customers want a great machine at a good price point, and they want something that is going to be dependable. Because of that, we focus on quality, performance, and machines that are efficient and easy to use for our customers.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

L&I: In recent years, we have seen the rise of battery-powered equipment, and we are also seeing increased use of other technologies such as robotics, solar power, drones, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. What will be the impact of these and other technologies on the future of outdoor power equipment, and, as a result, the future of how landscape industry professionals and outdoor power equipment dealers do their jobs?

They add another choice and offer efficiencies. We currently offer two electric Ranger UTVs: one with a Lithium-ion battery and one powered with a standard battery.
— Donna Beadle, senior public relations specialist for Polaris

Keeping up with technology is difficult. It will be interesting to see how far some of these advances make it into the OPE industry.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler Turf)

Bobcat Company continues to listen to customers and their wants for increased technology in compact equipment. A good example is the Bobcat depth check system. Bobcat compact excavator owners can use the optional system to more accurately set their trench depth and minimize over- or under-digging, as well as save money on materials such as concrete. The system utilizes sensors that detect the exact position of the bucket’s teeth. Operators can set a desired digging depth and work against that benchmark.
— Christopher Girodat, marketing manager, Bobcat Company

Without a doubt, new technologies can help us in developing new and better products. Advanced controllers can provide better real-time data for the operator — equipment performance, malfunctions, maintenance requirements and more. As battery technology improves in the automotive sector, it will filter down into the green industry as the price of the technology falls. When this happens, we will have more and more options for developing an electric solution for our machines. Of course, everyone is interested in autonomous systems, but in areas of our main application — working on steep slopes and in difficult-to-reach areas — it is still difficult to develop reliable and robust equipment complying with safety requirements. I´d say the landscape industry is growing tremendously. All countries around the world are investing in their infrastructure — building new highways, railway corridors, etc., and these areas must be maintained by professional equipment.
— Lubor Hladik, international sales manager at Dvorak-Spider, manufacturer of Spider dedicated remote-controlled slope mowers

Margins continue to be tight, and anyone in business today is making their buying decisions based on what purchases will return a profit to their business. With technology advancing rapidly and becoming more widely available, customers have to spend more time researching exactly what products, features and benefits will add to their bottom line.
— James Day, general manager, Turf Teq

The industry is constantly looking for more productive ways to get the job done and finding good labor to do it. Controlling a piece of equipment remotely is starting to trend upward and will only continue to do so at a swifter pace.
— Matt Hutchinson, product manager, Vermeer

We are being asked for machines that better support mobile devices, including USB ports and Bluetooth-enabled radios. Telematics is also starting to enter the compact equipment industry.
— Bill Wake, director of product development, ASV Holdings Inc.

Certainly, these technologies will have an impact on landscape equipment, but it will be a gradual evolution. In many industries, these technologies can take off fast since they miniaturize traditionally larger, power-consuming devices. As far as we know, it still takes a lot of power to cut heavy growth, and that is something that will make the growth of these technologies slower than in other industries.
— Ed Wright, vice president of engineering, sales & marketing, Wright Mfg.

The development of technology, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other innovations, has been outpaced by battery technology’s introduction and use in the OPE industry. Battery technology impacts what equipment is being purchased and how it’s being used. Battery-powered products are continuously improving with longer life and lighter weight, and are now at a level deemed acceptable by landscape professionals, so we anticipate we’ll see a rise in their use in the future.
As battery popularity has grown, costs of this equipment have improved, as well. Some handheld brands are introducing multi-battery chargers, which can be installed in landscapers’ trucks, reducing downtime and improving accessibility to fresh batteries. Larger wheeled products, such as zero-turn-radius and commercial walk-behind mowers, are a few years away from having cost-effective and durable battery-operated products acceptable to the market. Other technologies, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, are also making their mark with more sophisticated end users and operators, but at a slower pace.
Cordless/battery technology will have a significant impact on dealers, as handheld battery products require little service or repair.
— Denis Bedard, vice president of sales, Schiller Grounds Care

Manufacturers will leverage technology and connectivity to help professionals reach new levels of productivity and profitability. Pros will have more information about their equipment to increase reliability and uptime, as Toro has started to provide through its Horizon Technology offering. Increased connectivity will support fleet management, particularly where it relates to service intervals and parts ordering.
— Chris Vogtman, marketing manager for landscape contractor equipment, Toro; and Ross Hawley, senior marketing manager, residential and landscape contractor equipment, Toro

Technological innovation is at its peak right now with all the various technologies maturing and getting more and more reliable. Our industry will be impacted by these technologies just as many others already are. On the hardware side, battery and sensor costs are significantly down, data storage is cheaper, and overall packages are getting smaller in size and easy to fit in current equipment without significant redesigns. On the software side, there are canned data analysis and apps more readily available and customizable for customers and companies to help use the data in meaningful ways to improve reliability. The winners will be the ones that can use technology and transform the data to enable operators to lower their operating costs without any sophisticated additional means.
— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota product marketing director, turf/RTV

Most recently, we have seen the demand for battery-powered equipment increase. The challenge in previous years has been the lack of power and work time, but with the new technologies we offer, we’ve seen landscapers and municipalities make the shift to battery. We work with nationwide and state rebate programs that incentivize users to either trade-in or purchase sustainable products. Many entities see an investment in battery-powered equipment as an investment in their community because they’re eliminating exhaust emissions and disruptive noise. At the same time, there are budget benefits as well. With reduced fuel and maintenance costs, and because battery equipment is easier to operate, reduced training is required for employees.
In the future, there will be greater use of connected technologies that provide landscapers, operators and dealers more data that allows them to better manage and service their equipment.
— Steve Meriam, director of sales at Stihl Inc.

These new technologies all add to the arsenal of tools available to the lawn and landscape professional, and we think that is a good thing. With more solutions for the lawn care professional, the better they can service their customers and grow their business. For example, battery-powered outdoor power products aren’t just quiet and efficient, but also satisfy air-quality regulations and noise ordinances imposed by homeowners’ associations, institutions and commercial office building managers. Steadily improving battery technology allows for product expansion to lawn care products, offering more choices in how to complete a job in the most efficient, cost-effective way, which should be good for the bottom line of the business.
— Mark DiPietro, assistant vice president of Honda Power Equipment

All these tools will help the landscapers and dealers to continually improve their efficiencies, from budgets and quoting to maintenance and fast response time.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, Bob-Cat Mowers

Technology is becoming a bigger part of our industry each year. Steiner currently use drones when filming our product videos to enhance the viewer’s point of view and increase the ability to view our products in use. We also unveiled our new 450 tractor online via an innovative, interactive, live-streaming press conference. Our industry continues to explore ways to expand the use of technology and how it will impact the use of power equipment. Steiner fully supports these efforts and looks forward to watching how these technologies continue to progress and evolve, and the ongoing impact it will have on our industry.
— Matt Donohue, business manager, Steiner Tractors

Technology is always advancing, and will no doubt affect our industry as well. As mentioned previously, most of these advancements revolve around improving efficiency and making life easier. I think we will continue to see improvements in these efficiencies, whether it’s by the technologies mentioned previously or by something completely new. That’s why we continue to focus on making the actual work better and easier for landscape industry professionals. It will be interesting to watch how these technologies continue to progress and evolve, and the ongoing impact it will have on our industry.
— Kyle Nelson, product manager, Ryan Turf

These trends in technology are definitely worth paying attention to, and we at John Deere are continuing to monitor progress in these areas. As an industry, mobile technology and Internet-based solutions create exciting possibilities. As we continue to keep an eye on the evolution of technology, we are working closely with our customers and dealer networks to understand customer needs and identify innovative solutions to bring to the marketplace.
— Ruben Peña, product marketing manager, zero-turn mowers at John Deere

Cabs are becoming more like the interior of a car with features like Bluetooth and heated seats. These are just a few of the features that are making operators’ jobs easier and increasing their productivity. At CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017, John Deere announced an exclusive global strategic alliance through which John Deere Construction & Forestry dealers will provide the Kespry Aerial Intelligence System to their customers on jobsites around the world. Starting in North America, the alliance enables John Deere customers to use Kespry’s fully integrated industrial drone platform to capture topographic data in minutes with survey-grade accuracy.
— Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager, skid-steers and compact track loaders, John Deere Construction and Forestry

We are constantly looking at advancements in machine technology, then taking stock of which innovations are available and where there are opportunities to push the envelope to bring greater value. That being said, in the construction equipment industry, the environment that we expose some of these electronics to can become challenging.
While we always want to remain innovative in our product offerings, we are cognizant of two factors that impact the ability of operators to do their job. First, we consider if the technology will be durable enough to last in a variety of environments. Second, will this technology provide a tangible benefit to the customer? New innovations are exciting, but taking the time to receive operator input and proper testing can move technology from ideas to timesaving and effective tools for operators.
— Chris Thompson, Ditch Witch product manager for compact equipment

Productivity is at the very core of what we do. We’re always looking ahead at how technology can be applied to keep dealers and landscape professionals more efficient and productive. That’s why we consider ourselves “providers of power” as opposed to an engine manufacturer — because it can mean a lot of different things. In the case of alternative fuels such as propane, Propane Power Systems has developed EPA-certified conversions for 11 models of Vanguard engines.
The future of electrification and connected products is exciting for the landscape industry when you start thinking about how they can be applied to make contractors and dealers more productive.
— Jim Cross, marketing manager for Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power

As new technology becomes available, professional landscapers will need reliable technology that helps them grow their business and supports their livelihood. In the golf industry, Cub Cadet’s RG3 autonomous greens mower provides a level of automation that golf course superintendents are looking for to help with keeping grounds in superior condition. On the residential side, Cub Cadet offers Bluetooth technology on select lawn tractors, so consumers can better track maintenance schedules. For professional landscapers, there is a growth opportunity for them to use battery-powered handheld equipment in the future.
— Allen Baird, senior product marketing manager, Cub Cadet

As advancements in battery, motor and electronic technologies continue, you are going to see a bigger shift from gas to cordless, due to increases in power and run time. These advancements will also open up the door for future cordless solutions that previously were not viable. These technologies also increase communication in the field, promoting additional safety and efficiency for crews. For example, tool loss continues to be an area of frustration for professionals where technology is starting to step in and play a major role. Tool loss, and the time spent looking for missing tools, contributes significantly to a company’s bottom line. A single lost or damaged tool on a jobsite can increase the time spent completing a task by over 30 percent. To address this frustration, Milwaukee Tool recently launched a professional-grade Bluetooth tool and equipment tracker called the TICK. Designed to withstand the harshest environments, the TICK can be easily attached and hidden from sight on any product, regardless of brand, providing users an invaluable way to track anything in their inventory — from lawn mowers to ladders — through the free One-Key inventory management app.
— Andrew Lentz, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

At Gravely, we think it’s extremely important to keep an eye on trends in technology, and continuously dedicate R&D resources to maintaining up-to-date information on the latest developments. That being said, it is important to us to always keep our customers and their needs at the forefront of our efforts. So, with any new technology that we choose to pursue and incorporate in our lineup, we want to make sure first and foremost that it will play a part in increasing our customers’ return on investment. We always have the landscape professionals’ business in our thoughts when we design equipment and engineer our equipment, and because of that, it is important for us to look at how new technology affects their bottom line. We think that there are many new technologies out there now that are going to do great things for our industry, and we’re excited to see how those technologies evolve in the coming years.
As far as technology affecting dealers, we see the dealer-contractor relationship changing slightly. Since improvements in technology will help contractors with things like scheduled maintenance and equipment upkeep, we imagine an increase in equipment uptime that is enabled by predictive or preventative maintenance.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

L&I: What is your outlook for the remainder of 2017?

We are looking for an extended season. With temperatures slow to warm and plenty of moisture, hopefully mowers will sell strong all summer long.
— Brad Unruh, director of product strategy, Excel Industries (Hustler Turf)

2017 is looking good for Bobcat Company and the entire compact equipment industry. The outlook for the remainder of the year appears to be positive for the company and the more than 550 Bobcat compact equipment dealers in the United States and Canada.
— Christopher Girodat, marketing manager, Bobcat Company

The general condition of the economy, weather conditions and housing starts are good sales indicators, and all have been favorable to start 2017. The outlook for the remainder of 2017 is small-to-moderate growth, assuming those conditions remain favorable.
— Tim Phillips, KIOTI Tractor eastern regional sales manager

By the number of units sold so far, it looks like we are going to reach another record year in the U.S. and Canada. We are actively looking to appoint new dealers and to provide more training and support to our entire dealer network. We are also visiting as many of our existing customers as possible, and want to work with their feedback. This involves inviting some of them over to our manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic. We are also looking to develop our subsidiary company, Slope Care, in Orlando, Florida, where Spider is the majority shareholder now. We are definitely having a greater visibility at shows and expos, and will have a significant presence at GIE+EXPO in Kentucky.
— Lubor Hladik, international sales manager at Dvorak-Spider, manufacturer of Spider dedicated remote-controlled slope mowers

We’re expecting a strong finish to 2017 across all of our product lines, including the Echo Bear Cat chore products, which include electric- and gas-engine-powered pressure washers, water pumps, trash pumps, inverters and generators.
— Kurt Kainz, marketing manager, Echo Bear Cat

So far, we are seeing about a 10-percent increase in sales over 2016, which is mostly due to a strong spring with our landscaping equipment. The second half of the year will be determined by the sales of our snow removal products. With the last two years being light snow years, we do not expect to see a significant increase in the sales of snow removal equipment.
— James Day, general manager, Turf Teq

We continue to see strong demand in the landscape market as consumer confidence and discretionary income continue to rise.
— Matt Hutchinson, product manager, Vermeer

2017 has been a unique year with a slow start. While some regions continued to see cool weather, others saw ideal growing conditions. We expect to see continued optimism throughout the rest of the year.
— Ed Wright, vice president of engineering, sales & marketing, Wright Mfg.

The outlook for the remainder of 2017 will continue to be strongly fueled by the positive momentum of housing, commercial real-estate values and low interest rates.
— Denis Bedard, vice president of sales, Schiller Grounds Care

Weather patterns are always unpredictable and have certainly been that way this year. In the North, winter was mild for the most part, and then we saw a see-saw with warmer weather coming in early, only to be followed by another cold spell. Florida being abnormally dry until June has certainly created some challenges for landscapers, and the industry in general. The economy continues to be strong with historically low unemployment. For 2017, we expect another positive year for the industry as long as we keep getting rain. The mid-term beyond 2017 does look challenging as the Federal Reserve Bank raises interest rates and manufacturers are forced to tighten low-rate financing.
— Rajesh Joshi, Kubota product marketing director, turf/RTV

The OPE market as a whole continues to be steady to trending slightly upward. While sales of battery-powered products are growing rapidly, gas products are also positive for some companies. It is looking like another great year for Stihl Inc. Sales are strong across the board, and we’ve seen significant growth within the battery segment. We credit this success to the work of more than 9,000 Stihl servicing dealers who have actually taken back market share over the last 10 years from the mass channel.
— Steve Meriam, director of sales at Stihl Inc.

Coming into the summer season in the U.S., our outlook for the industry is optimistic. A strong housing market has consumers looking for commercial landscaping options. Additionally, weather conditions are important in forecasting the future of the industry. This year, unusual weather patterns continue across the country. Also, because the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be especially active, if the forecast comes true, we might also see an uptick in generator and pump sales.
— Mark DiPietro, assistant vice president of Honda Power Equipment

As we’ve shown in recent years, we don’t sit back and rest on our current product offering. We’re always looking for ways to improve. Probably the best way we do that is by listening to our dealers and customers. They’re our partners, and we always look to them to help us make the best mowers we can.
— Ron Scheffler, product manager, Bob-Cat Mowers

2017 is a huge year for us with the launch of the Steiner 450 tractor. We’re working with our dealers to make sure that our customers are getting their 450 tractors, and we’re getting valuable feedback from them on what they think of the machine. So far, we’ve had a very positive response. Combine that with our new Flex Deck mower attachment, and it’s going to be a year to remember for Steiner.
— Matt Donohue, business manager, Steiner Tractors

In addition to listening to our customers and dealers, and producing quality products, we’ve been working on an initiative to educate people on the importance of aeration, and we’ll be doing a lot in that realm this year.
— Kyle Nelson, product manager, Ryan Turf

At John Deere, we have a positive outlook for the rest of 2017. We are confident our commercial mowing portfolio of products will continue to meet the needs of our customers in this competitive industry.
— Ruben Peña, product marketing manager, zero-turn mowers at John Deere

The remainder of 2017 is looking very positive in terms of the machinery market, with particular strength in the compact equipment space. Our outlook for the G-Series skid-steers and compact track loaders is very strong.
— Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager, skid-steers and compact track loaders, John Deere Construction and Forestry

We are very excited about the progress and developments we’re seeing so far in 2017, and we are optimistic that the outlook for the remainder of the year will remain strong. As operators encounter new challenges, we are focused on providing the right product at the right time to increase their productivity. We are also looking at newer equipment trends and technology to help end users in the marketplace confidently get the job done.
— Chris Thompson, Ditch Witch product manager for compact equipment

We’re bullish on the remainder of 2017. There’s a lot of optimism among dealers and landscape professionals, and we’re using that positive energy to fuel our activities in providing new customer-driven innovations, products and services.
— Jim Cross, marketing manager for Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power

We expect the remainder of the year to be on par with prior years. We didn’t see the traditional heavy spike in the spring season, but we saw steady sales through the extended spring.
— Allen Baird, senior product marketing manager, Cub Cadet

Our expansion into outdoor power with our cordless blower, hedge trimmer, and string trimmer has been extremely successful. We anticipate this momentum to stay considerably strong throughout the remainder of the year, especially as we get into fall cleanup season. We’re committed to improving productivity by providing performance-driven and trade-focused solutions, so users can perform an entire day’s work on one battery system. We’re excited about our expansion into outdoor power, and, while we can’t share details of our future product roadmap, rest assured we will continue to leverage our technologies to provide true productivity enhancements where our users need it most.
— Andrew Lentz, senior product manager, Milwaukee Tool

We predict that we’ll continue to see a strong demand for the Gravely commercial lineup through the end of October. We’re excited about the future and look forward to continuing to produce top-quality solutions for commercial landscapers.
— Matt Medden, Ariens Company VP of marketing

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