How do new turf industry products come to be?

Noah Wahl, global product marketing manager at Toro, provides insight on the development process of the new Toro Outcross 9060, which now available.

Development of the Toro Outcross 9060 began almost 2 years ago, and has resulted in a unique machine that we believe will revolutionize turf maintenance practices. This machine is packed with innovation, is easy to use and brings a new level a versatility that allows turf managers to do more with less labor, less time, fewer resources and less stress.

To hear our own Rex Bergsten, chief development engineer on the project, tell it, we are in the final stages of testing and manufacturing preparations for Outcross. The idea of this phase is to work out any bugs before the full release of the product, which, Bergsten says, is scheduled for the summer of 2018.

Tweak, test, repeat

Having developed and launched dedicated turf maintenance equipment for more than a century, this isn’t Toro’s first rodeo. The formula for success is simple: tweak, test, repeat. Apart from the tests we can perform on the machines themselves in our own labs and test fields, the company’s research and development teams rely heavily on candid feedback from beta testers who have pushed the equipment to its limits out in the field.

According to one participant at the Toro Sports Fields & Grounds Forum last summer, Dean Turnbull, regional operations manager at Montgomery County (MD) Parks, Toro has made a name for itself listening to feedback from testers to ultimately provide an outstanding piece of equipment. “The Outcross has been created by a company that listens to its operators, seeks constructive feedback on equipment needs, and then puts innovation into realization.”

Our product engineering teams believe we have struck the perfect balance between utility and turf-friendliness in the Outcross. The new machine can potentially consolidate the functionality of multiple pieces of equipment into a single machine. With simple change-out of attachments, whether three-point, drawbar or front quick attachment, one Outcross can perform literally hundreds of turf maintenance tasks—like mowing, bulk material loading & handling, aerating and towing—ultimately positively impacting the bottom line of a sports field operation. In fact, doing more with less has been a common thread all the way through the product development process for the Outcross 9060. By combining the best parts of a number of different machines and its ability to run existing attachments the Outcross is positioned as a significant cost saver in terms of capital equipment investment.

With a product so simple that even the most novice operator can use it, the Outcross has addressed with a vengeance many end users’ concerns regarding ease of use. For example, the Outcross features parameters that can be configurated by the manager so operators of all skill levels are able to complete complex tasks with ease. Turf managers can set up and save the parameters of each attachment the way they like it and never have to worry about it again. Multiple modes of operation are available to give flexibility depending on the attachment. Meanwhile, the hydrostatic drive system’s automatic shifting keeps the learning curve low. The new machine even offers remote control functionality allowing the operator to dismount and use the remote to position the machine and adjust the three-point hitch to connect with different implements and attachments from an ideal vantage point. According to Turnbull, “the simple controls of the Outcross mean less time training and more time doing.” This translates to increased productivity when it really matters.

Turf friendly

One of the most important features of the Outcross for our professional customers was that it needed to be gentle on turf. Tractors have historically been very unforgiving on turfgrass, potentially negating all the TLC that grounds managers put into their fields daily. Toro’s answer is a balanced chassis with four-wheel steering functionality in conjunction with four-wheel drive. All four wheels turn and spin individually at a rate determined by the machine’s ground speed and angle of turn. This helps reduce the over or under-spinning and scuffing that can occur with traditional machines. The Outcross is compatible with most third-party attachment providers as well as Toro proprietary attachments.

Other key specifications of the Outcross include an optional cargo bed with capacity in excess of two tons and the capacity to lift a fully loaded pallet of fertilize with the loader. Additionally, the second seat means that transporting work crew, tools and material can happen efficiently in one trip, with one machine. In terms of power, the Outcross is driven by a 60-hp Yanmar Tier 4 Final diesel engine and can reach transport speeds over 20 mph on- and off-road.

Another participant at the SF&G Forum in Bloomington, Scott Stevens, CEFP, CSFM, MBA, sports turf manager at Elon University in North Carolina noted the real value for his operation would be the versatility of the Outcross. “When we first saw ‘Project Delta’ a lot of members in my group were questioning what it was: a compact tractor? A utility vehicle? This new revolutionary machine, the Outcross as it has now come to be known, combines both compact tractor and utility vehicle. Sports turf complexes no longer need to purchase both different types of equipment with this do-it-all machine. You can attach all sorts of implements that you would normally need to use with a tractor, yet still use this like a utility vehicle with cargo bed and dual seats. The Outcross is truly quite versatile.”

Maximum versatility and year-round functionality was important to Toro from the early stages of product development. According to Bergsten, the current iteration of the Outcross has stayed true to the initial vision of the machine. “Since the beginning, we’ve wanted to create a machine that brings a new level of ease, versatility, and efficiency to turf maintenance operations, and we believe we’ve done that with the Outcross,” he said. “When you boil it all down, turf managers everywhere are being asked to do more with less and this is the tool to help them do that.”